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6527212 October 04, 2009

Multiple Sclerosis Mess: An Aberration Story

My illness was an opportunity to remake myself into something better ...

Despite the premise of this blog, I still wonder why the hell we have to go through such %#@*#% crap. The human condition, the human body, the mind--they all push and push until sometimes we just can't help but wallow. (I've certainly wallowed plenty.)

We also get angry. And in those moments, positive thinking infuriates us. All we want is to be heard, to be recognized for whatever the hell pain and discomfort we're facing. "Look at me!" we want to scream at the faces around us. Sometimes we do scream. And people look, but sometimes they don't. Sometimes people can't hear or see us because they're too busy developing their own scream. So what are we supposed to do?


Who cares what the change is, just pushing on is sometimes the answer. Life develops. It may be the ones who can't or won't change, the ones who get perpetually stuck, who are the biggest sad sacks of all. They may seem happy, but standing on the same spot day in, day out sounds like torture to me whether it's emotional, intellectual, or physical. Move! Find God, find yourself, stretch yourself, let your mind walk, skip, jump, run! Do something about it. I won't lie and tell you that it's easy but I do know it's possible.

This week, I've been reminded of this concept and I intend to keep moving. I will not fear change, or become stuck in what I may have thought was enough of a change the other day. We all must find our own path, but perhaps we must also find our own mode of transportation. I think I'm close to finding mine. For Chris, it was multiple sclerosis (MS) and Jesus Christ.

After being diagnosed with MS, a poor attitude cost Chris his marriage. He now hopes that others might learn from his mistakes, and avoid allowing a disability and feelings of decreasing self-worth to destroy their most precious relationships.

Why is it that some with MS do well with the disease while others do poorly?

That is something that I certainly cannot tell you. Physicians and scientists have struggled for decades to find that answer, and are just now beginning to see progress, and recognize and understand those things for which they are searching.

What I can tell you is this. There is medical proof that demonstrates how worry, stress and anxiety are damaging to the human body at the cellular level. I've learned from my own experience with chronic illness, and the roles played by worry, stress and anxiety, that worrying and stressing about the future only ensures that the future (at least the future for which you had hoped) never comes. Worrying about finances, college tuition, adequate life insurance and more--all necessary for a bright future for my family--resulted in so much turmoil and strife in my relationship that my marriage was destroyed. Life is too short. Live for today. Like the Bible says, Don't worry about tomorrow. Today has enough worries of its own.

After your marriage ended, you decided to write a book. Why?

We all have defining choices that shape our journey and ultimately, our destiny. The synergistic effect of two specific issues inspired me to begin writing my book, Life Interrupted, It's Not All About Me. The two driving issues that pressed me to begin actually putting pen to paper were initially selfishness, and the God-given physical and mental ability to do just that.

Let me explain. You see, when I started writing the book, it was my intention to help myself by clearing my name, so to speak. My divorce was bitter and my ex-wife’s lawyer embellished so much that I wanted friends and family to know the truth. That’s when God intervened and showed me that rather than writing a book for one person, myself, I could write it for millions around the world who may be undergoing a similar situation. A situation of overwhelming gloom--an inability to see the future--which is probably best explained in my article, The Gang's All Here. MSfocus Magazine published the article in 2008 (see excerpt below). The entire article can be viewed on my site.

My marriage of ten years began dissolving when the “Monster” invited his friends to live in my house. If you have MS, I’m sure you’ve met the gang. There was the kingpin, Stress, his best friend Anger and his twin, Misdirected. Of course, Feelings of Worthlessness was there and his brother Feelings of Inadequacy who brought his best friend Low Self-esteem and his sidekick Depression, who hung out with everybody’s buddies, Worry and Anxiety. As usual, Communication was a no show, but sure enough his sister Miss-communication popped in and overstayed her welcome. They never left, but my wife did.

What factors influenced the major shift in your attitude?

I recently held a discussion and book signing at the Hopkinton Public Library in Hopkinton MA. During the question-and-answer segment of our discussion, one of the participants, the only person present with MS, asked a question beginning with the statement, “I’m amazed and excited to know that after all you've been through you're now remarried. How did that happen, because as you said, you're worse physically today than during your first marriage? And, what changed, I mean what was the turning point that allowed you to move forward find happiness and get remarried?” Of course, I knew exactly what she meant, because at one time I had the very same concern. At the point that my wife, my caregiver, first wanted to divorce, I had an inner dialogue that went something like this: Okay Chris, you have what is now becoming severe MS, who’s going to want to marry someone with MS? No one is going to want to marry damaged goods.

I'm sure that I was not the first one .to ever have this inner dialogue. It’s a real fear. I met my then wife to be, Jane, through an online dating service and she was totally aware of my disability. After Jane, my wheelchair and I went on our first date, I remember asking her, "Why would anyone get involved with damaged goods? Why would anyone purchase a vase with a crack in the bottom?" Jane’s response was, “Maybe I need one to hold my dried flowers.” All she wanted was kindness and love--no anger--just kindness and love.

It helps that we both have the same goofy sense of humor. We laugh together and at one another all the time. Sure, I have slip ups, and get frustrated and angry. The difference is that I have written, re-written, read and re-read my book so many times that when I do begin to slip-up, it’s so obvious that I can’t help but catch myself. And let’s not forget, Jane has also read the book, so when I slip up she’s quick to point out, “Chris, I think you need to revisit page 52," and we have a good chuckle.

Remember life is too short. You choose whether to smile or argue. We were married a year after we first met, and life is fantastic. Jane is the most wonderful, loving and caring person that I have ever known. If I had listened to my inner dialogue, I would never have met my incredibly awesome and loving wife. So these dried flowers are happily married and loving every minute of it. Never give up.

Obviously, life would be easier for you without MS; however, do you feel that you've grown as a person and attained a greater understanding of life and others through living with MS? Can you explain?

Multiple Sclerosis changed my life for the better. The Bible says, "Before I was afflicted, I did not know Him." Back in June of 1993, one Sunday morning after being away from the church for fourteen years, I found myself in a small Christian Church in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont where I asked Jesus Christ into my heart. Had I not been suffering with my chronic illness I don't know where I would be today. I do know that by surrendering my life to the Lord, He has carried me and provided me with the abundance with which he has promised. "

My illness was an opportunity to remake myself into something better than I was before. What steps do you take to bring abundance into your every day life? What is your practice like? Firstly, the biggest defining moment was in June of 1993 when I gave my life to Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Secondly, keeping abundance in my life involves reading the Bible, praying alone, as well as together with my wife on a daily basis, and doing my best to live a loving life the way God wants. The resulting abundance is truly amazing.

Fear often shows up when you embark on the path to abundance. What fear have you overcome?

The greatest fears I have overcome were:

A. That I would never be able to meet a woman and fall in love again,
B. I was going to be alone for the rest of my life,
C. That I would have to live in a nursing home, and
D. That I would never have a purpose to my life again.

What helped you overcome these fears?

I believe God intervened and directed me to help others by writing my book with the goal of helping those in similar situations better deal with the stress put on one's relationships as a result of life being interrupted by chronic illness or disability. I believe that when I decided to write a book that would help others in similar situations avoid making the same relationship destroying mistakes that I did, God blessed me with abundance.


A. I married the most beautiful and caring woman in April 2007,
B. My wife and I have the most incredible and loving relationship,
C. We purchased the house next door to my parents who live in the house where I was raised, and
D. I am unable to work because of my disability; however, I'm busy between six and ten hours a day reaching out and ministering to those who would benefit from reading my story.

What’s your passion? How do you live your passion everyday?

It is my passion to share my book with those who are struggling and can benefit from its contents. I wake up every day with a purpose. The purpose to reach out and help those whose relationships are suffering because of chronic illness or disability in their lives. I literally made my life an open book, exposing everything good and bad (because it's not always pretty but it's real). If just one marriage or relationship is saved or benefits because of that which I have experienced, it will have been well worth it.

What are the top three things we can do for someone who has been diagnosed with MS, or a similar chronic illness?

First, the most important thing you can do (actually not do for someone who has been diagnosed with MS) is this: Since many times, especially in the case of a newly diagnosed individual, MS is often an invisible chronic illness. We need you to believe what we say is the truth. Please don't question our integrity by doubting what we are feeling. I may look fine one minute, then seemingly out of nowhere, inform you that I can't walk up a couple of stairs or feel my hands. Please understand this is not something that we are making up to get out of doing something.

Secondly, as an individual living with MS, I know how much your assistance is appreciated. There are times that I/we become weak, clumsy even visually and/or cognitively impaired as a result of MS related fatigue, and we just can't function without your help. However, there are other times that we feel well and want to do things on our own. If you wouldn't mind, please ask if we need your help rather than just jumping in and taking over. It's a self-esteem kind of thing. *Smile*

And last but not least, life is too short. So, let's try to keep things light. A sense of humor is a great thing.

As a disabled person, what important message would you like to share with others who are disabled? What would you share with those who are not?

It may seem that you've been dealt a bad hand and rightly so, but one must not develop the Poor Me Attitude, which frequently accompanies chronic illness. Becoming depressed and making everything all about you will destroy your relationships with both friends and family members.

Do you have a life motto, and if so, can you share it with us?

Take one day at a time. Worrying about the future often ensures that the future for which one hopes never happens.

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