We’ve all been there, so focused on ourselves that we begin to miss the bigger picture. For me, the day of my diagnosis is the best example of this.
Yesterday was my 12th anniversary of sitting in a hot consultant’s room, and hearing, “You have multiple sclerosis.” While some people want to honour that day – after all, you’re glad you finally know what is wrong with you – others will just want to skip that day altogether.
I agree it’s not for everyone, and newly-diagnosed people might think all this is simply all gobbledygook just yet. Let me assure you, however, mental growth will happen whether you celebrate your diagnosis anniversary or not.
Before my diagnosis, my introduction to life with MS was short compared to some people’s long battle to find out what ails them. The severity of my symptoms demanded proactivity on my account and my walking into the emergency room and refusing to leave before I knew what was wrong with me was what finally gave me answers. Looking back on life, I still consider this the best decision I ever made. In that regard, I have come to see my diagnosis anniversary as a day I want to observe somehow, especially because of the many people who have contributed to making life worthwhile since that day.
Sure, there have been many ups and just as many downs over the past 12 years, but overall I have tried to rise above. Like the Japanese phrase says, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” It’s not the falling that is celebrated, but the rising above all kinds of challenges.It’s not a curse anymore, but a journey. By now I know how to avoid mental and physical pitfalls and how to sail around people who refuse to understand. I also know it’s great to be in tune with what is happening in the MS-world, but I also know that overdoing it only messes up my mind.
It boils down to not celebrating being ill but observing the challenges you’ve been through, the lessons you’ve learned, and the mental growth that has happened. One prime example happened just this week. I lost my eyesight in my right eye, and when I eventually told my mom, she was frightened and in shock and “Now what?!?” so I replied, “Well I still have another eye, you know!” Had I never lost eyesight before, I would not have answered similarly. In short, you learn as you go, and more importantly, you grow as you go.
While MS does not define you, your diagnosis is a defining moment in life. Take some time to celebrate you being you on this important day. Why not take time out of your day to do something you always wanted to do? Consider spending it alone or with someone close to you, and talk very openly not only about your fear and frustration, but also about how your diagnosis has positively shaped you. It’s important in your journey to always meet yourself halfway.
In the end, a confirmed diagnosis is a chance to start over again and because of that I think it is a day that should be celebrated. Not many people get the chance, so grab it and reshape your surroundings, your mindset or your job.
Even if you feel or see that your MS has progressed, create a feeling of, “Wow. I never thought I would get through the first day, or the first year for that matter!” Be aware of how far you have actually come, perhaps not physically, but mentally.
In a way, I’ve come to regard the anniversary of my diagnosis and all the good things that came of it as “the bigger picture.” I often tell friends I am glad to have met them because of this unwanted illness, about the advocacy I taken up to help other people with MS or disabilities. Life has become infinitely more rewarding than I ever thought possible, and it can’t get any bigger than that.