Meet Helen

‘Helen has MS for over 15 years, a librarian, living in Dublin and is passionate about lifelong learning’ 

It’s difficult to know where to start in introducing myself. With my age? 41. With my years with MS? 15, if not many more. My diagnosis? Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis.

I am not fond of labels, or the boundaries they create between people, shying away from absolutes like ‘all women love shopping’ or ‘it’s a man’s type of car’. The kind of thinking that goes beyond the obvious and sees the humanity behind the labels both interests and excites me. Shared experiences are far more common, and valuable in terms of friendship and learning, than any differences. What did I think a 41 year-old would behave like when I was 20? Certainly not like I behave now. 

The reason I feel motivated to blog was that I have begun to engage more and more with the world in the last two years. A lot of major changes happened around me. My husband and I very reluctantly accepted that our little family was complete at one child and many other miscarriages. I suddenly lost a friend to cancer, we moved house, I turned forty; all these things made me realise that I was facing a ‘now or never’ point in my life, and to start doing some of the things I’d always wanted to do. My friends’ voice is often in my head, willing me on. She was one of the most encouraging, fair and interesting people I’d ever met, and I miss her a lot. Learning about life is a work in progress. 

Like many others I had a very hard time adjusting to my diagnosis and it’s taken a lot of work to get to the point where I grudgingly allow for my MS, yet my life improved hugely once I did that. I really can’t stress that enough to any others of you out there that are as in denial as I was. Your life will only get better if you are compassionate to yourself. Constructive pushing yourself is good. Denial and grim determination is not.  

A couple of years after I was diagnosed I woke up from a particularly vivid dream and wrote down ‘how strange to fight, when we are empty-handed’ but I didn’t quite grasp the point. I forgot about that until recently when I was packing up our belongings for moving, and it jumped out at me from the page in my diary. How obvious my subconsious had been! It had been telling me to stop fighting, denying, railing against something that would always win. To stop working full-time and accept my limitations. Back then I thought keeping going despite the obvious cost to my health was actually worth it. I lost many years to a haze of denial. 

Now I know that the MS is there, I can’t get rid of it, but I can work around it a little bit, for the moment, and I am determined not to lose any more years to unproductive approaches to living. I want to engage with all that is out there, despite it!

I hope you enjoyed my first blog and look forward to your comments