For almost eight years I have been living with the knowledge that I have MS. My diagnosis came at a time when I was just getting started in adult life. Years of education were behind me and I was in the final months of my degree. Prior to my diagnosis, I had a very clear vision of what I wanted in life, what I wanted to do, to be, to become. This moment in time changed everything for me. The future I had envisioned for myself was now unclear.
The main symptom that I had was optic neuritis in my right eye which left me with just about 2% vision in that eye. I had been working towards becoming a secondary school art teacher. I felt like I had to say goodbye to that idea, as I didn’t feel it would be a secure enough given the issue I had with my sight. I felt like I was at a crossroads. It was still early enough to change my mind about the best path forward but that didn’t make it easy. The promises that I had made myself were destined to remain unfulfilled. I feared what was to come because for years I had been looking in one direction and this diagnosis forced me to look around. It made me uncomfortable.
The way I felt about myself and the way I felt the world saw me, changed. My sense of identity was shaken. I didn’t think a support group would be my kind of thing. I didn’t like the diagnosis; I was all about trying to be positive and felt that the niggling negative thoughts might grow stronger if I saw other people who were more seriously disabled by MS than me. What I didn’t realise then was that I needed connection. To speak to others my age who were living with MS. I needed information that was relevant to me, support around decisions that we often come up against in early adult life like education, relationships, self-acceptance. Early adult life sees people lay the foundation blocks for their future and I needed support with making my foundation solid.
Next Thursday, November 29th MS Ireland, in collaboration with Novartis, is hosting MS Explored, an information and support event for young people living with multiple sclerosis (18-35).
Speakers include Moira Tzitzika who will talk about Relationships and Intimacy. Moira has a PhD in Psychology and specialises in Disability Counselling and Sexual Medicine at the European Society of Sexual Medicine. Psychologist Karen Belshaw, founder of Stress Management Ireland, will speak on Mental Resilience and past-president of the Union of Students Ireland, Michael Kerrigan will show us Road-mapping for Success.
This event will take place in the Davenport Hotel, Dublin from 6-8pm. A live stream will be available for those who are not able to attend in person. Students unions around the country have been incredibly helpful in organising on-campus hubs where the live stream will be shown. Questions for the speakers can be sent in by direct messaging our social media platforms. The event is free to attend but please register using the following link: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/ms-explored-meeting-tickets-52707199653
This is a great opportunity for young people living with MS to meet with their community. Connecting with others who are at a similar stage of life and navigating similar issues can be a very empowering experience and I look forward to seeing you there.