Tipping Point

I find myself thinking this afternoon about my transition from being a healthy, to a chronically ill, woman. Of course, no single event was the trigger responsible for my development of chronic illnesses. I can’t help but wonder what, in fact, was the tipping point in this entire process.

At age 25, I decided to end my marriage. I had a two-year-old daughter. I had just completed my associate’s degree at a nearby community college. Just a few months after making the decision to divorce, I transferred to a state university to complete my bachelor’s degree.

During that first semester, I developed bronchitis. It turned out to be a very severe, treatment-resistant case of bronchitis. I remember that I thought that I was never going to feel well again. It took months for me to fully recover, but I eventually did. Four more years would elapse before my diagnosis of MS.

My ex-husband remarried the year that my daughter started kindergarten. I do recall thinking that this event truly marked the beginning of identifying as a single mother, since his priorities had shifted to his new family. I struggled to find any type of job with my bachelor’s degree in psychology.

It was a very discouraging period in my life. I eventually obtained a minimum wage position, as a teacher’s aide, in a first grade classroom. I absolutely loved that job. It allowed me to create all of the artwork for the classroom’s bulletin boards.

However, I knew that it didn’t offer a viable means of supporting myself, and my young daughter, longterm. I very much wanted to continue my education, at the graduate level.

My parents helped me, in every possible way. I can never possibly thank them enough for all of the sacrifices that they made to help me achieve my academic goals. Nevertheless, I felt very stressed as a young single mother.

I’ll never be able to determine if all of these lifestyle factors served as the tipping point for my diagnosis of MS. Certainly, I had manifested multiple symptoms of MS, many years before, when I was still in high school.

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