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Looking back to see forward – one step at a time

Looking back, I have realized how my multiple sclerosis journey was surprising in so many ways; I am happy I did not rush through it.

I’m starting my day by reading a journal entry I made on November 28, 2009. I read the words on the screen and in an instant I begin seeing that day through my mind’s eye.

Grey days

The images are as clear as if I am watching a re-run on TV. I can see the frustration in my face as I contemplated my deteriorating physical state.

I was not improving… just worsening and I didn’t know how far the MS would go in attacking my central nervous system.

I could see myself wobbling into the future and becoming a burden to my wife. I was tired and felt drained trying to find solutions to everything.

I sensed how my mind was busy relentlessly creating catastrophic future events. I knew I was becoming spiritually empty.

I wondered how God could have put me in this position when all I’d read the past several month – even years – was how much He was going to do for me.

Seeing the positives

Fast forward four years and it is simple for me to see now how blind I was to where I was headed. I naturally looked at MS as a handicap… a disease which would ruthlessly bring me down.

I was a long way from looking at MS in a positive light, which is how I see things today.

I’m not sure any more which day it was, but it must have been only a week or so after that journal entry in 2009 when I decided I would take control of my mind, body and spirit by just accepting where I was and deciding to simply go somewhere else!

I began to think…what if I could be that person who overcomes?

What if I just accepted each day as a challenge and stopped worrying about where I was going or where I came from?

What if I simply took a step forward each day, regardless of how I felt or where I went?

And so it was…my journey really began at that moment. Healing was my goal, and like most, I defined it in terms of my physical well-being.

The onward journey

I simply wanted to go back and feel whole again. I didn’t want my life to effectively end or even slow down. I had way too much to accomplish.

So, I quietly yelled out to MS, “Hey, you have my attention. I know I have to make changes to live healthier. So please go away now, I’ve learned my lesson.”

But MS wasn’t listening to my desperate appeals. And yet,  I kept on with my journey…taking one step at a time and searching – always searching and making little adjustments to my healing program along the way.

My health began to improve with each small step I took. I slowly began to vaguely see where I was going. I adopted ‘one step at a time’ as my mantra.

My personal mantra

It has meaning for me in physical terms, literally implying to go slow in my physical progression without falling over the edge, while making sure I get the rest my body requires.

I think my mantra also has a symbolic meaning in terms of gaining mental strength and growing spiritually.

Mentally, it was tough to get through the first stages of having a diagnosis like MS, but with time my hopes and confidence grew and it became easier to accept how my lifestyle had changed.

I even got to the point of proudly talking about all of the positive side effects I experienced from the OMS lifestyle I chose to follow.

I simultaneously began to ignore the sacrifices I made during the past few years – most of which seem meaningless now.

Spiritual growth

Spiritually, I have also grown from being in a place where I would constantly ask for things which I felt I needed.

Instead, I arrived in a place where it is more important to do the things which I feel deeply about while also taking the time to try and help others.

It has been more than a physical healing journey; it has been a holistic healing experience. This is my journey and I know I have been extremely lucky and fortunate to regain all of my faculties which I thought were lost forever.

I know there are others out there faced with even greater challenges than I confronted, but there are also those who are facing lesser challenges.

I have learned it is very important to avoid comparing my situation with others, because in the end, it only matters where I have gone.

'We can all do it'

I think this is a journey we must all face on our own, which is why it is important to keep focusing on taking one step forward…your step.

No one else can make that step except you…and every step you make is a step closer to reaching, and even surpassing, your goal.

In looking back, I have realised how my journey was surprising in so many ways; I am happy I did not rush through it.

As I continue to move forward, I will embrace every moment and try to see the positive aspects which come to life with every step I take!

I will leave you with some inspiring words from Thich Nhat Hanh, “I have done it, you can do it, and my friends, we can all do it.”

Jack McNulty

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