Through adversity comes strength

9 March 2021


As the third national lockdown continues in the UK, Martin Baum takes a look at how his 40 years experience of living with multiple sclerosis has prepared him for life under coronavirus restrictions.

The last 12 months of three separate lockdowns has been like going back to my MS future. Over the last 40 years there were many times when I lived alone, railing against friends and family as I wallowed in my self-inflicted misery. I withdrew and locked myself away from the world which, by no stretch of the imagination, is exactly what living through lockdown has been about for me.

While the world has had a crash course on what it's like not to be free to live a life it once took for granted, it has meant the playing field has been levelled. That has fuelled my resistance to being intimidated by Covid-19 because I already live with MS – a bully which has robbed me of an independent life.

My wife has become my carer and it means I am no longer able to do what I want whenever I want to.  Unlike non-MSers I no longer drive, but would give anything to go out under my own steam, even if it's to shop for food, pick up my own medicine or attend medical appointments. Those are the rules which no longer apply to me, but now do for anyone who knew nothing of my world before the pandemic.

Lockdown mark three for the country has been no match against MS mark one. For the former there is AstraZeneca or Pfizer to take back control of their physical and mental health. We have no vaccine to eradicate MS which is why I have not allowed myself to be bullied by coronavirus.  

I still have a life to lead which is the same one I had before the pandemic. Limited, yes, but as an MSer it was already that way before the whole Covid-19 rigmarole began, but at least we could still see people then.  In the first lockdown the only people we saw were a man from British Gas to repair the toilet cistern – how the other half live – and the supermarket home delivery driver.  

It was a very surreal time, especially as we were having conversations from behind masks but as strange as it seemed, it was also the catalyst to remind me that I had already lived an isolated life, which is where the blog came in. As far as lockdown went, I had already been there and done it before self isolation became quite the thing to do. If that sounds glib, I make no apology.  

To forget the life where I once chose exclusion instead of inclusion would mean that I had learned nothing from a time when I chose to live MS and not life. I will not make the same error of judgement again. No matter how bad the past year has been, I refuse to mentally crumble as I once did. I have made a promise to myself to keep it as real as I can throughout these troubled coronavirus-riven times; there might not be a tomorrow so make the most of today.