Born in December 1976, I am a child of the 80s.
One of the most quintessential songs of that era was “Take On Me” by the band A-Ha.
So it was much to my amusement when, the other night, I dreamt that the band was hanging out in my living room.
I’m not that familiar with who is in the band, the extent of my knowledge comes from their immensely popular music video. An internet search confirmed its three men from Norway but in my dream, there were only two. We were all sitting on my couch discussing the methods they use to write songs. The one doing the most talking strongly resembled the lead singer.
A third person, who I presume was their business manager, was frequently walking in and out of the room while speaking incoherently into her phone. She asked to use my office so she could continue her call, in privacy. She looked very similar to the love interest from their famous music video.
I was asking them if they ever tire of performing the same song or whether it bothers them how “Take On Me” overshadows everything else they’ve ever done. As they were about to respond, the mystery woman returned, holding a copy of one of my stories.
An uneasy feeling overtook me. I knew my secret was out.
It’s not that I intentionally try to hide that I have multiple sclerosis, but sometimes, it’s just nice to have a MS-free conversation, particularly with a new acquaintance. I often worry that once I drop the MS Grenade, it overshadows and dominates the rest of our introduction.
The woman expressed that my words had special meaning because her sister had just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Gone was her all-business demeanor, now replaced with raw emotion. She said my story helped her understand the experience her sister was going through. My words colored in many lines she had been unable to see or comprehend. She asked for my contact information and all three of them thanked me for my work.
Then I woke up.
In my dream, none of us were crying, but I awoke with a few tears in my eyes. As I laid there, I attempted to process what had just occurred. Perhaps sometimes a dream is just a dream. Or… maybe not.
You see, this past year, I’ve been struggling to write. To continue to tell my story. To share with the world what it is like living with MS. It’s not that I don’t have the words — I’ve had plenty. Where I’ve fallen short is with embracing my story.
I’ve deleted entire paragraphs or saved posts for future use because I just wasn’t feeling them. Why?
Ultimately, it was out of fear.
Fear that I’ve reached the saturation point in my attempts to wax poetically about being a husband and father living with MS. I began to worry that to others, I’ve become a one-dimensional version of myself. I succeeded in the business world, earned an MBA and enjoy raising two energetic tweens with my beautiful wife. I’m a Dad joke aficionado, believe April Fool’s Day should be celebrated monthly, enjoy jigsaw puzzles and checking out new restaurants. I love to learn, read, meet new people and I’m a pretty badass baker, if I may say so myself.
I’m not just the MS Guy — I’m more than just foot drop and extreme fatigue — and that’s what I worried I had become.
In its own whimsical way, my dream reminded me that all the quirky things that make me who I am also make my writing what I hope it to be — a unique voice in the MS community that helps raise awareness and understanding of our disease.
Writing about MS can be emotionally draining, a constant reminder that I have this damn disease, even if sometimes I don’t want to admit it. But when I hear from others that my words have helped them, whether they have MS or not — that’s my motivation to continue.
In the dream, the guys in the band never had a chance to answer my question. They didn’t need to. Because as I laid there in bed, I had my own A-Ha moment.
In the U.S., about 200 people are diagnosed with MS each week. Worldwide, over 2.3 million people live with this chronic disease. We are professionals, spouses, sons, daughters, friends, neighbors. We like to cook, laugh, hang out with family or friends, travel and listen to music. We do it while living in our parallel MS universe of doctor’s appointments, bizarre sensations, invisible symptoms and frustrating limitations.
All of us are much more than just MS.
That’s why I write.