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Happy in Spite of Multiple Sclerosis

Looking on the bright side helps make live better when you have a chronic disease.

I said to my wife, Caryn, the other day that “the worst part is that I’m used to the pain now.”

It’s sort of like when I was recovering from my hip replacement surgery and off pain meds for three days after being discharged because the medical team couldn’t decide what meds would be best. Once I finally got meds on board, I realized how much pain I’d been in.

Which, by the way, was quite significant.

Our Symptoms Are Real

Don’t get me wrong: The symptoms that I (and we all) experience because of multiple sclerosis (MS) are real. They are difficult and often debilitating. I’m not one to sugarcoat: Sometimes they’re just bloody awful. But coping with them, and then becoming “used” to them, is the part I’m lamenting a bit today.

We are the athletes making the near-impossible seem everyday. The actors performing seemingly simple recitations of Shakespeare as if they were mundane conversation.

You mayn’t realize it, but you’re doing this “living with MS thing” very well — even if you don’t always feel like you are.

We’re Used to It Because We Have to Be

We’ve gotten used to living with pain and soldiering on. Rocking an assistive device like a fashion accessory. Using six times the energy to do the simple things everyone else does with ease. Putting on the damned happy face because other people need to see it, not because we like wearing it.

It’s like our grandparents telling us they had a great childhood even though they were poor, but they didn’t know it because everyone else was poor, too. It’s the children shrieking with delight as they stretch a double into a triple at a stickball game in a rundown slum or score a goal with a half-deflated soccer ball in a war zone.

They get on with finding the joy in life — with being happy — even though there are so many reasons for them to be anything but happy.

That’s what it’s like to get used to living with MS. It’s the getting on with it despite the disease. Making a happy life out of a difficult one. Finding a way to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

And we have, by unfortunate necessity, become pretty good at it — a lot of the time. But not all of the time, and some of the time, not very much at all.

But we do try.

Read on: Happy in Spite of Multiple Sclerosis

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