Ten Secrets I’d Tell My Newly Diagnosed Self About MS
If I could travel back in time to 2001 when I was newly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the first thing I would tell my younger, stupider self would be to, “Pour one out for those cargo pants. You don’t need pockets on your knees. You have, like, 16 bags.”
And Younger Me would be like, “What’s with all the rips in your jeans? Are we poor in 2017?” And Future Me would clap back, “Nice chunky highlights, cough”.
And Younger Me would be all, “Your eyebrows? Are enormous. Is there a muppet trend happening in the future?” This would go on for awhile until we both realized that neither of us could win; our bitchiness being perfectly matched.
After we’d hugged it out and established a shade-throwing cease-fire, Future Me (grown-up, classy and chill), would re-introduce myself to Newly Diagnosed Me (naive, mouthy and hysterical), as the devastating illness expert I’d so desperately needed when I’d first heard the term MS. Here’s how it would go down:
Newly Dx’d Me: What the hell is going on and why did this happen? WAIT. Is this because I…
Future Me: No, idiot. You did not bring this on by hosting a wine-soaked Halloween séance. The sudden blindness you went through two weeks later was not God’s punishment for casting a hair-loss spell on your crush’s girlfriend. Trust me. I checked with Science. Sometimes bad things happen to bitchy people, and it’s just a coincidence.
Future Me: Okay, well, what’s wrong with you is a terrible fucking disease, so your reaction is actually pretty reasonable. Take some ugly dishes to the alley behind your apartment and smash them on the ground. This is a dividing line in your life between before and after. Your old self is dying and how you saw your future has completely changed. Grieve. Get it out.
MS Secret #2: You don’t have to pretend MS is NBD.
Newly Dx’d Me: Okay. Now what?
Future Me: Finish your meltdown and get ahold of yourself. You need to find a new apartment because your neighbours saw you wigging out in the alley.
Newly Dx’d Me: Thanks a lot.
Future Me: You’re welcome.
Newly Dx’d Me: Anything else?
Future Me: Yeah, stop eating canned ravioli and drinking vodka lemonades. Stop buying bags and pay your student loan. Quit making your mom shake off the MS clinic and answer their calls. Spend at least as much time finding the right doctor as you would finding the right pair of shoes.
MS Secret #3: Get an MS specialist who isn’t condescending. Get on treatment ASAP.
Future Me: If you wanna buy yourself some time, maybe don’t tell your boss right away. There will be changes, but, the people who can tie their identities to their employment don’t have to do anything to figure out who they are beyond that. They never have to ask themselves, “Who am I without this soul-sucking job that I hate career that I worked so hard for and am passionate about?“ Indulge in your identity crisis, then go find a purpose or two.
MS Secret #4: Don’t let other people tell you who you are.
Newly Dx’d Me: I won’t be able to do all the things I used to.
Future Me: It’s true, you won’t. I’m not gonna tell you nothing changes, but I can tell you the best is yet to come. That said, don’t bother showing up to your driving test next month. Get a metro pass and move on. Despite what your mother told you about ‘bus people’, it’s not as bad as you think. Plus this thing called ‘Uber’ is coming.
MS Secret #5: You are adaptable. You get really good at needles.
Newly Dx’d Me: Needles?! What else?
Future Me: You’ll no longer describe an ‘awesome weekend’ as one where you spend all of Sunday chewing on anti-nauseants and sipping ginger-ale while your best friend barfs out her hangover in the bathroom at brunch. This is just personal growth. This will be hard to believe but:
MS Secret #6: Not everything is about MS.
Newly Dx’d Me: Ok, but what the fuck can I do to make this better?
Future Me: First, of all, stop saying fuck.
Newly Dx’d Me: What?
Future Me: Just kidding. But seriously, stop eating canned ravioli, and drinking vodka lemonades. Maybe do a few sit-ups. Go outside.
MS is bossy
MS Secret #7: Control and manage the things you can. Exercise. Sleep. Vitamin D.
Newly Dx’d Me: Why bother? My future obviously sucks.
Future Me: MS is hard, but your future doesn’t suck. Just look at our future hair. And we traded the orange apartment in Steel Town for a loft near a castle. The girlfriend spell didn’t work exactly as planned, but we married that crush. Those raccoons that were living on the fire-escape? They’re dead. Now we have a dog.
MS Secret #8: You don’t always have to be grateful things aren’t worse, but you still have a lot to celebrate.
Newly Dx’d Me: Fine, cool hair, but is that a lazy eye? A walker? Are you effing serious?
Future Me: It’s called a rollator, and it’s name is Optimus Prime.He helped you get around Spain. Show a little respect.
Newly Dx’d Me: Ooh, Spain?
Future Me: I’ve said too much. The point is, you’re smart and capable and resilient.
Newly Dx’d Me: You forgot pretty.
Future Me: Obviously.
MS Secret #9: Most of the time, you can handle this.
Newly Dx’d Me: Most of the time?
Future Me: Every now and then you lose your shit, and are impossible to be around. And yet…
MS Secret #10: You’re not alone.
Your best friends and family are there to carry your shit, to drive you places, to listen to your meltdowns. When you think you can’t deal, you give it the The Banker. And when you need to connect with people who really get it, you have a whole tribe of Trippers supporting you.
Newly Dx’d Me: That sounds weird, but I guess, maybe I can do this.
Future Me: You can. You do.
Newly Dx’d Me: Okay, so if you’re from the future, what about lottery numbers, or stock tips?
Future Me: I dunno, I wasn’t really paying attention. Computers?
Newly Dx’d Me: Seriously? Fine. I’ll just take my three wishes then.
Future Me: OMG. Stop touching my belly. I’m not a fucking genie.