My Story Goes on

Stunned is hardly the word for how I felt… shocked, devastated… those are the feelings I remember. At age 45, I had finally achieved some professional success, having just been named partner in a large law firm. It had been a struggle because for 20 years I had been experiencing odd physical sensations, fatigue and inability to concentrate.

In my personal life, I had two young children, had recently remarried and welcomed two stepchildren. What had been a happy new life for all of us suddenly became a very confusing, painful time. Full of questions and concerns, and none of us had any answers.

I was trying to do it all. I was juggling my desire to be a present mother and wife with being an attentive and productive attorney. And it wasn’t without its complications.

One day after work, I drove straight home and got a call from my youngest daughter’s preschool. All the other children had gone home except for her. How could I have forgotten her? I constantly felt guilt in my role as a mom to four kids.

Professionally, it wasn’t any easier for me. Fortunately (for my reputation) and unfortunately (for my health), my entire 25-year legal career could be described as a relentless pursuit of perfection.

I probably fit the type-A personality. I think being a woman in a traditionally male field—trying all those years to cope with a chronic illness while “proving” to the world that I could compete—caused my stress to reach crisis levels. I had developed nervous habits and anxiety that concerned my neurologist and my management team.

Ultimately, all this led to my physician-ordered “retirement” at age 58.

I felt way too young and wasn’t emotionally ready to give up the mental and social stimulation of practicing law. I missed my clients, friends and colleagues in the firm and legal community, and spent two years in counseling to adjust to the loss.

But I started to realize that while one chapter may have closed, another could be written.

I started to cope with stress better by meditating, practicing yoga and pilates, working out and thinking of my health holistically.

As a practicing attorney, I enjoyed lunch meetings with clients and professionals. So after retirement, I continued getting dressed up to meet people for lunch and found myself leading my own self-help group for those living with MS who are trying to juggling work or retirement. We meet monthly and discuss our health concerns and help newly diagnosed members cope with their new reality. We agonize about the balance of work and family and discuss our fears and hopes.

Since retiring, I’ve also had the privilege of experiencing my grandchildren as they mature into wonderful and active adolescents. 

Life doesn’t end because you have MS. I’ve had my fair share of struggles and have had to readjust where I’m going in life. I am passionate about helping others with MS realize the importance of being resilient and sharing their struggles. Because despite all my ups and downs, I continue to enjoy friends and family and live my life to the fullest. 
Tags Healthy Living      4 Appreciate this

Laurie Neilson Lee

Laurie began having MS symptoms when she was in her early 20s, but has had a relatively mild disease progression and was able to be physically active through her 60s. She and her husband Alan love snorkeling in Hawaii, tending their gardens at home, and traveling to visit children and grandchildren. She is a part-time writer, family historian, and practitioner of yoga and pilates.