Tag Archives: volunteering

Reach Down, Raise Up

MS sometimes feels like a ladder.

Six years ago, it felt like I was somewhere around the bottom, in the murky depths, desperate to get a handle on the slippery first rung towards diagnosis, treatment and, well, ‘thank goodness I now have an explanation for what the hell’s been going on for the last year‘.

I spent hours and hours on the MS Society forums, asking question after question. Patient people who had been there before answered every niggle, every question, no matter how weird it sounded.

They reached down and pulled me up and I will forever be grateful to them for their guidance and support.

Limboland is a cruel place to be; essentially, you wait there in the ‘hope’ you have another relapse and are then moved from a single episode to ‘multiple’. So, you pray to get worse, to get better, because it’s only then that you can access the treatment that will potentially stop the next relapse.

I vividly remember the elated posts from fellow ‘Limbolanders’, ‘Finally!! I’m diagnosed!’ I was envious beyond belief and confused in equal measure. How can you be so happy to have MS?

I soon found out.

Like a magic door opening with a secret code, my eventual diagnosis offered up a myriad of treatment options.

Next week I’m taking a day off work to train with the MS Society as a Support Volunteer. The focus is firmly on the social model of disability, which centres upon choice and control.

I hope to learn skills which will allow me to reach out to pre-diagnosed people and those who are newly-diagnosed; I want to learn how to offer non-directive support and take on board an individual’s unique circumstances without judgement.

I’m looking forward to the course and giving back at least a tiny bit of the support I received all those years ago. If I can ease someone’s journey into life with MS, I’ll be over the moon.

Volunteering often sounds like a massive commitment, and I will be honest as to how much time I can offer, but it could be as little as one phone-call a week, or one quick coffee. Hopefully I will be able to offer more, but if anyone is thinking about volunteering, go for it.

I’d love to meet that one particular person on the MS forums (amongst many others) who took me through, step-by-step everything I asked, with her incredible medical knowledge.

I probably never will, but the one thing she said to me is, ‘if you found help in what I have offered, do the same, when you are ready.’

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Moving Out of My Comfort Zone

Two months working from home have left me with the social skills of a gnat. I dash out in the morning for newspapers and food and dash back home again. I am virtually a recluse, staying at home recovering from the emotional battle I’ve been through over the last year. I have been firmly embedded in my comfort zone.

Well, no longer. I miss company, chatter and being part of society. I feel strong and ready to take on the world again and I have just signed up to do something I have always wanted to do. Don’t laugh, but I will be volunteering in a charity shop once a week. I am the queen of thrift, the doyenne of upcycling, the one you always find in the middle of the jumble sale crush. I can’t wait to start.

Any new town I visit, I always find out where the charity shops are, especially If I go somewhere upmarket. There’s a great one on the King’s Road in Chelsea where I bought all my suits for work from when I lived in London. I am infamous among my friends for thrusting objects at them as soon as they walk in my door – ‘Hey! Check this out! Only £1!’ My house is filled with eclectic finds, rescued treasures and a haphazard mixture of randomly framed pictures.

I have never worked in a shop before and am looking forward to meeting new people and easing myself back into a workplace again. The manager, who’s lovely, knows about my MS and has no issue with it at all. There will be a workplace capability assessment, but that’s standard for anyone with an illness like MS.

It might sound odd, but I am over-excited about rummaging through all the donations. I can’t wait to learn how to use a till – strange I know, but doesn’t everyone want to play shop sometimes? So wish me luck, and if you see someone staggering along the road with a huge painting under one arm and a side table under the other, that’ll be me…

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