I have an invisible and sometimes visible friend who does things to make me cry. I call her Fiona. Named after the movie Shrek. Just in case you don’t know the story of Fiona, the princess in Shrek, she has a deep dark secret in that she turns into an ogre at night under the cover of darkness.
Now, I don’t turn into an Ogre at night under the cover of darkness, of course my husband will attest to the fact that I’m an ogre at other times, just not under the cover of darkness, but that’s another story. Like Fiona, I have often had that feeling over the past 20 years, that there’s a secret I’m hiding that might repel people, as it has in the past. In 2002, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis ending an 8 year relationship, losing my home, compromising friendships, and ultimately leading me to being unable to work in my trained field. Fiona has really solidified in my mind as a ‘real invisible friend’ over the years as my physical disease slowly progresses. Not because my symptoms only show at night but because, in a way, I see the disease within my body as separate from who I am. Fiona always seems to be with me. She’s always trying to trip me up and shove me over, make me cry, break me. Yes, she’s trying to break me.
I get this moment at the very beginning of every day, this moment as I awaken to meet each new day of a wonderful few seconds of normality. Do you know that moment when everything in life is perfect, just before you come fully alert from a great night’s sleep? I have come to recognise this as a hypnotic state, but it’s also the place where Fiona is free of me and I am free of her. If I hold very still and employ my imagination I can run, jump and climb the stairs at pace in my mind, just for a few seconds, the young active body I took for granted back again. But then I move. I feel her presence come to life, the numbness, the tightness, the concrete feeling in my legs. I saw a TV programme once about the coldest inhabited place on earth. They hung some washing out and within mere seconds, it froze. That’s what my muscles feel like, as if a once wet towel has been frozen and now it doesn’t bend and move with ease.
Fiona’s not nearly so invisible as she once was years ago. That’s the nature of this disease. In fact, a few years ago I was in a shop walking around with my cane (now I’m using wheels to get around), the shop worker asked me ‘injury or disability?’ I wasn’t so sure how to answer this as I don’t think of Fiona as a disability per say. Her presence has brought so many new and dynamic aspects to my life that in a funny sort of way, I’m thankful for the changes I’ve been forced to make. Yes, I live with MS. Yes, if you said you could take it away today, I’d jump at the chance to move forward without Fiona but yet, I wouldn’t change the path I’ve taken to get here today. Fiona has brought me love, satisfaction and the meaning of true internal peace and that I wouldn’t change. From retraining as a Clinical Hypnotherapist, to marrying my husband and lifelong loyal supporter to my wonderful daughter, MS has brought rewards which are invaluable to me now.
More than a year ago, my daughter created a Givealittle page titled ‘Help My Mum Walk the Dog’. She and a friend took to the streets of our town busking to support this journey. We were fortunate enough to fundraise for an Omeo which is personal transporting device some might call a wheelchair but it’s so much more than that. After 5 years of Fiona limiting where I can go on my own, I am free to participate in the community once again. There’s no hiding her now so instead I’m embracing my new stage of life. The Omeo, while a head turner, strikes comments like “how cool is that”, “I’d love one of those”, and “can I have a go?”. I am smiled at, conversed with, and even the teenage boys give me the nod of approval as I ride past. Fiona is in full force but not stopping me.
I believe that we all have aspects of our life journey that may play out as an invisible friend or foe. Whether presented as a physical or mental barrier to life, we all have personal internal battles hidden within, that we don’t want others to see this is our vulnerability. This is what makes us human.
My Fiona pushes me to fight, to improve, to enjoy where I am, who I am. Today I ask you to seek out your Fiona; whether hiding deep within your mind or very physically obvious, seek and search for how these challenges accentuate your life. Maybe you will begin to see the invisible friends of others and find a way to embrace the special qualities that make us all unique in this world.