“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes but when we look back everything is different”
In 2007 my life changed forever when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. In 2011 I went through another big change, when I got a divorce. Since those two major life events I have had many people ask if I think that my divorce was because of my diagnosis or did getting MS cause my marriage to end? Although my gut reaction is to say no, I have spent plenty of time thinking about just this and now feel that I can try and answer that question. But in normal fashion – not a quick response as there is always the “back story.” When I think back to where I was and what I was doing six years ago, it is utterly impossible to believe how much has happened and how much my life has changed. In the spring of 2010 I asked my then husband, for a divorce; something that I never would have thought would “happen to me.” It took me a long time to understand that our marriage ceasing to exist was NOT a reflection of having failed. It didn’t mean that I failed MYSELF, it didn’t mean I failed my MARRIAGE and it didn’t mean I failed to DO something that would have saved the marriage.
Actually, it meant the just the OPPOSITE. It meant that I had succeeded in finding the strength to speak up and and finally admit that feeling unloved and unsupported just wasn’t enough. I didn’t want to just “settle,” because I had to believe that there could be more; that written into my life’s story, could be a relationship with love and laughter, friendship and support. That I could find someone that would have my back and be my partner in crime through thick and thin.
It also meant that I had succeeded in being brave enough to stand up for myself and realize that even if I was making a decision to be alone, that it would be better than the constant disappointment and emptiness that my marriage created in my life. I discovered that I had the courage to be on my own and that alone sounded a hell of a lot better than always feeling lonely and hoping that MAYBE someday it would be different. Because it never was.
When I was diagnosed, there was actually a part of me that was HOPEFUL. That perhaps THIS was the life event that would shake things up in our marriage and then dump us back down on an even and new playing field. That wasn’t the case. It was also not the case that my diagnosis was the cause of the marriage ending. My living with the disease, and seeing HOW I reacted and dealt with all the changes is what made me realize that somewhere along the way I had lost myself, that I was not living out being the person I was meant to be. Being able to embrace the fact that having MS was NOT an “Oh Fuck moment” is what allowed me to start on my journey to living a life that is about ME and those people in my life that REALLY matter.
I recently ran across something I wrote in a profile on one of my social media accounts. I describe myself, my life, and discovering WHAT it is that really matters:
Living with MS has forced me to decide what REALLY matters; to constantly ask the question “is this worth my time and energy?” I work to fill my life with only the BEST of things. I try to make each moment count and strive to strengthen the relationships that do make the “cut” and are still there when the dust settles. THOSE are the things and the people that MATTER and although being diagnosed with a chronic disease might have forced me into an unexpected “purge” of time sucks and energy drains it leaves me with the best of the best – the things that COUNT. MOVING FORWARD I plan on appreciating what remains and what I have gained, rather than wasting time thinking about what was lost.
MS gave me the strength to finally pull the plug and leave unhappiness behind. I loved being a stay at home mom to my three amazing children and had great friends but I always knew that there should be more to a relationship than what my ex and I had – just “coexisting” under one roof. There was no intimacy, friendship or expressions of support or love. For all of the unknowns about living with MS and all the volatility that I might encounter in the future, I needed to surround myself with people that loved me and who would be there to help when and if I needed it. I realized that I was already going through it all feeling alone, and that I would rather just KNOW that I needed to rely on myself rather than always HOPING that MAYBE something would change and that I would feel loved. I needed to put on my “big girl panties” and not only survive whatever shit the disease threw at me but to find the reasons to laugh and smile through it all. The irony that being diagnosed with MS actually helped me be STRONG enough to finally move forward and BRAVE enough to believe in myself is not missed by me. It is a given that having MS can lead to a life with chronic symptoms, overwhelming fatigue and render some immobile. Yet it forced me to make a move and push for my life to be better.
Physically, my life changed drastically in a short period of time. I went from running 6-8 miles 6 days a week to needing to use a cane or my Segway to get to the bus stop at the end of the block. I relied on wall-walking to get around in the house and had more than one tumble down the stairs as I tried desperately to continue what I had always done and NOT let the disease or it’s symptoms get the best of me. But the biggest change was emotional. I had succumbed to the idea that my story was already written; that a life of living with someone that was more like a roommate than a partner and often times feeling like a single parent was just the way that my life would be. But MS showed me that the unexpected can certainly happen.
So I asked and we began the whole bullshit process of paying lawyers stupid amounts of money to determine what our new lives would look like. I truly believed that I had already gone through the emotional baggage that comes with walking away from a “KNOWN” situation (no matter how unhappy one is, it is always going to be challenging to face and accept change.) It turns out, not so much. I had a much longer journey to “freedom” and truly re-finding myself than I had anticipated.
I read somewhere that it takes two years to recover from a divorce if you DON’T have children and five if you do. In my case, perhaps that is true. It might be the case that one party doesn’t KNOW that the marriage sucks and is surprised, but really IF the other party is unhappy/unfulfilled enough to to want a divorce, it doesn’t seem as if that would be indicative of a “good marriage.”
Fast forward to today and I am filled with such an enormous sense of happiness and joy that it is hard for me to put into words. This leg of the never ending, crazy ass journey to find myself and rediscover what I need and value most seems to be coming to an end. For years I never really felt like I was home. The last years of my marriage were filled with stress and anxiety and I didn’t feel relaxed or comfortable living there. Then there was the transitional period when I lived in an apartment for the three days that the kids were with my “wasband” and then I would move back to the house for the nights that they were with me. This act of “house juggling” continued until I fully moved out and bought a house of my own.
I loved my new house and loved that the kids and I quickly began making memories in our new home. BUT I was also lucky enough to have met Shawn at about the same time and so from the early days of buying my house, I spent most of my “non-kid” nights over at his house. For the past 5 years I have lived in two places and managed two households. I can’t even begin to tell you how frustrating it is to THINK that I had JUST bought a shit ton of toilet paper and head to the pantry ONLY to discover that it was actually at Shawn’s house where I had stocked up.
Each and every week on Wednesday mornings after dropping the kids off at school I would return to my house, to clean, pack up all the leftovers and remaining groceries, meds, computer, bills and whatever other shit I felt I MIGHT need, then hop in the car with Spanky and head over to Shawn’s. Granted it is less than 15 miles away (13.4 to be exact) and it was easy enough to pop back over should I have needed something but thanks to my “must always be prepared and have everything and anything I should might need or want” mentality, this weekly migration south ALWAYS entailed a packed car schlepping back and forth between houses.
This spring, Shawn and I made the decision to combine households. Truth be told, he has been wanting me to be there full time for a while but I needed more time to finish sorting things out in my mind and to recognize that I was ready to “cohabitate” with someone again. We spent months getting the house all ready to be put on the market; paired up with an AMAZING real estate agent (that also happens to be a kick ass friend) and listed it at the beginning of August. It sold quickly and we spent the next few weeks moving the final stuff out and into Shawn’s house and we are now waiting for the deal to close.
I thought it might be a bit weird at the beginning- having the kids here, living in what they have known as Shawn’s house. It seems I was wrong. They have quickly begun calling it home and we are already making some pretty damn good memories here at our NEWEST home. Although the plan is to finish remodeling this house, sell it and then combine our earnings to buy a “FOREVER HOME” together I am going to take advantage of having only ONE house to manage, ONE fridge to fill up and ONE mountain of laundry to tackle. I FINALLY feel like I am HOME – just where I should be with the people that matter the most in my life.
As I said – I have been asked a number of times if I believe that being diagnosed with MS is what led to or caused my divorce. I don’t think so. I think that it may have set the balls in motion, because it gave me a nudge to start this journey. I can’t really say whether or not that “ball disturbance” would have occurred should I have remained healthy, I just know that it gave me the giant kick in the ass I needed. I have also been asked how my physical condition has improved so drastically and for such a long time (this December will mark my 6 year anniversary of NO cane and NO Segway!!!) I admit that I sometimes give the flippant response of “I got a divorce” but I think there is actually a ton of truth to it – more specifically a REDUCTION in stress. Beyond THAT – a significant INCREASE in smiles and laughter.
Long story short and as corny as it may sound – I seem to be living proof that a laugh (or two) a day, can do a damn good job of keeping the doctor away:)