“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
– Viktor E Frankl Man’s Search For Meaning
Here we go again, I thought. Time to brace yourself. This is the never-ending rollercoaster after all. If I’d wrote this post a week ago, it would have gone a very different way. Into my fourth week of horrendous leg pain that left me crying on the sofa on the days I attempted even a simple walk, I felt at my wits’ end and more angry with MS and my body than I ever thought possible. I’d gone from running a half marathon to being in pain after a stroll to the end of the road. In the last two months, I’ve had two vomiting bugs, another day of constant stomach cramps, and, thanks to being so rundown, I then endured weeks of constant MS fatigue that left me wondering if a relapse was on the horizon. The leg pain made me certain it was.
After struggling to make it from the car to the house one afternoon, Niall finally convinced me to see the doctor.
“I think it’s my MS,” I told the GP.
He didn’t think so.
“Sounds like sciatica,” he said, and sent me on my way with an MRI referral and anti-inflammatories.
Thanks to the joys of private health insurance (which my company thankfully pays for) I had the results a week later.
“You have a thing called a pars stress fracture in your lumbar spine,” he said.
I rushed back to my desk in work to google it.
I’ve got what? I thought – I’ve essentially BROKEN MY BACK!!.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, MS alone wasn’t enough fun that I had to go and fracture my spine.
I drove home crying. It certainly feels like it’s one thing after another at the moment and being in pain just clouds everything. It’s so hard to stay positive when you’re in pain.
When I’ve struggled to stay positive in the past, I’ve reached for my runners. Exercise is my baby – I love it. I love the buzz, I love how in 10 minutes it can instantly alter your mood. And yet I hate how now, when I need it most, it’s out of my reach.
I hate that after weeks of being in pain – pain that has beaten down my mood – all this does is reinforce my own feelings about my body being broken. I hate that, with what feels like the flick of a switch, something else I love is put out of my reach. There are days where, I have to admit, I just don’t know how to cope with it. On those days, the only thing I can do is cope with the moment and stop myself thinking any further ahead. I find myself wanting to scream at people about just how precious life is, just how easily it can all change in a moment.
I sat almost in tears as I watched the London marathon last weekend, knowing that this injury is possibly the last nail in the coffin where my running is concerned. Niall said he felt guilty that he’d be running the marathon this year while I would most likely never be able to run one. Yet, instead of feeling jealous, I’m so proud of him – I feel proud of every single person that believes in themselves enough to get out there and accomplish something like that. Our bodies can be these amazing machines and to not use them to the best of their ability feels like a complete and utter waste and an insult to every single person that would give anything to be on that start line. We are capable of such amazing things if only we believed it. It took me a long time to believe it, but I believed it that first time I laced up my runners on a cold autumn evening in 2012. I believed it when I crossed the finish line of my first 5k a few months later and I believed it more than ever when I completed my first half marathon last September – and nothing can ever take that away from me.
The way I see it, I have two choices. Choice one: I let MS and I let a fractured back tear my mental health to shreds and send me into a spiral of depression that, let’s face it, will only end in one way if I allow it to take hold again. You see, the thing is, I’ve been there before. I’ve spent years engulfed in depression and just willing the pain to end. It’s the strangest sort of pain and it’s not a place I want to visit again – I lost years of my life to depression. Yes, I’m only human and so I still have bad days and bad weeks where I feel myself teetering on the edge of that cliff. And with everything that’s been thrown at me in the last month, I feel like I’m hanging out right on the edge at times. But that’s the thing – I know I’m on the edge and I’m fighting with every fibre of my body not to tip over it. Which brings me to option two: To go into battle – to never, ever give up fighting for myself while my heart still beats and my lungs still fill with air. For me, there is no alternative.
Bring it on.