Like many others I am sure, my diagnosis brought with it my first experience of true fear. I discovered that my fear doesn’t lie in my stomach, but at the base of my spine.
It was a deep, quivering feeling that was entirely new to me. That feeling would return, on and off, for the first couple of months, until I became used to the idea of my condition.
I was very lucky to experience only mild symptoms, but in an entirely unrelated accident, I managed to break my arm in three places, the very same week.
As a professional musician, this was a particularly unfortunate stroke of bad luck. With this sudden loss of normal activity (I have played the piano almost every day since I was five years old), and additional uncertainty, I began to have difficulty sleeping.
It is at 4am that we find ourselves truly alone to face our realities. I became aware, more than anything, of just how changeable my inner world was, regardless of external circumstances.
My emotions and thoughts would bounce around between highs and lows, seemingly uncontrollably. I saw that however solid they might feel at any given moment, emotions and thoughts are transient.
This was both reassuring and alarming: it taught me that I might feel happier the following day, even if nothing in my external life had changed.
Or I might feel worse. But I also learned not to take my thoughts so seriously, and that has been a comfort. I have kept a diary for most of my life, and reading over it proved to be quite illuminating.
It demonstrated to me that my thoughts as an adult are no more reliable or permanent than the ones I found in the diary of my nine year old self!
When a stranger tells us something frightening, we do not automatically believe them. We evaluate their words and often dismiss them.
Unfortunately, we do not treat our own thoughts with the same scepticism. The wise King Solomon engraved the words ‘This too shall pass’ on his ring, so that he would see them at both bad and good times.
I think of his words every day. I find them to be a comfort during adversity, and a much-needed grounding in reality when worries seem distant.