Abstract mixed media artwork created with magazine clippings; with a white background and acrylic paints in turquoise and orange.

“When Multiple Sclerosis Clipped My Wings”

Living Between Art and Multiple Sclerosis

I won’t lie, losing control of my limbs scared me. And even more so when my eyes started acting strangely. Suddenly, I saw everything double.

At the optometrist, the doctor told me there was less than a second difference in the movement of my eyes. Apparently, my left eye moved slower than the right eye. However, that was just the beginning of a facial paralysis that ended up immobilizing my left eye; thus, the right eye “tried” to compensate and moved everywhere trying to focus. Nevertheless, I didn’t pay much attention to it until, in the following days, I lost sensation on the entire right side of my body.

While it’s true that I had been living and functioning at my maximum capacity with a bunch of symptoms for years; let’s say my body adapted to living with them; I used stress to function; not that it’s healthy or anything. I also must admit that I didn’t want to listen to the signals my body was sending me.

But one afternoon, I couldn’t drive back home from work. In fact, my parents had to come to my rescue (they live in the same town where I used to work). It felt like something wounded my wings. That trip back home was torturous and long (actually, it’s about 20 to 25 minutes). At every curve, it was like the world was spinning me making the contents of my stomach want to see the light.

Obra de arte abstracto creada con recortes de revista, yeso, pasta para texturas, marcadores y pintura acrílica que representa mi sentir con respecto a los cambios causados por la esclerosis múltiple.

This painting represents my feelings after the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.

I continued to lack sensation on the right side of my body, but now, moreover, the left side was “confused.” It was like it didn’t know what it should feel. What I mean is that if something was cold, I felt it hot; if it was soft, I felt it rough, and vice versa; with all sensations.

Peace of mind

So, after a battery of tests, including lab tests, CT scans, MRIs, a lumbar puncture; walking into an emergency room and walking out unable to do so; and an eight-day stay at a hospital on Puerto Rico, I finally received a diagnosis.

For my new neurologist, who is excellent, very kind, and caring, I was just another patient presenting a range of symptoms and seeking answers. “It’s multiple sclerosis,” he said to me on a day like today, July 16, seven years ago, as if he was telling the time. That day, I was with my mom. I can’t tell you what went through her mind, but for me, it was a relief. Finally, they gave me a name to the cause of my woes; I finally had a starting point to find the right treatment.

Since I didn’t improve as quickly as I wanted, I couldn’t return to work. But after a few weeks, and visits to other doctors to treat depression and therapy to help me regain movement in my limbs, my neurologist determined that stress exacerbated my symptoms; therefore, hubby and I agreed that it was best to leave work permanently.

The disease of a thousand faces clipped my first wing. Honestly, it was painful to leave my job because, despite its demands and the stress I lived under, I really liked my job; I truly enjoyed interacting with patients.

Acercamiento para resaltar la flor creada con pintura acrílica en turquesa y anaranjada en la obra de arte Determinación.

Then, they clipped my other wing when not only did I have to leave my job, but I also couldn’t drive anymore, which somehow feels like losing your freedom. So, I was forced to stay at home and with nothing to do all day, I was about to go crazy. That’s how art came into my life.

I never studied art; in fact, not a single class in school, but it always caught my attention. So, with the materials I had available at home, I began to let out my frustration with every brushstroke and with every stroke, I felt like new wings were slowly being born. For now, I can’t fly as high as I would like, but here I go.

You can learn more about my journey with multiple sclerosis in You don’t look sick; you look very well.

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