Multiple sclerosis changed my life for the better in a few ways. I know that is a strange thing to write. It is probably even a stranger to read. This chronic illness is not something that has upsides. The devastating effects run the gamut. MS expresses itself wherever it wants to, whenever it wants to. It is painful on all levels: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. It picks you up, turns you around, gives you a bodyslam and the People’s Elbow just to finish you off. It has done that to me. Life as I have known it ceased to exist. At the same time, multiple sclerosis came with positivity for me.
My career goals growing up
From the time that I can remember I was going to be an attorney. My father is a lawyer and my mom was a paralegal. I grew up around law books and worked in a law library. I read, still do, appeals cases for entertainment. I talk a lot, so it seemed clear that I would grow up to be a litigator. It wasn’t until I was 27 years old when I realized I didn’t want to be a lawyer. I never wanted to be a lawyer. I just like the law. From that point forward, I spent time working at jobs simply to pay bills. There was no question about whether it was a career. It gave me the paycheck that I needed to survive.
Fast forward 17 years
I’m sitting on an exam room table. I am discombobulated and confused. I had just been told that I probably had multiple sclerosis. This diagnosis did not come after years of medical issues. It came out of the blue because I only went in as a follow-up to a nosebleed. It was in that moment that I finally asked myself what did I want to do. What did I want for myself?
I had to think about what I wanted for my own life
Before MS, I didn’t think about what I wanted for me. I made decisions based on what others expected of me. They weren’t bad expectations by any means. They simply were not my own. I was a people pleaser who felt an obligation to put others' needs and desires before my own. It wasn’t until MS entered my life that I realized to what extent I had allowed others to dictate my choices. I have never stood with my feet planted firmly on the ground and chose what I, Anita, had in my heart. When faced with an incurable chronic illness, I had to find my own answers.
A clean slate
For the first time in my life, I had to do what most people do. Multiple sclerosis brought clarity to the blurry areas of my life. Just like I knew suddenly that I did not want to be a lawyer, the heavens opened and told me that I needed to find my purpose. It was as if I was given a whole new clean slate. I could do with it what I wished. It was the canvas for my life and a disease is ironically what handed it to me. A nasty twist of fate let me to where I am today.
Finding my purpose
I now know that my purpose is to give voice for others where they cannot. It is an obligation to use what I have to help others. The skills and experience that I accrued over my lifetime are the tools I use today. If it were not for multiple sclerosis, I would likely be living someone else’s dream rather than doing the work that fulfills me today. Maybe I am just a helpless Pollyanna, but multiple sclerosis isn’t all bad for me.
Does your employer provide workplace accommodations due to your MS?