Multiple Sclerosis and Leaving Certificate Prep

This week Mary Devereux shares her thoughts on how MS, the Leaving Cert and Covid-19 are alike!

Now not to be

When I looked at this assignment at the beginning of the year I thought it was a nice, easy one and parked it. But as the months went by, it suddenly wasn’t easy. How could I write about MS and Leaving Cert. preparation when all anyone was talking about and thinking about, was Covid 19?

To coin a phrase used by many officials during this pandemic this will be a Leaving Cert. like no other. First it was MS and Leaving Cert Preparation, and then it was MS, Leaving Cert Preparation and Covid 19 and now its MS, No Leaving Cert (all that preparation!!!) and Covid-19.

Nothing about the last few months has been normal for the average person. Jump into the shoes of a Leaving Cert. student now with NO Leaving Cert., the parent of that child doing the NO Leaving Cert. and add cognitive difficulties to the mix. We are faced with one of the biggest disasters of our time, one which has brought the world to a standstill. A diagnosis of MS can also bring your world to a standstill. MS can bring heightened levels of anxiety and cognitive issues as a result of scarring on the brain. There’s a possibility of not been able to control the worrying and concern for our child. As a result, we may try too hard to help. 

There are three particular, peculiar ways MS, the Leaving Certificate and Covid-19 are alike.

1. Unpredictable

Just like the person with MS does not know when they are going to get definite diagnosis or have a relapse or if they are going to be able to continue working or must change career. The students also did not know their Oral Exams would be cancelled or that their Leaving Cert. would be cancelled and now, what is going to happen with college? And I think we were all in denial about Covid-19 when it was ‘only’ in China at the end of last year.

2. Flexibility

People with MS need people around them to be as flexible as possible, to try to understand their needs and to understand last-minute changes. We can relate to the students, to their emotions and the ‘choices’ not of their choosing. What was all the studying, grinds and worry for? We must be willing to change and be flexible to survive these times.

3.  Adapting \ Acceptance

People with MS must adapt and accept many forced changes in their lives and the disappointment that can come with these changes. In time, people learn to adapt and even accept these changes. The students have a chance to sit the exams at a later stage but that’s not what they signed up for. Just like the person with MS doesn’t sign up for MS. Both sides will be deflated, maybe in a daze, angry and upset. Every emotion possible will travel through their mind and body. They want their old life back.

They want to feel the adrenaline and anticipation, the thrill of achieving their goals, getting their results. Whether that’s the Leaving Cert. or the career we chose, we all have the same wants and needs. Now where do we put those dreams?

Mental Health

Whether it’s people with MS or LC students, when you can, reassure them that it’s going to be OK, that they’re not on their own. Acknowledge the fact that they are in uncharted waters and it is a terrible time for them. It will come good in the end, but it will be painful for now. So, for any reader in any of these situations, please be kind to yourself, get plenty of fresh air, eat well and get some well-deserved rest. In these extraordinary times, recover while you wait for the next stage of your life.

You will have a story to pass on to future generations like no other. It is important that students now not doing the Leaving Cert., despite feeling the uncertainty of all this has a tight grip on you, one thing is 100% certain, this too will pass.