Tag Archives: courage

Scaredy Cat

scaredy catA couple of days after my last A level, I boarded a train with £90 in my pocket and a one-way ticket to Vienna. With my Doc Martin boots and schoolgirl German, I was ready to take on the world.

Four years later, I went home, courage (or naivety) having taken me to several continents and back, with enough adventures to last a lifetime.

These days, I look back at that time with wonder. Who was that person and where is she now? The other day, someone said to me, ‘Oh, you’re so brave, the way you cope with MS.’ Am I?

Thinking about it, no, I’m not brave at all. I’m scared beyond belief. And what’s this ‘brave’ thing all about anyway? Why do people think it’s a compliment to tell someone with a life-long illness they’re brave?

What’s the alternative? One thing I do know, my courage has deserted me. I’m not brave. I’m just making the most of a terrible situation. MS has split my courage right down the middle. Yes, I stood up to bullying at work. Yes, I fought my way through the NHS. On the other hand though, MS symptoms have stripped me of my day to day courage.

I drive as little as possible. I walk as little as possible. I don’t go out in the sun. I sleep rather than socialise. Everything is planned right down to the last detail. In short, I am boring. Did I really drink Champagne on a train station roof in Poland for my 20th birthday? Did I really move to New York on a whim? What happened?

After I mentioned this to my mum, she kindly said, ‘you haven’t lost your courage, it’s just been re-directed.’ In a way, she is right. MS was a curve-ball that dismantled life as I knew it. Courage didn’t come in sweeping gestures, it came bit by bit as I slowly put my life back together. Tenacity drove me forward and got me through the long, lonely nights when I wept into my wine glass.

I’m working on changing from being boring back into a semblance of my former self. So if you see someone drinking Champagne on the roof of Cardiff Central in August, holding an ‘I’m 40!’ balloon, that’ll be me.

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I Stumble, Therefore I Am

super squirrelI caught the tail-end of a programme the other day in which a man with a prosthetic foot was being interviewed. He was asked if, should a miracle cure become available, would he take it?

He was vociferous in his rejection of this – he was perfectly happy and his ‘disability’ had made him who he was.

Powerful stuff. Mulling it over, I came to a surprising conclusion. MS has shaped and moulded me in completely unexpected and positive ways and given me courage where previously I had very little.

When I was younger I was in a terrible, near-fatal car crash. I vowed to change my life forever if I recovered, and I would never take anything for granted again.

A year later, the scars had almost healed, I could walk properly and I was back to normal. Did I carry that message and always remember how fragile life was? Did I heck. But with something like MS, there is no end point, no point at which you can forget, so we really do need to change our lives and keep changing them, whilst appreciating every small victory and achievement.

I used to hate MS, until I realised that by hating it, I was hating a fundamental part of myself and this was essentially self-loathing. MS is me and I am MS. It is not a separate entity. I went through a dark, lonely, terrifying grieving process and hit rock bottom not just once but repeatedly.

When a chink of light appeared, I was on the up again. I frequently joke that when you get diagnosed with MS, anything else is immaterial. You can cope with pretty much everything life has to throw at you. And I think that is true and a powerful lesson to learn at my age, rather than as a wistful pensioner looking back over a life less-lived.

MS has given me a kick up the backside. It has made me speak up for myself, it has made me more confident and less willing to accept shabby behaviour. My stumbling, my tingling, and dodgy hands are now part of me. I stumble, therefore I am…….

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