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My MS diagnosis story: "I was overwhelmed with the mix of emotions I was going through"

Christina McDonald

Christina McDonald was diagnosed with MS last November, just a few weeks before her 27th birthday. Here Christina tells us about the different emotions she’s experienced in the past few months and how she’s learnt to accept and process her diagnosis. 

No one has died so why am I grieving? I’ve been asking myself the same question for the last six months.

ChristinaI was still so positive after hearing the words “You have MS”, possibly due to the fear of the unknown that I’d gone through for the weeks before hearing the news. I presented to the hospital with tonic spasms which were occurring up to 20 times a day and would leave my left side paralysed, a feeling which was beyond terrifying and one which I could not control. 

People kept asking me how I was coping and I was fine, I was so positive “Sure I’m grand, not a bother!” I would say, almost brushing off peoples concern and belittling the diagnosis. The thing was, I really was positive at the time and thought "Sure you can live a long life with MS!”.

My MS journey began in November 2016, just a few weeks before my 27th birthday. Little did I know that my positivity would change over the next few months and that I would actually begin to grieve.

Grieve? Yes Grieve. “No one had died so what is wrong with me?” I’d be asking myself. I was overwhelmed with the mix of emotions I was going through. Happiness, sadness, anger, agitation and irritation to name a few, but I couldn’t understand why.

At first I felt sad. My body wasn’t able for too much and I was out of work. I felt exhausted all the time. It’s like having a constant hangover only you haven’t been out drinking the night before! When I was younger, I always thought I’d be doing great things with my life. I’d only turned 27 and yet my body feels like I’d just turned 80! 

I’d begun to feel angry at people for no reason and yet if anyone asked me how I am I’d smile and say “Yeah I am fine thanks”. When really I felt like crap and felt worse because I was now becoming a compulsive liar by always pretending to be fine when I wasn’t. What people don’t understand about having MS is that even though I look healthy on the outside, people can’t see what I go through daily. 

Denial is probably one of the hardest stages I have gone through and at times this emotion sneaks back in to instil more doubt in my mind. Constant thoughts of “What if it isn’t actually MS? What if they got it wrong?”. I continue to double-check my symptoms using trusty Google to see what else it could be. What’s frustrating here is that I wanted it to be MS because I didn’t want it to be anything worse. Yet on occasion doubt creeps in again and I begin to fear the worst all over again. The denial stage is difficult because I feel like I am accepting MS as part of me, yet due to my nervous and worrying nature, the fear of it being something much worse still remains.

My mood would change so quickly from happiness to anger and then to guilt. I’d find myself bargaining with God, praying for answers or praying that it is nothing worse. Realisation hit that these types of feelings seemed familiar. Then I remembered I’ve felt this way before. I’ve felt all these emotions and erratic changes in mood when I’ve experienced the loss of a loved one. I realised I was grieving. The thing is, this has helped me digest and process my diagnosis. By grieving I have actually accepted my diagnosis. My body might be attacking itself, I’m basically kicking myself in the arse, but I’m still the same person. 

Like with grief, time is a great healer and it was time that I needed in order to accept and process my diagnosis. It might sound cliché to say that things get better with time, but if you allow yourself time to accept things, the healing process/next step can begin.