On the outside, I looked like any other mom. I picked up my kids after school and drove them wherever they needed to be. I never missed a sporting event or a band concert. I laughed and chatted with other moms along the way. And as I strolled through the motions of life, I made sure everything looked perfectly fine.
But on the inside, I wasn’t fine. I had reoccurring headaches. I often felt dizzy and struggled with balance. I experienced extreme fatigue. Some days I felt so tired and weak that I crawled back into bed after my husband and kids left for the day. Then I felt guilty. And lazy. What in the world was wrong with me?
I was discouraged and depressed – and yet, I had NO GOOD REASON to feel discouraged and depressed. I was the first to admit, I was so stinkin’ blessed with a fantastic husband, three awesome kids, a beautiful home … and yet, I couldn’t seem to pull myself out of this funk.
It didn’t make sense.
I blamed it on hormones. Surely, it would pass. I just needed to shake it off. Meanwhile, I smiled and worked hard not to blow my cover. Especially to my kids. After all, I had three teenaged daughters. What hope did they have if their mom was an emotional mess?Then one day a friend asked me the question I had so beautifully faked my way through a million times before:
“How are you?”
In that moment, I decided to stop pretending. I swallowed my pride and admitted my struggles. My friend was a life-saver. She listened patiently. She empathized. She encouraged me to get help.
A couple of years (and a few doctors) later, I finally found answers for my puzzling health problems. In February of 2016 I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Turns out, my immune system had mistaken my brain for the enemy and was attacking the myelin sheath surrounding my nerves.
So, there you have it. I was getting on my own nerves. Literally.
While my body wreaked havoc on the inside, I looked pretty normal on the outside.
MS has no visible signs. (Unless you count the MRI scans which show scar tissue on my brain. Alas, my neurologist is the only one that has seen those unflattering photos!)
It was quite the revelation for me. All this time, I’d been walking through life, battling the disabling effects of the stuff going on between my ears.
Maybe you are too.
You’re probably not battling scar tissue on your brain, but no doubt you’re dealing with struggles that others can’t see. Fear, anxiety, self-defeating thoughts, anger, grief, shame, regret … and the list goes on and on.
There’s two major points I want to make today. First, moms are masters at “pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps” and pretending all is fine. You never know what someone else is going through. Sooner or later, we will all fight an invisible battle.
Second: If you are secretly struggling, talk with a trusted friend or your doctor. There’s no shame in admitting that life isn’t perfect. You don’t have to face your struggles alone!
March is MS awareness month. If you’d like to hear more about my journey to an MS diagnosis, I invite you to check out my personal blog here Something’s Not Right: Part 1 and here Something’s Not Right: Part 2.