It was the summer of 2012 when I was told there was something wrong with my brain. It transpired that I had multiple sclerosis, and I'm far enough away from it now to allow me to think about that day and not feel even a shadow of the emotions that tormented me whilst it was fresh.
At the time I was certainly training regularly and had been since the age of 16, but the training was void of any of the structure or intent that is present today. I would go to the gym 3 times a week, do my bodybuilding work, and then leave. I clearly wasn't eating enough, nor was there enough purpose behind my training, but I was in there building up my relationship with the equipment, environment, and lifestyle.
In 2013 my interests moved towards strength, and I started squatting, benching, and deadlifting. I followed Jason Blaha's 5x5 and by the end of 2014 I was finally figuring it out and getting somewhere with it all. It was January of 2015 when I made the decision to hire a coach and now I would say without hesitation that powerlifting is a core element of my life.
Occasionally I have given myself the room to speculate on why progress has been slow, and inevitably I wonder down the road of "oh yeah, I do have multiple sclerosis…". It's at that point where I shut down the thought exercise because the speculation will get me nowhere.
It's difficult to give a rounded image of how exactly I live with MS, but the short version is that I don't. I recently read a brilliant Time article by Michael Kinsley called 'In Defense of Denial'. Michael argues that there are two ways of dealing with something; denial, and confrontation. I'm always skeptical of overlay simplistic rules, but as I read on I realised how valid an interpretation of reality it was. I'm in denial and it works for me.
I have set up my life in such a way that I very rarely remember that I have MS. My diet is on point, my training is consistent and a source of immense satisfaction, and my day is usually planned out with the help of my beloved To Do app, Things.
I am sure that confrontation is an equally valid approach to living with this disease, but anecdotally (and please suppress the visceral negative reaction to that word) I have witnessed multiple sclerosis sufferers who 'confront' this illness and ultimately give in to it. They make it who they are, and they approach much of their life with the knowledge that they are doing so as somebody with MS. For me this wouldn't be an option and is too sad a prospect for me to ever consider.
Denial has it's flaws. If I lived in a bubble I would miss the developments in MS research and the medicines currently in trial. However, I do not live in a bubble and I am fortunate enough to have people in my life, namely my Mum, who do the worrying for me. I wouldn't argue that this is fair, but it's the compromised situation that works for me and I am selfish enough to be content with it.
At the end of last year I competed at a powerlifting meet and was very proud of my performance. I have just received confirmation that my entry for another powerlifting meet on April 2nd has been accepted. It has not been necessary to mention that I have multiple sclerosis and my hope is that it never will be. I'm as capable as I believe myself to be, and whilst that's not true in real life, it's an attitude that has yet to fail me here.