28: The Write Life for Me

28: The Write Life for Me

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness

The Write Life for Me

Any life, no matter how long and complex it may be, is made up of a single moment, the moment in which a man finds out, once and for all, who he is.

~Jorge Luis Borges

The questions came amid a life storm as these things usually do. Who am I? Where am I? Why am I?

And the answer was clear: the only person I ever want to be is me.

Right before my thirtieth birthday I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. I read the results from my MRI on the hour-long drive to the neurologist’s office and I cried. I cried because I was scared. I cried because I didn’t understand what MS was or what was happening to my body. I cried for all the things I said I’d do someday and never did. I thought at thirty I would have it all figured out, and I didn’t.

My neurologist was positive, telling me I’d live a normal life, have kids, take vacations and continue to work, but I wasn’t so sure. He started me on a five-day IV of steroids to take the numbness in my legs away.

The diagnosis process was long and painful, but the recovery period was worse. I was on medical leave from work and while I was being tortured with an IV and home nurses my friends were at work living normal lives. Depression settled in and some days I didn’t even want to function.

My husband reminded me that I had two options. Treat the disease and move on with my life, or give up. I felt like I was giving up.

The IV treatments left me weak and anxious and I often burst into tears for no reason. I couldn’t even sweep the kitchen floor for more than two minutes without feeling exhausted. In a fit of anger I grabbed a pen and a notebook and I wrote a letter to my MS.

I wrote about my fears and frustrations. I told that piece of paper exactly what I felt about the disease. I wielded my pen like a dangerous sword, telling no one in particular just how angry I was. The more I wrote the calmer I felt. The calmer I got the more empowered I became. Anytime I felt dispirited I sought comfort in writing. I started penning letters to the MS. By treating it like a real thing I could attack, I started to heal.

Somewhere in my soul, a spark ignited a long extinguished dream.

I had pursued writing my whole life, working on high school and college newspapers and literary anthologies, as well as graduating from college with a degree in journalism. After two years reporting at a newspaper, that dream was snuffed out and I changed industries.

My doctor released me back to work and I returned with renewed energy and a strong desire to be better than the person I was before. I wanted to show the world that MS didn’t beat me and it wouldn’t. I turned thirty and celebrated the beginning of a new decade.

And I wrote.

MS took me by the hand and guided me back to writing. By seeking comfort in the pen I have had more success with my writing than I had at any other time in my life and I’m finally living the life I’ve always wanted.

You have to choose the life you want to live, before life chooses for you. I still have a lot of stories I want to tell and I’m going to use the time I have to tell as many as I can. That’s the life I choose. No regrets.

~Valerie D. Benko

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