When does MS enter the body? Or is it just there to begin with, as present yet hidden as ones own skeleton? Does one catch it somehow, or is it merely activated at some point? And then by what? There are enough theories to go around, of course. One theory says that MS arises as a result of Epstein-Barr Virus (mononucleosis). Although the person so stricken recovers from the initial illness, something in the meantime has happened in the autoimmune system, which may or may not rear its head in the future (whether it does or does not being another mystery leading to another set of theories).
Some say that the cause of MS is to be found in viruses and bacteria rather than in a malfunctioning immune system.
On the fringe of reasonable sounding scenarios are, of course, the wacky theories—the conspiracy theories, if you will. It is all because of cow’s milk, for instance. It is because of childhood immunizations. It comes from air pollution. It is a result of child abuse.
Does it matter? No, not really. Not for we who have it and are living with it.
And yet we ask the question, we want to know, for there is nothing more frustrating, or unfair, we think, than having to poke about in the dark for the shape of ones own life.
My favorite theory, and the one I currently subscribe to, is this: MS may lie dormant in the nervous system for many years, or even forever. In order to manifest it needs a key, an event, a jump start. Some researchers have raised the notion that this start-up, this critical event, may be actuated by a correspondingly significant stressful event in the life of he who bears the disease.
This critical event may have come in the form of a severe illness. It may in fact have been born out of trauma of any sort—including emotional trauma.
So here’s the long and short, in my case. When I was 17 years old I contracted a severe case of mononucleosis. Though I recovered and was well for many years afterwards, MS had nonetheless been conceived. It had, in other words, become a potential, like the universe before the big bang. Now, what was the key that started its motor, what was the word that called it forth—Rise and walk! It happened in the spring of 2005.
I guess you could say I had a nervous breakdown. It seems perfectly appropriate, in hindsight anyway, to describe it as such—for MS is itself a breakdown in the proper functioning of the central nervous system, the autoimmune response.
October 2004 marked the end of my 13 year long second marriage. The ensuing months were filled day by day with the strongest, most active sorts of emotions. There were accusations and bitter words, betrayals, anger, sorrow, tears and sobbing that racked the body physically and clutched deeply to the soul, wrenching it from peace, from rest.
There was confusion, guilt, exhaustion, regret. There was the love for another woman admixed with self-hatred. All the new hope of love struggled with all the powers of dissolution and recrimination. My heart sought asylum among the unforgiving fires of hell.
I began to drink again, for the first time in 10 years, an effort at self-medication, I suppose. And that made things even worse, as had always been the case.
Psychically, I suffered an existence defined by an insurmountable sort of irony: I was living both in the bosom of love and in the dungeon of sorrow. And here, in this place, most certainly the center cannot hold.
And so I broke down, from top to bottom, from inside and out. The circuits fried, the system crashed. Multiple sclerosis, dormant through all these years, awakened at the core of my existence, stretched its arms and legs, and began its business in my brain and spinal cord, and from thence throughout my body.
This is my theory, based on theories.
I have emerged, yet as through fire. My health was left behind. My children were left behind. A lifelong friend, a 13 year marriage, a family, left behind. A wonderful young woman, an angel of patience and compassion, lost.
My peace is found in the purity of those things that were set to flame and yet survived—the essence of what was, is, and always will be best.
Faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.