Launching Plan B (more like Plan Q by now)

I’ve started over and reinvented myself so many times. And I’m about to do it again.

It occurred to me today that I really, really, really don’t want to be on disability. And I’m going to take some concrete steps to avoid it.

What I do want is to go back to grad school for my masters degree to become a counselor, just like I intended when my plans were disrupted by my last major MS relapse. (Interestingly, my Myers-Briggs type says good careers for me include writer and librarian, both things I’ve pursued to some degree for several years each. And my type is summed up as “The Counselor” so I think it will be a good fit.)

But I’m going to have to take some big steps before then and be somewhat strategic about it. My goal is to start back to school this fall in the same program that I was going to pursue before.

Here’s what I have to do before then.

Somehow my husband’s job search is going way better than any he’s ever had before. He’s having interviews nearly every day, sometimes even more than one a day. And they all pay at least 20 percent better than he was making before. Him getting one of those jobs will be the first step.

So I need to make sure my student loans don’t default because I’m going to need more loans for grad school. In the meantime, signing up to get my loans back on track requires a leap of faith, a reliance on what my husband calls “Holy Spirit” money. (AKA Believe it will come through and it will.) It often seems like that’s gotten us through this far as it is. There have been so many seemingly impossible circumstances we’ve overcome.

I also need physical therapy and counseling of my own. I’m sure I’ll learn more about how to be an effective therapist and I’ve made a lot of progress already, but I need to heal myself more before I try to heal others.

I have to get super serious about trying to heal my MS. In this case, that means getting strict about my diet and trying intermittent fasting to see if it works. I also need to get regular exercise, preferably daily. I’m not 100 percent sure yet what to do about the disease-modifying drugs. I’m leaning towards no but I’m not sure; I don’t want my plans to be derailed by a relapse again.

I also need to wean myself off the muscle relaxers (again) and the medicine that I take for anxiety/to help me sleep. Because it’s a benzodiazepine medication that I’ve been on for more than two years, I can’t just stop cold turkey. It doesn’t really work for anxiety OR insomnia. But I’m sure both it and the muscle relaxers are affecting my cognitive function since that’s a listed side effect. Hopefully, regular exercise will help me sleep better.

I have a lot of trouble with waking up early in the morning and needing a lot of sleep, so my ultimate goal is to be in private practice afternoons and evenings. One of my biggest frustrations in looking for therapy is that it’s almost always limited to business hours, which doesn’t work for most people with jobs.

I know I won’t make a ton of money at this. Maybe even half my income will go to student loan repayments. But if I earn the typical wage for a licensed therapist in TX and half of it goes to student loan repayment, that’s still about the same as I’d get from disability plus a part-time job working in a library. Plus I have to admit that I want to pay back my debts. I mean, I don’t want to–I’d prefer if they’d go away by some universal loan forgiveness–but since they won’t, I would rather do the honorable thing and pay them off.

I’d also like to be able to afford to go to regular yoga classes again. I want to lose weight so I feel better. I want to stop dressing like a teenager with my graphic tees and jeggings and have a reason to dress better. (I can’t justify it when I’m just at home, and I don’t feel cute at my current weight.) I want to be able to afford to travel. I want to feel like my future has hope and possibilities again.

The hard truth is that I had so completely given up on myself that finding my way back to health and functionality is going to be a fight. The significant weight gain from many of my treatments (especially multiple courses of extremely high-dose IV steroids) was discouraging and so hard to combat. But I feel like I’m at a critical turning point: give up and resign myself to continuing to get worse, or fight back before it’s too late.

I know my husband would still love me if I stayed fat, if I never worked again, if I became increasingly more helpless and feeble. But I wouldn’t respect myself. I really can’t imagine anything worse than being stuck at home for the rest of my life. I don’t consider the “free money” for staying at home any kind of prize that I want. I am not good enough at structuring my own days and I just get too depressed at home. I have known this for years and tried several times to change it.

And you know, I really do believe I’m still capable of more. I might not be able to learn math well enough to rock the GRE or go into a career that requires advanced math. I have a hard time remembering a series of information. But I’m still very functional otherwise.

I could still look at the instructions my neurologist’s nurse gave me about how many pills to take of my new medication and tell that her math was way off. (I just read the pamphlet that came with the drug and got dosing instructions from that instead. If I had followed her instructions, she would have had me taking double the normal amount.)

I can still look up what part of my brain is damaged and learn and remember what it means in terms of my functioning. A lot of people can’t do that even with fully healthy brains (although to be fair, probably very few would even want to.)

Knowing that things could turn around so much gives me such hope for the future. My husband is finally going to be making the kind of career advancement and salary he should have been able to years ago. I can indeed go back to school and have a career I want. We’re finally going to achieve the things we intended to when we moved down here before everything went wrong.

But the important key is that I have to value myself enough to recover. It won’t happen if I don’t put in significant effort.

I have to value the vision of myself in different, healthier circumstances enough to have the self-discipline to work for it. And it was only when I was on the verge of giving up on all of it that I finally got a wake up call.

If I get disability, it will definitely be temporary until I recover. But I am hella stubborn and I will push myself to recover in record time.

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