The Person I've Become - An Update
On June 9th, 2013, my story was published here, appropriately titled, "Everything Changes." That story was submitted nearly four years ago. In that story, I more or less turned my life around, but I hadn't graduated college yet, had hopes of attending law school, and still felt like my goals were far from a close reach. It is not to say, however, that I wasn't proud of myself, my accomplishments, or how far I had come. It is to say, though, that the path that was ahead felt further than close. I've always had intentions of updating you all after my initial post, because I received overwhelmingly kind responses to the story I originally authored.
So, with that qualifier laid out; fast forward to now, nearly four years later. I'm currently a few months from graduating law school, I've found a nichè legal field that I feel I can ultimately thrive in, I have an incredibly supportive partner who I truly adore, and I have some absolutely wonderful friendships. I will say, though, in the near four years from my original post, I've more-or-less aged at a progressive rate. By that, I mean, my fatigue levels have increased significantly and the days of college all nighters are long gone, even though law school demands significantly more from me. I often feel my 8 hours are what it was like pre-MS to have 3-4 hours rest. And some days, by the time midday rolls around, I'm absolutely exhausted. But it's a slippery slope, isn't it? You want more rest, you NEED more rest, but you want to take advantage of the fact you can get the things done you sought to in fact, get done. The worst part though, is despite the reality that you feel physically exhausted, you put your head down on the pillow, and your mind just won't stop. You can't fall asleep nearly as fast as you wish. As fast as you need. And yet, the world cannot see what that lack of rest is doing to you physically, but internally, you feel like a war is being fought inside your body. Unquestionably, though, a lot of what I do is self-imposed. Law school alone lends itself to much stress and anxiety, couple that with your MS, and you find yourself in a scary place.
As such, I've had to make significant adjustments. Physically, mentally, you name it. When I wrote my original post, I was 220 LBS -- and as I mentioned prior, I felt like I was aging at an increased rate of speed when comparing myself to my immediate peers, or so I felt. As such, I heavily invested in my physical health, and today, as you read this, I'm 150 LBS, 70 LBS lighter. I'm in the best physical condition of my life, and often, I take great pride in not just being physically capable, but making the most of that capability. The importance of my weight loss journey was required, because law school was taking so much out of me, and my symptoms were being exasperated by the stress and anxiety it so often induced. I needed an outlet, and I needed to not let parts of my health that are in MY control deteriorate. Thus, I found solace in the gym and exercise. To this day, my weight loss will always be one of my greatest achievements, because it required a tremendous amount of discipline to do. I can't stress the importance of exercise with MS (if possible, that is) because without it, I'm not sure I'd have the energy to take on what law school throws at me, and often, what I feel like MS takes from me.
Now, I stated I had to make significant adjustments physically, AND mentally. You see, I was originally the weight I was because I didn't really care. Everything felt like I was on a timer, and any efforts to thwart that seemed to be a poor investment of time. But then I realized, the better physical condition I'm in, perhaps the better I can combat my disease. Unquestionably, my experience is anecdotal, but I think it's worthy of consideration.
Now, back to my mental health. You've seen movies, and chances are if you're American, you know through media that law school is not something one engages in lightly. The world of law, and law school itself, can absolutely be pervasive with regard to its potential destruction of your mental health. And with MS in the mix, when one part of you is being drained, often another part of you is intrinsically linked to it, and it becomes increasingly difficult to ignore. I've always felt my MS was a part of me, surely, but law school made me realize my MS isn't someone who rides in the backseat, it's someone who rides shotgun, so I can see what they're doing at all times. I need to be aware, I need to be up-to-date on the current status of my health, and law school has taught me that. And while law school itself does not really lend itself to "days off" or taking a "me" day(s), I've learned to find a way to do so, because without it, my MS would make its way from the passenger seat to the driver seat. Often, this means when my classmates invite me out to a mixer, a law school social, or simply to hang out, I'll politely decline, but of course, the real reason being: I'm taking my injection, or I'm taking a day or night to myself (often, both together). Only about two of my close classmates know I battle MS, while all others thinking I'm healthy as can be. I've always been a private person, and I've always avoided potential pity, so the amount of people who know this information about me has been minimal. I'm not sure that's the healthiest choice, but my privacy is something I value in that regard. So, I suppose, to sum it up, understanding the importance of your mental health as well as your physical health, and understanding how intertwined they are with your MS is significant. If it means taking a moment to think to yourself: "Am I feeling okay? How much did I actually rest?" -- then that's what it means. It is important to be in-tune with your body as much as possible, because if you're not, you may be missing a red flag, or exasperating something you could avoid. Like I said, I'm happy to have MS in the passenger seat where I can see it, but without proper monitoring, it will creep its way into the driver seat. But not today, and hopefully not tomorrow.
Now, as I mentioned above, I'm 26 now (this year will mark nearly a decade with MS, wow!), and I've been lucky enough to have come across someone I absolutely love and adore. She moved in recently, and no one knows me better. As a result, though, I've noticed how apparent my MS is when I'm in private, because she can often point out things I do that are MS-related. In public, though, I try to hide it as much as possible. And maybe that's why I'm further in-tune with my body, because I'm lucky enough to have someone in my life who is so genuine in her care for me, that she brings things to my attention I may have not previously noticed. Perhaps most importantly, though, she allows me to be weak, and understands I cannot be the version I often feel I need to be to the outside world. Having someone who is as supportive as her, is all I could have asked for, and I feel incredibly blessed.
Over the past four years, my life has unquestionably changed. And while there is so much more that could be discussed, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the journey instead of the destination. I thank you all for reading this, and always feel free to contact me if you need anything.
Does listening to music help lower the severity of your stress or MS symptoms?