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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Multiple Sclerosis: The Pursuit of Hardship

Think of all the greats.

The individuals we view as being the geniuses of our time. Authors, poets, painters, scientists and performers.What makes them so incredibly gifted? I cannot say for certain, but one common thread I have observed is that many have coped with difficulties and life challenges.

Stephen Hawking, Physicist and ALS patient: Wikipedia

Some of these people struggled with physical and mental illness, some with tragic life experiences and others with broken hearts. Some endured horrible childhood experiences, others carried the burden of abuse and poverty. Wouldn't you have predicted that they would end up abject failures?

Astonishingly, in nearly every case the opposite is true. These individuals became the pent-ultimate success stories of the human race.

What that means to me is that there is hope. What this lesson teaches me is that my own personal challenges might actually be my biggest blessings in disguise. I know what you are thinking. "Is she serious? I should see MS (or whatever your particular life challenges are) as a gift?"

Bear with me.....

I had what most people would call an idyllic childhood. I was brought up by doting, loving parents as an only child. My parents provided me with everything a child could possibly want or need. My parents did this intentionally, because they both had less than perfect childhoods. As wonderful as this was for me, I craved more. I recall actually wanting to experience some traumatic events. I wanted to escape my protective childhood bubble and really get into the trenches. There is something so interesting about the experience of hardship. I firmly believe that challenges are the key to growth and the development of strength.

For me, the pursuit of hardship began with a career in emergency medical care at the age of 19, as an EMT on an advanced life support ambulance. I was like a deer in the headlights. I remember those horribly brutal calls like they happened yesterday, even though it was 20 years ago now. The first calls involving death, violence, horrific auto accidents, and tragic illness are burned into my memory. I didn't run away.

I actually found myself becoming an "adrenaline junkie." Instead of being scared away, I decided to continue and become an emergency department registered nurse at the age of 26. There is something powerful and addictive about being on edge and ready for anything all the time. I craved the teamwork, the ego boost and the indescribable feeling of saving someone from the brink of death.

I didn't really have any personal hardships, I only dealt with the hardships of others for a living. When I went home, my life was good. I found myself picking up extra shifts at the ER just to experience some more. I loved being there. I met and fell in love with my husband there. It was like the classic "nurse meets doctor and they live happily ever after" story. We bonded through our traumatic experiences there.

In 2009, when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I no longer needed to pursue that adrenaline rush. I no longer needed to see other people's struggles to feel alive. I no longer needed to provide constant care for others in distress. I was the one who finally needed help. I was the one who needed the assistance. I had my first real-life hardship.

MS is a lifelong struggle, a constant load of baggage that you carry around from the moment you are diagnosed. You basically have to make the choice every single day to get up, carry on, and never give in. The sense I get is that the minute I stop fighting this beast, it will overtake me. It's exhausting.

Why do human beings seem to thrive under the worst conditions? Why don't we just curl up into a fetal position and give up? We are resilient. We are capable of surviving and thriving under the worst of circumstances. We all come from a long line of survivors..... Otherwise we wouldn't be here, right?

© Meagan Freeman, 2014. Motherhoodandmultiplesclerosis.com

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