Different, Not Less


I have been living with multiple sclerosis since March 13, 2012. My vision has been affected. My balance has been affected. My energy level has been affected. My relationship with my family has been affected. It has changed my entire life.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease where the immune system attacks nerves, interrupting communication through the body. Each person with MS has a different experience, but symptoms can include numbness and weakness, partial or complete loss of vision, tingling and pain in parts of the body, slurred speech, fatigue, and dizziness among others. Later stages can cause paralysis, and there is currently no cure.

I have had trouble with my vision, twice in the right eye and once in the left, which was the first sign I was ill. (My left eye is randomly twitching as I type this.) I have problems with dizziness, and I occasionally fall, having broken two of my fingers in September 2017. My biggest struggle though is fatigue.

I wake up most mornings running on a fraction of the energy that other people have. On a good day, I’d say it’s 90%, but those days are rare. A majority of days I have about 75% of what I used to have, but if I didn’t sleep well, it can be as little as 30%. More days than I would like to admit, I really don’t want to leave the bed.

This probably sounds like a huge list of complaints so far, and some days it is. There are times that I allow myself to wallow (why don’t those words rhyme?) in the unfairness of having a disease I did nothing to contract and have no earthly hope of seeing cured. But then I stand up again and keep fighting.

Sometime in 2013, I don’t remember exactly when, I was having a tough time coping with some of the things I just couldn’t do anymore due to complications from MS. I was lost in despair when God spoke to me and gave me a new motto for my life: I am different, not less.

My abilities are different from what they used to be. I may not be able to walk as far or as long as I used to, but with assistance from a cane or my husband and more stops to rest, I can still do some pretty awesome things. Different, not less. I have to use a larger font when writing these days because of the vision problems I have, but I can still create some really amazing poetry and novels. Different, not less. It’s all about perspective.

When I was diagnosed and started my treatment, I wasn’t sure about what my future was going to look like. I cried a lot and didn’t have a whole lot of hope. Six years later, I still don’t have any guarantees about next year, next month, even tomorrow, but I know that if I don’t get up when I’m knocked down there is no chance for joy in my life. It’s a difficult walk, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and I have accepted the challenge, with my family and my God by my side.

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If you would like more information about MS or to donate to support research for a cure, please visit https://www.nationalmssociety.org/.


About Holli Swank

Holli Swank has been writing for more than twenty years and finds great joy in sharing her deep faith in God through her poems. She is the mother of three children and has been married for almost 18 years. She also loves spending time with her two cats. Holli was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in mid-2013, giving her a unique perspective for her poetry.