Sometime in 2010, as I was walking to the store, I felt a sudden weakness in my left leg; it took me by surprise, and I fell to the ground. I immediately stood back up, dusted myself off, and went. I attributed it to a simple spasm- no big deal, I thought. A few months later, the same thing happened; my calf was solid as a rock this time. I told myself that perhaps my body needed more potassium, or maybe I was dehydrated. I ignored it once again until one day, both legs gave out on me.
The Stress of the Unknown
I knew something was amiss. I decided to see my primary Doctor, and after a few tests, I was sent to a neurologist. I started to get nervous. The initial diagnosis was multiple sclerosis, a potentially disabling brain and spinal cord disease. My nervousness turned into panic, as anyone could imagine. I can handle pain, and my pain threshold is high, but I am not as tough emotionally and mentally. I started thinking of the worse possible scenarios. I thought about how this illness would change my life, how my family would be affected, and how it could stop me from doing what I love.
Though some of the tests revealed it was indeed MS, some revealed; otherwise, I was a bit relieved, but we were back to square one. I was sent to different specialists for years, and as the years went by, my symptoms progressed, and my stress level skyrocketed, making my symptoms worse. The spasms had gone from my legs to my torso to my vocal cords, making it sometimes hard to speak. My body would twist involuntarily, and my ankles would twist in like pretzels, bringing tears to my eyes. My family did not know what to do or how to help me.
One day, some unusual symptoms manifested. It wasn’t something I’d experienced before. The left side of my face drooped. I was confused, I had difficulty concentrating and retrieving words, and nothing made sense when I could finally speak. It was a petrifying experience. My neurologist told me that stroke was most likely the culprit, but it started to happen quite often. Now, things were not making sense.
After years of seeking answers and being diagnosed differently, I was finally diagnosed with Dystonia, a rare neurological movement disorder that causes muscle contractions. Added to the diagnosis was Hemiplegic migraine, another rare neurological condition with a headache accompanied by muscle weakness and other symptoms that mimic stroke. Both symptoms overlapped with each other, one triggering the other at times. Now everything was making sense.
Though medication controls both conditions, there is no cure for Dystonia, and when I go through dystonia storms, there’s nothing I can do but ride it ’til it passes. Sometimes I could not help but feel sorry for myself; more than most, I know how self-pity can affect one’s life. The negative thoughts and feelings added to my stress and, in return, made my symptoms worse.
Pride Took Over
“My illness is not going to stop me,” at least that’s what I repeatedly told myself, but my condition had something else in mind. I could not keep scheduled meetings, my job was affected, and I lost clients. My husband took over most of my responsibilities as a mother and a housewife; it made me feel useless and inadequate. My condition prevented me from spending time with friends.
I kept pushing through despite the struggle, ignoring the desperate call of my own body to stop and rest; whether I was physically, mentally, or emotionally beaten down, I paid no attention to them. I tried to continue to be who I am, a strong person! I planned projects at home and at work. I refused help from my family, showing them nothing had changed; I could still do things on my own. I continued to smile and put up a grand façade, carried on with my obligations until my body could not handle it any longer, and received a wake-up call.
One day, despite all the warning signs of impending doom, I went about my day like nothing was wrong, and before I could stop and think, I was on top of the staircase, seizing, putting my whole family in panic mode. The last thing I remembered before losing consciousness was my youngest daughter’s voice screaming in terror. I had traumatized my daughter. I was in danger of falling and hitting my head on the ground, perhaps not waking up again. Yes, I was unconscious for a while, but the moment I opened my eyes, it woke me with a worthy realization—something needed to change.
Realization Leads to Acceptance and Opportunity:
I was afraid that my condition would change everything. I was worried that my illness would define me. I was scared to look weak. It wasn’t easy for me, and it took time to see my situation’s positive side. I turned things around. I started to find ways to feel valuable and complete despite my limitations. My weakness has given me a new perspective in life: to acknowledge the little things presented to me, see the beauty each day brings, and savor the limited time I am given each day.
I decided to join a soccer league. I never played any sports before, let alone soccer, where a lot of running is involved. Still, because I knew I might never be given a chance again, I took advantage of the opportunity to do something I’d never done before.
I decided to write! I used to create stories in my head as a young girl to help me fall asleep at night; I suppose I still do it from time to time, but this time, I decided to write them down, and thus, my first book, “, Belief” was born! “Believe” never made it to the bestselling category, far from it, but the process was a part of my healing process, a story to tell, and there were no regrets.
I started to add value to myself. I decided to serve and add value to the people in my community. I started sharing my experiences in the hopes that someone to realize that struggles don’t mean defeat; it is an opportunity to find the natural beauty in life that we may take for granted. It is an opportunity to find one’s strength, which they can share with the world.
I may be limited in what I can do, but I am not limited in power, passion, or opportunity to make a difference in myself and my community, no matter where I am or how I feel. I now live with the mantra of doing what you can, when you can, while you can, and enjoy every minute of it! Life’s struggles only stop you if you allow them.
I was wrong when I thought I lost my identity. I was crazy when I thought my condition defined me. I was wrong when I thought strength was being able to do everything whenever I wanted to; I was wrong about many things. However, I realized that I am still the same person; I am still all the things I was before my condition, perhaps even stronger and more spirited.
I needed a little waking up to understand that I am a better version of myself now. Someone who can say it’s OK to take a break and ask for help. Someone who found strength from weakness. Someone who looks for opportunities to be great despite hardship. I needed to see myself as somebody who could take a moment, enjoy the sound of raindrops, and expects the sun to shine again after the storm.
One thought on “Turn Struggles and Limitations Into Opportunities To Make A Difference.”
It took a little over 5 years for my dystonia to finally be properly diagnosed . It indeed is hard to convince yourself that it doesn’t define you despite it dictating nearly all aspects of your life ! Nonetheless this post was beautifully written and very encouraging!❤️
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