I can’t recall the last “real” roller coaster I rode. Honestly, I’m trying to rack my brain. Was it during a visit to Disney World in 1985? Or could it have been in a car driven by a speed demon? (That would be a figurative roller coaster, of course.)
Living with multiple sclerosis is a bit like a roller coaster ride. Many different and ever changing roller coaster rides, in fact.
When first diagnosed, I think that the roller coaster is ridden in total darkness. You can’t see what obstacles, loops, twists, or drops are to come. The fear of the unknown can be overwhelming and you just want someone to turn the lights on.
When living with MS for a little time, you begin to see patterns which repeat. You get to know your own roller coaster track. If you have relapsing-remitting MS, this analogy may sound very familiar. Perhaps each relapse is like a separate ride which eventually comes back to rest. However each experience changes you a bit and you can never really go back to being a coaster ride “virgin.”
Dealing with life with MS can be an emotional roller coaster as well. You may have learned about the “stages” of grief which can generally be applied to dealing with a new diagnosis - shock, denial, anger, bargaining, guilt, depression, detachment, acceptance. Of course, no one has to go through these stages in any organized fashion. There are no hard and fast rules.
I have found each reminder that MS is a companion who will not leave sends me out on the roller coaster once more. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve ridden the ride, or how well I know that I will never truly fall from the rickety supports, or that I will once again learn how to live with the new post-ride me. I still get strapped in for a bumpy ride complete with anger and tears, sadness and guilt, and finally resignation to the new normals of life with MS.
A third type of roller coaster which I envision is the one where you can see the rides of other travelers on this MS journey. Your initial coaster may be like the gentle teacups which swirl in circles. As you learn more about the disease, you may begin to see what types of rides others experience. Maybe somebody else has graduated up to a wicked tower of a ride, complete with loopdy-loops and straight drops. You know that you might be on that ride also at some point.
No matter what the ride entails. Know that we do not have to ride alone. Others have come to the amusement park with us. Our friends, family, loved ones, caregivers. And, honestly, we (those who live with MS) do not have exclusive access to the park. People living with other chronic and acute diseases may be there as well.
In fact, life itself is like a roller coaster, never completely flat nor static. We each move forward (whether we intend to or not) eventually. Perhaps we have a bit of control over which ride to take, choosing to become the strongest and healthiest we can be, choosing to open our eyes and face the monster down, choosing to let another person take the seat next to us. Choosing to never go this journey alone.
MS = a journey to destinations known and unknown
MS = a community of travelers who support each other
MS = the reason I am here, right now, reaching out to myself