Tag Archives: The Teenager

Less Can Sometimes Mean A Whole Lot More

I lived with a millionaire for four years.

I know, weird, huh?

Shortly before that, I was a cash-strapped au-pair in Austria. On pay-day (£35 a week), I schlepped to the supermarket on the main square and bought a single vanilla yoghurt.

It was the most delicious treat in the world and made the endless toddler-wrangling of the previous seven days all the more worthwhile.

When I was living with my new partner, I went to the same supermarket and bought five and ate them all in one go.

They were awful. The taste had gone. When I could have as many as I wanted, I didn’t want them and that unique taste which made them so irresistible had died.

Fast-forward a few years and I’ve pretty much been cash-strapped for the last two decades. Unexpected bills, a brutal divorce, a rapidly-growing child, school trips and all the other weird and wonderful paraphernalia of bringing up a child without passing on the money worries to him took its toll. But we got through it, trimming bits here and there, never making him feel he was different from his friends.

The Teenager would often come home from school and find me giving a new lick of paint to my most recent Gumtree find, or extolling the virtues of an empty pot of earth, which eventually grew into a chestnut tree. Until he went to high school, a lot of his clothes came from charity shops, as did most of his books. Despite the roller-coaster of financial ups and downs, we always just about managed to get through.

Then MS hit and the reality of losing my job and taking on alternative work at a much-reduced wage was tricky. I realised I was never going to earn a decent income, so I ploughed this anxiety into studying instead and it’s been the making of me.

There’s nothing more heartbreaking than your teenager asking you if we were ‘poor’.

We weren’t. Poverty is relative. He always had what he needed, perhaps second-hand, but he had it nonetheless. Technically we were disadvantaged and according to statistics, living close to the poverty line, but he did not need to grow up with that stigma.

Now The Teenager is forging his own life at University, I can fully appreciate the fantastic house we have created – our plant pots may come from a skip, but they produce a wondrous ambience. Our garden table and chairs are from Gumtree and were nothing a quick wash didn’t solve. Most of our furniture is second-hand, but lovingly-chosen and restored, the rest is donated.

Living with less – financially and health-wise – really made me wake up and appreciate every single thing I have. I’m not denying it was difficult but when I welcome The Teenager back home on vacation, I feel proud that we have made such a cosy and warm environment. The love and care that has been put into our house speaks volumes and I always want him to feel he has a safe space to come home to.

Looking back on my ‘Five Yoghurt Scenario’, it really did teach me many valuable lessons – you can’t take it with you, love is priceless and be careful what you wish for.

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Writing The Wrongs

One of the best things about having a blog is encouraging others who also want to start one.

Over the years, since 2012 when I first signed up to WordPress, I’ve spoken with people all over the world about how to get started, how to keep up the momentum and just how to have a real idea about what it is they want to say – what they have to say.

Back then, in the dark old days, I wanted to express what was happening after my MS diagnosis, what I was feeling. I was disoriented, lost and experiencing an entire whirlwind of emotions. Plus, I was also being slowly bullied out of my job.

I reached out to a writer who had written a very personal account of her MS in a national newspaper, about her struggle to come to terms with a life with MS. It was raw and brutal, exactly how I felt. We communicated back and forward through emails and she encouraged me to start a blog. The rest is history. Thanks to her, I’ve gone from blog to PhD.

I always wanted to be a writer, so perhaps that is why I feel privileged to be following this path now. MS shunted me from the career I was building to a building career – I work as a project manager for a building company. The irony doesn’t escape me.

But I wanted something more. I love my job – it allows me the flexibility and creative talent to excel at what I do, but it’s not everything. It also has an end-point. My energy is limited, I fall asleep at awkward times, I trip over stray wires, I repeat stuff. Luckily, I work with my best friend who knows more about MS than anyone else.

Writing has allowed me to discuss, dissect and analyse every single niggle I’ve ever had with MS, and bringing up a Teenager throughout a life with MS. Abject loneliness has been replaced with a worldwide hug of immense proportions. You guys just … get me.

You’ve been through the ups and downs, you’ve seen The Teenager through the best and worst of times. You even took the time to send him messages of support when he was in a grim place and he read every single one with a smile on his face.

Writing is incredibly powerful and I didn’t realise that until I started. I poured out all the pent-up angst and you were with me through my epic Pity-Party-For-One.

It’s hard, baring your soul. But, you guys have shown me that it is so, so worth it.

If when I attain my PhD, you’re all invited. Without you, it wouldn’t happen.

Reach out and lift up …

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How I Live Now

My seventh official MS-versary is looming.

The Teenager’s 20th Birthday isn’t far behind.

We got this far, and I still can’t quite believe it. Who would have thought that broken, miserable, pity-party-for-one person would morph into, well, me? Us?

We did it. All I wanted was to see my son safely into the next stage of the life of his choosing, not one imposed on him by this illness. .

He won’t have to tell people he never knew his mother, can’t remember her apart from a few vague snapshots; as I did with my dad who died long before the incredible MS treatment options we now have today.

Yes, we still went through hell. Mortality and High School don’t tend to go together, especially when you’re the single, main parent. Corners were cut, but the absolute commitment to him remained. I did my absolute best and he has, after a few shaky starts, turned out to be a young man I am incredibly proud of.

Of course, like me, he got angry. Angry that I was sacked, angry that I couldn’t find a new job after I ticked that disability box, angry that society turned its back on me . And most of all, angry that this illness had interrupted his childhood.

We had our battles, as we got used to our new roles. His once energised parent was now useless and tired, so, so tired, but he was never my carer. I hope I was always emotionally present for him even when my body didn’t follow the protocol.

I planned my Lemtrada infusions around his brief holidays with his father, trying my hardest to appear rested and healthy when he returned home two days after I was discharged.

Now he is at University, he is forging his own path. You could say my job is done, I got what I wished for all those years ago, and it is. The relief is immense, although I know his years in High School were not without MS dramas.

My son is not my confidant, I have friends for that. He is not my carer, I would employ one if I needed that. He is a young man making his own way in the world.

Some people say I’m just lucky that I was able to access brilliant treatment and I completely agree with them. I took the riskier, quicker option that I was fortunate enough to access and why wouldn’t I? Who else would pick my son up from rugby training twice a week? I accepted the side-effects (Graves, yep, am fat), but I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

I’m glad my son will not be taken to see my body when he is four years old, and forever wonder what he would say to me, should he have the chance. I’m glad my son grew up with me at his side, no matter what my disabilities. And I’m glad my son has grown up to be such a compassionate advocate for disability rights.

Above all, I am glad that he had you guys at his side – you’ve watched him grow up, you’ve given advice and you’ve comforted him and I cannot thank you all enough.

So, I may struggle every single day, but I will still struggle every single day and I will still struggle to continue doing so, no matter what comes my way.

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Hello World

I don’t get out much.

Truth be told, I don’t get out much at all.

So, to be part of a regenerated writing group has been brilliant and so far, I’ve managed three monthly meetings out of three. Yay!

Fair play, it takes a lot of planning. I worked all weekend and took the day of the meeting off. I’ve been whacked over the head by my old nemesis MS fatigue recently, so I woke up, watched the news and fell asleep. Twice.

Wading through treacle is an understatement. There are simply no words to describe the skull-crushing, soul-sapping fatigue of MS and it doesn’t seem to get any easier.

Is it the invisibility? The difficulty in explaining? Or just that awful, horrendous feeling that most people with MS will be familiar with? The one that makes you want to cry with frustration. Who knew tiredness could actually be a painful ache?

So it’s all the more important that I get out into the world, tempting though it is to stay hunkered down in my sofa. Living on my own, perhaps even more so.

And here’s the truth:

MS is bad enough. But living with MS and Complex PTSD is a double whammy, something I had to admit to in my PIP form. Many of us do, and it’s something I’ve touched lightly upon in my past blogs.

Weirdly though, knowing what I’m up against has made me stronger and more willing to fight, after wondering why I feel so bad when I should be feeling better. I have a wonderful life, for which I am eternally grateful. The Teenager is thriving, despite the terrible knock-backs he’s had to cope with, and that to me is more important than anything.

I only have to look around our cosy little cottage to smile; The Teenager’s bedroom ready for whenever he wants to crash here, the cat ready to greet him, the continuity of it all is a wonderful thing.

MS has made me face up to challenges and Complex PTSD is one of them. It can happen to any of us, at any time, but if the effects are suppressed, the fallout can be huge. Add MS into the equation, and it’s asking for trouble.

I’ve messed up, trusted the wrong people with the right information. I’ve made a fool of myself and have paid the price.

True friends are hard to come by. The ones who ask how they can help are the ones I cherish the most.

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Growing Old Disgracefully

I met with my fabulous MS nurse last week for my six month review.

I recounted my most recent symptoms (I keep a log book, MS brain).

After I’d read out the last one, we both looked at each other and said, ‘Hmm, age, or MS?’

It’s true – it’s becoming far trickier to work out which is which. Balance, fatigue, brain, all of it. I mean, I’m not ancient (cough, 45), but life does have a funny way of creeping up on you when you least expect it.

At Christmas, The Teenager mentioned he’d be twenty years old in August and it took me aback. Seriously? I quickly worked out the dates, and he was right of course. I just never figured my son would be … 20. Just as I never expected to say I had been diagnosed with MS for seven years. A bit surreal.

Not only that, as we’ve debated, what on earth will I call him? The Twenty-ger?

In some ways, I now think I’m ‘settling’ in to MS. It is what it is, if this it what it is. And whether it’s age or various busted neuro-pathways, it’s all the same – some sort of loss.

What I should be concentrating on is what I can do, not what I struggle with. So, I’m trying to come up with a list of things that encompass a more positive approach:

  • I’ve had an epic cold since November that only now shows vague signs of finally leaving. Rather than lament my neglected writing, I’ve been reading books to prove I’m still, just, studying.
  • Downside to that is I’m totally mired in Victorian times, but it’s quite comforting, all the carriages and fainting spells, horrid asylum episodes to one side.
  • I’ve sorted through my wardrobe, passing on clothes, buying some others in the Christmas sales.
  • I’ve dusted off the Nutri-Blast.
  • I’ve analysed the two new wrinkles that appeared overnight on the 2nd of January, initially dismissing them as ‘pillow-face’ creases. Nope, they’re here to stay Two days of anguish followed by, oh well.
  • Should I get a shopping trolley?
  • I’m four and three-quarters years away from a Saga holiday.
  • My lovely friend, who is 57, has found love on a dating site. Hope?
  • Our house is incredibly sorted, as I look for any excuse rather than study. Even my cutlery drawer is gleaming.
  • The little cutting I took all the way in the car from Geneva in March is thriving.

So all in all, a good result for January. The Teenager (I can still call him that for a while) is gaining confidence after a blip, I’m getting better, the cat is recovering from The Teenager’s procession of friends over Christmas and all is well.

What could possibly go wrong?

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