Multiple Sclerosis has quite obviously had its way with me physically, and it keeps hammering away, day in and day out. But it’s also had effects on me that aren’t as immediately apparent, effects both psychological and philosophical, that have led me to reevaluate some core values and the way I live my life. Dealing with this disease has forced me to recognize insights that I might never have otherwise gained. I’d never say that multiple sclerosis has had a net positive effect on me, because this disease is a nothing but a stinking, rabid dog from Hell, but it has led me to some important and life-changing realizations.
In effect, getting MS divided my life into two very distinct parts; my life before multiple sclerosis, and the time I’ve spent since, with the most dramatic changes coming when I was forced to stop working and go on disability in 2007. The day I left my office for the last time was a striking line of demarcation between the life I had known, and a new life that would be spent with increasingly limited mobility and an almost unlimited amount of time on my hands.
It’s a strange experience, to suddenly be faced with the prospect of days and weeks and months and years with almost nothing to do. There are doctors visits, the requirements of daily living (eating, bathing, obsessing about Wolf Blitzer’s name, etc.), and occasional socializing with friends and family, but other than that I’ve been largely left to my own devices. My wife works 9-to-5, so on weekdays it’s basically “we three”, me, myself, and I.
In the months immediately following my going on disability, I was thankful to find a very large time eater in the form of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. One of the cable networks was showing three episodes a day, so I spent many hours accompanying Capt. Picard and my other friends from 24th century on their adventures zipping around the universe. Maybe not the most constructive use of my time, but I did manage to develop an ungodly hatred of the Romulans.
Soon enough though, I ran out of Star Trek episodes, and found myself spending time reflecting back on my life before disability. From the vantage point of my newfound idleness, I could look on my previous life as an entity unto itself, with a beginning, middle, and end. Just as a person can’t review a movie while in the middle of watching it, it’s very difficult to take a broad view of your life while you’re in the middle of living it. The self-perpetuating narrative flow of all of the ongoing elements of life keep a person primarily concerned with the present and future. Once on disability, though, my present was only a void to fill, and, given the insidious nature of multiple sclerosis, the future wasn’t a place I cared much to think about…
This article was originally published on Marc’s website on 04/25/09 and is being featured on MultipleSclerosis.net with his permission.