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Forget being ‘normal’, try being unique!

ms uk illustration.jpg

MSer and illustrator Jessie Ace discusses how MS has changed her life for the better I remember the day I was diagnosed with a stroke like it was yesterday.

Yes, you read that right, a ‘stroke’. That’s what the doctors originally thought I had.

I was only 22 at the time and had been working non-stop to complete my university degree. I’d also been working hard setting up a business for when I left because I was worried I wouldn’t find a job.

I had huge plans for when I left university. I was going to start my brand new career as an illustrator! Designing anything that could hold a pattern or character. I had big dreams of everyone owning something with one of my designs on. I’d managed to get an agent to represent me at major trade shows and I even had a book deal while I was still at university! I was so excited. All I needed to do was to finish university and start.

But life never quite goes as you expect it to does it?

The morning of my last day at university - the very last day - I didn’t quite feel ‘right’. I’d been working to exhaustion most days, so the fact that the left side of my body had gone numb and wobbly sort of made sense to me. It was just stress, right?

Wrong.

It was still numb and weird after a week so I begrudgingly dragged myself to my GP’s office for an appointment. Nothing could be wrong though, I was 22. I was perfectly healthy and never, ever got sick, I was just exhausted and stressed.

When the doctor announced she thought I’d had a stroke I thought she was crazy but at the same time I kind of thought actually it made sense, plus it meant it had already happened right? So it couldn’t get worse.

It got worse.

After coming out of hospital a week later with a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) I thought my life was literally over.

My illustration business I’d painstakingly built up had been taken away overnight as I now had no strength in my hand to even hold a pencil.

My university degree that I’d poured everything into for the last three years felt invalid.

Everything I knew was gone.

My life had gone.

I was gone. 

It took a good few years to accept my diagnosis. A good few years of feeling sorry for myself, blaming myself for not looking after myself as much as I should. Constantly complaining, “Why me?!” or “What did I do to deserve this?” People that I was friends with no longer wanted to know me. They didn’t understand what MS was.

“What do I do now?” I thought.

I’ve got to turn MS into something good.

I decided to use it to help others understand the condition and help inspire people to know that their life is not over, in fact it’s only just beginning.

I have far more of an appreciation for life now. I appreciate how good it feels to type with two hands when I can and to be able to take my dog for a long walk in the sunny woodland. Listening to the birds chirping in the trees and the cool air of early morning against my face.

Life is truly amazing.

I’ve learnt that anything that feels painful or scary is a wakeup call. A chance to analyse your attitudes towards life and the relationships that you’ve made. I believe it gives you a new perspective, a new purpose. An opportunity to wake up from the superficiality of the person you were before and take note of what really matters in the world. Everyone is fighting a battle that no one else knows about.