Participant Series: Validation
Guest blogger, Olivea Wooden Virta (Liv), is a 26 years old living with MS. Liv was diagnosed at an early age and participates in MuckFest MS New Jersey to get mucky and stomp MS in the mud!
Sitting alone in the hospital four days after my 24th birthday, I was diagnosed with Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. However, the first time MS sent me to the hospital, I was only 11 years old. Over the years, many unexplainable symptoms had sent me and my family to multiple doctors and specialists, and after leaving each one without an explanation or answer, I earned the nickname of “Drama Queen.” “Liv, you cannot be tired all the time, no one is tired all the time.” Teenage angst is hard enough, but it’s even harder when undiagnosed MS plagues you at every turn. When people don’t believe you’re suffering and you’re screaming on the inside, it tends to crush you. Sixteen years, 40+ different doctors, nine ER visits, three weeks in the hospital and one MRI later, I stopped being a “Drama Queen” and gained a diagnosis as well as a sense of validation. I wanted to print up shirts that said, “I told you I was sick.” Validation is powerful because it’s the starting point. So let me validate you:
Yes, you have a chronic illness for which at the moment there is no cure, and for that I am truly sorry. But more importantly I need to validate who you are at your core; separate from your MS. Because MS is not who you are but what you have. Yes, I am sick and I have a polka dotted MRI to prove it, but I am also a young person with lofty dreams and full and glorious potential. It sucks to be a young person with a chronic illness, but I am way more than my diagnosis.
Now it’s time to print up shirts that say, “I told you I was awesome.” This is our validation.
Monday, June 6, 2016
9:00 AM- Wake up feeling a bit run down from a lingering cold, so I listen to my body and decide to sleep in for an extra hour. Luckily, I have no classes today so I have the luxury of hitting the snooze button.
9:45 AM- Time to take the dogs outside to play, then time for breakfast for me and the animals. Don’t worry, we are all eating different foods!
11:00 AM- While I was working on homework, (I swear, I have no clue how Facebook got open) I see an ad for “I MUCK with MS” for the National MS Society’s MuckFest® MS, a hilarious 5K course full of mud and obstacles. People running, walking, crawling, and climbing in support of a world free of multiple sclerosis.
2:00 PM- It’s been a couple hours since I saw that MuckFest MS ad and I can’t get it out of my head. I know I have MS, but I also know that I want to cross that finish line.
3:00 PM- I see an orange post-it note out of the corner of my eye so I decide to go investigate.
5:00 PM- Before I sign up, I decide to call my doctors and ask them if they think I am okay to take on the mud and obstacles. Not only do they think I should sign up, but they are excited to see me get covered in mud! They remind me that I am now training for this, so I must keep up with all my doctors’ appointments and my medication. They talk to me about eating right and let me know about exercises that are considered safe for me. They were incredibly supportive and helpful. (Give your Doctor a call and ask them if they think you would look good covered in mud. I bet they’ll say yes!)
10:30 PM- I take my nighttime medication and crawl into bed knowing tonight I am going to dream about mud!
Just because we have MS doesn’t mean we give up on our dreams. When I started my MS journey, I started a new life, a life where at 24 I had to commit to my health in a way I never thought I would have to before. When you start such a big undertaking it sometimes feels impossible to get to the infamous “finish line.” Even though each MS journey is different, we are all on the same path together. We don’t ever choose this path, but we one day have to choose to take action. We must start our journey to validation and not just beat our fists against the ground in despair. What bonds you and me is not a devastating disease, but a conscious decision to fight back. To do not just big things, but small and kind and fantastic things, for our bodies, souls, minds and our world. I have come to learn it’s not about an extreme quest to live well. It’s all about starting to live. It’s smaller than you think; living well is mostly reflected in the small things that add up to something incredible. Seizing the day just means you make something of it. It doesn’t mean you build Rome. It means you get a bit dirty.
So join Puck and me, as we get dirty not just for a world free of MS, but in honor of your life, fully lived.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hello, my name is Olivea Wooden Virta (Liv). I am 26 years old and I have had MS since I was young, but I was only diagnosed in the last couple of years. I am a polymath whose passions have lead me to work on the stage, in a classroom, in a kitchen and many places in between. My passion is to renew people’s faith in themselves, then empower them to live a fulfilling life and to challenge them to help empower others. I am currently working towards my Master’s in English, focusing on how mental and physical illness is portrayed in literature and plays, and how we can use these works to bridge the gap to increase understanding and raise awareness. I live in Rockland County, NY, with my incredibly supportive family, two Dogs (Charlie and Pie) and one Cat (Kettle), and for the next couple months a muddy Duck (Puck).
Click this link to ‘Get Dirty’ with Liv and Puck: http://muck.ly/home