Years ago my husband was diagnosed with MS. He asked me not to tell a soul, and I did not. What I did was a lot of internet searching. I Googled “my husband has MS” and this returned nothing...no support group or special article about the wives of men with multiple sclerosis. AH! Maybe if I try searching “My husband has multiple sclerosis,” but there was still nothing...at least nothing useful. Fear-not fellow ‘caregivers,’ I found my way by reading advice not exactly tailored to my needs and by trial and error.
I Googled the same phrase today and it looks like there is a lot more out there. However, I don’t really feel the need to read it now, as I feel happy and well adjusted. There is no certainty for any one of us at any time whether we are healthy or dealing with a chronic medical condition. I know I went into the diagnosis with the belief that no matter what life throws at you, you can choose how you respond. Coming up on somewhere around five years since his diagnosis, I have proven to myself that no matter what life throws at me I am able to choose my response.
This doesn’t mean I push away any reactions I may have. Like when I think of the man I met who would do a quick vertical jump randomly hanging in a tree while the rest of us were content to just saunter slowly down the sidewalk – I cry. Nearly every time I have these memories I cry because it occurs to me that of all of us he was the one who really used his physical abilities. I don’t choose not to be sad about that...I AM sad. But then I breathe and realize that I do have a choice and I chose to smile at the memory through tears. Loss and joy can in fact co-exist. I choose to hope for a day when I will watch this marvelous man jump into a tree...I imagine it and then let it go knowing I do not have control. I choose to focus on what we do have and to honor my husband by (trying) to use all my physical abilities to the fullest, like taking on Yoga and running (when properly motivated).
To me this is a family diagnosis and his health and attitude do affect me and deeply. But I can choose to grow stronger even when we are having weak moments. And when I am weak I move forward anyway each time growing stronger. It would be easy to throw in the towel and play the victim card. But I won’t, as that doesn’t serve me, my husband or our very young son. I choose acceptance, hope, service and bravery.
Never pity a caregiver...we are the ones who chose to serve the people closest to us, and in this choice lays the nearly limitless potential for integrity and growth.