Learning to Overcome
We all face many trials in life. There are no answers with rose-colored-glasses view to life, because we live in an imperfect world where things happen unexpectedly. Multiple Sclerosis happened to me and it has changed my life. One day I was able to do martial arts and live action role play where one of the characters I played was in armor wielding a sword and shield and the next I'm trying to figure out why my left arm doesn't work correctly.
There are many ways to cope with crazy situations like this, but a lot of them do not work. You don't have the luxury of denial when your whole left side has a weird combo of numbness and tingling going on. Ranting at the world at how unfair it is definitely will not fix it either. Faith in something bigger and that things will get better will help. This was not my first trial in life by far, but I can say I am glad I accepted Jesus and had that faith to hang onto before this happened to me. Whether I have MS the rest of my life or get cured of it by a miracle or some solution medicine comes up with in the future, I'm still able to live a good life.
My left side was semi-numb from the shoulder down and was not properly diagnosed. The neurologist didn't know what was going on and I was told that it was thoracic outlet syndrome since the left arm never fully recuperated. I actually got back into martial arts, but had to watch the arm. I returned to the live action game, but resorted to playing a caster type because I could not carry the light padded weapons, let alone a shield. Things went well for a few years before I started having more issues.
I finally reached the point where I could not do my job testing on the factory floor for eight hours at a time. I became surly at work because I have very high expectations for myself and I couldn't do my job the way I know it should've been done. I was frustrated about not being able to do my job and my negative attitude was interfering with my Christian ideals.
I wound up on disability for a month, saw a new neurologist, one that I liked, who did some physical therapy with me and then returned me to work. However, by the end of the year I had to throw my hands up and say I'm done with this. I called my neurologist again and was able to get in the next day. I didn't have any more sick days to use, and despite the fact that taking more time off could further damage my track record at work, I went to the doctor. He scheduled another MRI, but told me to keep on working. I did return to work right after the New Year weekend, I lasted four hours and realized that I couldn't do it anymore.
I had two and half years of dealing with disability insurance people, but it worked out that my long term disability insurance that I received through my old job included paying for an organization to do all my paperwork for social security disability. That was a God send in of itself because the paperwork you have to fill out multiple times is horrendous. In the end I was paid on long term for two years after the short term of six months ended and had my SSDI approved before the two years of insurance ran out.
I cannot go back to work full time. I still have to watch what I do with my hands, especially the left. Gripping things makes that hand cramp up in ways you would expect after a hefty day of hard labor and can be triggered by holding a piece of paper too long. All of this is due to the MS and the lesions that it causes in the brain as the immune system decides it should attack the myelin that protects your axons (nerve fibers). My sense of humor uses the analogy of my immune system becoming a zombie and wanting brains to explain it.
Through it all, I have kept my faith in God and knew something would work out. It really has. I have been blessed with family, my real life one as well as my church and gaming friends. Gaiscioch is definitely not just some group of people playing games, we are a family that goes beyond the games. I have made a lot of great friends and tons of acquaintances through my online gaming. Gaming has given me something that I can enjoy doing, despite my disabilities.
My disability and my connections combine have led to some great opportunities. I have been able to test several games to see how they work for people with use of only one hand. The game I am playing now is the one that has given me the most issues. Elder Scrolls Online is definitely a two handed game no matter how you try to set up your mouse and keyboard. I don't have a fancy gaming mouse with lots of buttons, but even then after months of testing I figured out it was just better to find a happy medium of using both hands. One thing that helps me most is the G13 I got from a friend. I can put that in my lap and relax the left arm far more than having it up on the keyboard. It makes for a good option for shifting around how I sit and play games. I am so glad I learned touch typing a long time ago in high school because that really does help me keep going with a computer even on days when my left fingers are not feeling much.
Another thing that worked out is that I finally have a part time job that I can do and works with my current benefits. I work from home on my computer where I spend a lot of time playing games and writing things anyway. Even a part time job really helped me to feel useful. Some days I cannot even manage housework unless I can figure out how to do it one handed.
Of course, there is my awesome church where I volunteer my time. This past year I got to participate in the weekly art classes for our fifth and sixth graders at the academy that the church runs. This year the program was expanded and I have 6 returning students as well and 3 new ones. I am a social person, so I like to stay active and get out to socialize with people, so I help out where I can.
So even if I am disabled, there is still plenty of things for me to do to keep myself active. Even better is that my disability, despite it initially hitting the entire left side from the shoulder down, has left my legs pretty much in good shape. I find that I really need to walk a lot to stay active enough in order for my body not to have more issues than what the MS already causes. I don't need my hands to walk and I like to joke that I am handicapped not feeticapped. I just have a left hand that will doesn't work the way I want it to, but it has to come along for the ride anyway.
The best advice I can give to anyone dealing with adversity is to keep a positive attitude and find your faith in something greater than yourself.
About the Author
Althea "Briseadh" Damgaard
Althea joined Gaiscioch back in October of 2009 and has been here ever since with only a few month hiatus between Warhammer and Rift. As soon as she knew they were in Rift, she jumped ship to Faeblight and has followed them onward through every chapter since with a few side games thrown in for spice.
She has been an avid player of RPG style games since 1980 when she first played Dungeons and Dragons. Since then she has created her own tabletop gaming world used with various rule sets as D&D progressed. Once she could get online she played MUDs. Her MMO days started with Everquest and have moved through over a dozen games with some lasting only a month's time in her life and others going for years. She has tested several games from the perspective of a disabled gamer with hand issues due to her multiple sclerosis.
When not writing about or playing games, she can be found writing novels, reading and doing various art projects. She also writes items based on her faith and is working on publishing a novel. She also does editing for a gaming developer.