Monday, 21 January 2008

Is multiple sclerosis (MS) psychosomatic?

On January 1st 1969 a 15-year-old girl walked into a house that wasn’t her home and was immediately swallowed up by the family who lived there. A middle-aged woman came to greet her from the kitchen, a young boy grinned and nodded before running up the stairs, and a man, obvious patriarch of the household, lay sprawled on a settee in the sitting-room. He motioned to the girl to sit down. But she was unsure: the television was on – during the day! – and he hadn’t stood up when she entered the room. She was not at ease.

The woman entered with a tray of drinks and biscuits and behind her followed another woman – more severe in appearance. Formal. She was the girl’s Social Worker and was the one who had arranged the girl’s stay here in this house and brought her here today. The girl was four months pregnant and banished from her own home – her own family – and banned from the “Unmarried Mothers' Home”, because it was too close to where her own father worked. “What if I see you in the street?” he had asked. “I would have to ignore you!” Oh, the shame.

The young girl, who sensed nobody loved her, was forced to stay with the “alien” family on the housing estate until her baby was about to be born. And in that time she learnt that these were the best people in the world (she shared a room with another teenage girl the couple fostered, and there was a disfigured baby they were hoping to adopt). This family, and their friends and neighbours, had hearts of gold. And by the time the girl had to leave she loved them very much.

Her son was born, by Caesarean section on Sunday, 27th April 1969. And for ten days she had him completely to herself – even taking him out of the cot in the ward to lie on her bosom in the middle of the night. She wasn’t allowed to breast-feed him because they had to be parted.

Her parents visited, the father of the child visited but none looked at the boy besides just one of her brothers and he loved his nephew.

But on the tenth day the Social worker returned. The girl’s hair fell over her eyes and caressed the bundle she held. She was crying but for a moment her son’s eyes opened and they gazed into each other’s hearts.

Before the older woman, hardened by years of experience, reached down to separate the two – mother and child – forever. In an instant gone, leaving the girl alone.

Alistair, as she named him on the birth certificate, was adopted six weks later.

And yes, that girl was me. and that baby was my first son. It took me two marriages (I wasn’t Catholic then, maybe if I had been...), too many relationships and 12 years after that to conceive Tom. And you can imagine how precious he’s been to me and always will be.

And, can you remember when Tom planned to leave? Yes, January. And when did I wake up with this latest spasm and find myself less able than ever to live my life alone? You’ve got it, the day I always remember that wonderful family who cared for me but could never love me (we only met once more after that and it was awkward) – New Year’s Day, 2008. 39 years later.

Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Of course there were bad events in my life before this and big traumas after (see MS – My Scene, ‘life-story list' ) – not least the windscreen accident two January’s later.

But I think in some buried, scared place, Tom’s imminent departure brought all that back to me. The pregnancy and the loss. I think MS may well be psychosomatic (and if you Google it, so do a lot of psychologists but I don’t want to get
“text-book” so I’ll leave that to them).

What do you think?

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