I had a dream some months ago which was so vivid, so real, that I can still recall it with sparkling clarity.
My youngest son and I were walking through the downtown of my childhood memories. In the dream I hear the hustle and bustle of people passing by and the clip clop of high heels on the pavement. I hear the ding of a trolley and the whoosh of revolving doors. The fumes of tired old buses permeate the air.
I am alone with my son who intermittently squeals or recites passages from his favorite videos. As in real life, I am guarding him. He has autism and is seemingly unaware of the dangers of ordinary living. My hand cusps his as we walk along the city sidewalk. The sunlight glints off the pavement. We walk with no destination in mind.
Then it happens.
An unusual vehicle appears in the middle of the downtown street. In my dream it looks like a train but also has one of those popcorn carts like you see at a carnival or fair. It is the perfect combination of temptation for my son. He cannot resist either popcorn or trains. All of a sudden I lose the grip on his hand. He darts ahead. He is heading out into the road to chase this enticing machine.
In my dream I begin to struggle with my body. My right leg begins to drag. I find myself unable to walk. I am on my knees and trying to crawl after my son who is far ahead and I am losing sight of him. My mouth will not function and my words come out as muted whispers. I raise my hand up in the crowd of people who hurry by, but nobody notices.
I am totally powerless as I watch my son fall into traffic and is swept under the train.
Fear comes out in many ways. When we can't begin to articulate it in our waking lives, it creeps into our subconscious in the form of dreams. There is no doubt in my mind what that dream is about. I am terrified that I will not be able to help my son if my Multiple Sclerosis takes over. He depends on me. I am both a mother and a caretaker. How do I keep him safe and protected when I may need help myself?
This is my greatest fear with this disease.
For those of you who are parents dealing with a chronic illness such as MS, I can totally empathize with you. If this were just me and nobody else was involved, I wouldn't care so much. Of course I would worry some. Nobody wants to have this disease. But when others depend upon you, then it becomes a much greater issue. And there are no easy answers.
I am a lot more humble now. I do ask for help. I need it. I need to be able to help my kids. I am lucky in a lot of respects that my boys are not babies or toddlers. My oldest son is a teenager now. He is independent and does not rely upon me as much. But my youngest son, despite his entrance into teenhood, is very needy. He is not independent and I wonder if he ever will be.
My first symptom of MS happened when my boys were toddlers. But nothing happened after this initial symptom of optical neuritis for ten years. Sometimes I think about how different my life would have been for both me and my family, had my MS symptoms erupted at that time. I feel for any parent who has young children and having to deal with this disease.
I am grateful that I am older and my kids are older. I am thankful that my disease is not so bad right now. I have my moments where I do lose my ability to walk or speak well. But for right now, my abilities return to normal. I am so grateful that I am not in this alone. I rely greatly on my husband to not only help me but my children. I am more than thankful for my friends who offer emotional support. And my son who has autism has a support system of wonderful people who are dedicated to helping and teaching him. There are many things to be grateful for despite having MS.
The fear that comes with this disease can often be as debilitating as the disease itself. Let the fear come out and spill into the open. Talk about it. Share your fears with others. Naming your fears causes them to come out of the dark shadows of dreams. Fears are much more manageable when they are brought out into the light.
There are times when this disease may make you feel you have no control at all. Don't let it do that to you. You do have some control no matter what. You have, always in your possession, the ability to hone in on those things which are most important such as family and friends. This can be an opportunity to deepen those relationships.
Combat the fear with people. Ask for help. Share. Get the support you need. Fear is extinguished by light. Let it in.