What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
Throughout my brief, turbulent marriage, it became clear that this was not going to be my happily ever after. I married the wrong guy. I filed for divorce and spent the next six months in tears, trying to understand how I ended up in such a contentious situation. I was devastated, and I went to therapy in search for answers.
As soon as I started to feel somewhat like myself again, the strange health symptoms began: pins and needles, numbness, weakness, fatigue, back pain, and an overall burning sensation in my body. I knew something was very wrong when I held an ice pack against my skin and felt heat instead of cold. The symptoms would come and go, so it was a very confusing time, but I made an appointment with my doctor and figured I probably pinched a nerve.
After passing some standard physical exams and blood tests, I was surprised to be referred to a neurologist. Several MRIs later, it was concluded that I most likely had multiple sclerosis, but it would take many more tests to confirm it.
How did this happen? I remember trying to negotiate for a clean bill of health with my doctor during my spinal tap, the final test to officially confirm MS. Everything was leading to this diagnosis, but I did not want to face it. Yet, when the test results came back, it was revealed that I did, indeed, have MS.
My heart broke, and in a much different way than during my divorce. My life was forever changed.
Soon after my diagnosis, the right side of my face started to go numb. MS was proving that it was going to be unpredictable and terrifying. I had so many questions and concerns. What did this mean for my future? Would I end up in a wheelchair or blind? How would this affect my music career?
There were many adjustments to be made. First, medication. There is no cure for MS, but specialty drugs help delay the disease’s progression. My meds are shots that I give myself, and they are unreasonably expensive. (Yay!) It's essential to have good health insurance.
Then there's diet. I have always had a sensitive tummy, but after researching diet and MS, I learned there are certain foods that bring out symptoms and others that can help. Yes to kale, no to ice cream. Exercise is also important; staying mobile is one of the best therapies for MS, but it's also one of the biggest challenges because it's so hard to be motivated to move while suffering from pain and fatigue. I learned that my energy was very limited. Social engagements, especially at night, became impossible. (Try explaining a 9 p.m. curfew to potential suitors!)
Speaking of fatigue, sleep is so important, but it's rare that I ever feel rested. Many people with MS experience debilitating fatigue, so we feel exhausted and achy all of the time. We also have difficulty sleeping, and insomnia is common. Furthermore, heat can trigger MS symptoms. Air conditioning is a must and hot baths are a no-go. It's a challenge in L.A., where temperatures in the summer are over 100 degrees.
Despite knowing I needed to make healthy choices, at first, I drank a lot of scotch — I wasn’t ready to deal with my new reality. Then I buried myself in writing my fourth album. Composing music has always been healing for me, but these new songs were on a whole new level. Making that album saved my life. I wrote about my marriage, divorce, invisible illness, being accused of hypochondria, childhood dreams versus the nightmare of being an adult, and ultimately surviving it all and gaining strength and wisdom.
There was actually some relief in my diagnosis, as it allowed me to understand myself better and make necessary adjustments. I might not currently have the physical energy to do live performances, but I will always create art in some form; I switched my focus to music videos for the album, which adds a whole new dimension to my work. I also decided to use an MRI scan of my brain for my album cover because I figured it was my most intimate and revealing self-portrait.
I try to stay focused on the present moment and laugh as much as possible. Working on music and creative projects helps me stay inspired and motivated.
For anyone newly diagnosed with an illness or going through a major life change, I highly recommend staying true to your passions. Life is unpredictable and will be disappointing at times, but having something special to you — something that is uniquely your own — will save and inspire you.