Trigger Warning: This story contains mention of suicidal thoughts that may be triggering to some.
“It all began in July of 2019. I was living it up in one of the most vibrant cities in the world – London – and I booked flights home to surprise my younger cousin, Sarah, on her 21st birthday. I never boarded the flight back to London.
My name is Cara Molloy, born March 1, 1996, in Derry (a tiny city with a population of about 100,000 in Northern Ireland). I was the daughter of a single parent, or should I say superhero, and everything was great. My baby sister, Ena, arrived on September 27, 1999, and we were complete. The three of us against the world. Until August 24, 2000. My superhero, the one I deemed invincible, was struck down with a brain hemorrhage, and we nearly lost her. After that day, she was never the same but still raised my sister and me to be the most independent and fierce women in Ireland.
Being that young and watching how quickly everything can change, the uncertainty of how something could change your life forever, really screwed me up as a young teenager. There were years of not understanding why I felt a certain way and night terrors were such a normal thing to me. This is where I can remember everything changing. I was diagnosed with Hypochondria, which for some people was a word you would call someone when they’re over-exaggerating something. ‘Shut up, you’re being a hypochondriac! You’re fine, it’s only a headache!’ If only it were that easy!
All of my anxiety stemmed from my mom’s aneurysm, and I couldn’t rationalize it. So being a smart a*s, I thought, ‘Surely if I move away to a different city, I’ll feel better.’ Wrong, Cara! So wrong! I moved to Belfast, 76 miles away from home, and believed this was the fix. My mental health was deteriorating quickly and I didn’t understand. My fear of my own health stopped me from leaving the house, meeting new people, taking a job, or even having fun. I was only 17 and I can confidently say between the ages of 17 and 20 were a complete blur. Every day I was living the thought, ‘Today is my last day.’
Luckily my doctor noticed. In 2015, I rang the emergency services a total of 58 times because I believed any pain I experienced was going to kill me. I was living every day thinking the minute I was alone, I was going to die. It got too much and my doctor knew sending me to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy would help. It changed my life. Once a week for 10 months, I got it all out and I found myself again. I found the confidence to go back to education, get my qualifications, and pursue my dream of living in London and studying music.
Tuesday, October 3, I boarded a plane to London. For as long as I can remember, I was scared to be alive and scared to die. I didn’t know what it felt like to be sound of mind and feel excitement. I will never forget the overwhelming emotion of landing at Stansted Airport and realizing no one got me to that position in my life but myself. I worked so hard to understand myself and get past the fear and finally LIVE! It was the best year of my whole life, and I mean that with every fiber of my being. It was almost like someone up there knew I would need that year to look back on to survive everything that was coming up in 2019.
Now, are you ready for when it all came back to bite me?
I flew home to Derry with my boyfriend, Connor, for my cousin’s surprise 21st birthday, and I was beaming with excitement to see my friends and family! I had so many cool stories to tell them and of course, brag this small city girl spoke it into existence and was living her dream. I danced the night away, got silly pictures taken in a photo booth with a Darth Vader mask on, and just let my inner child come out. It was exhilarating to be back home, somewhere I never thought I’d find my love for again, but it was well and truly alive.
I woke up the following day, and we had planned a game of Poker with some of our closest friends in Connor’s dad’s house. The night was going according to plan. Everyone was laughing, and hoping they won the jackpot. I turned to Connor and said, ‘Connor, I really don’t feel good. Something’s wrong.’ That was the last thing I remember. I dropped off the chair and had a seizure. I wasn’t epileptic and had no prior history of this happening before. It almost felt like someone up there decided to just say, ‘Thought you were fixed, didn’t you? It’s never that straightforward!’
I had been having weird numb spells in my face and hand that would come and go for weeks, but a doctor in the emergency room told me, ‘It’s affecting a lot of nerves at the one time so I’m happy to rule out Multiple Sclerosis. You probably have a trapped nerve in your neck.’ This sentence was playing on repeat in my head as I was being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. ‘You’re going to be fine, Cara. Anything could have caused it don’t overthink it or catastrophize.’ Something in me was telling me something was really wrong.
July through December were some of the most traumatizing moments of my life, and I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again. It has changed me, and this time I can’t fix it. It’s completely out of my control. My worst nightmare has come true, from having needles put into my spine and MRIs that were so claustrophobic I hoped I’d fall asleep and never wake up the night before so I didn’t have to go through with it. In November, I was diagnosed with Radiologically Isolated Syndrome, which means they found lesions in my brain and spinal cord but I wasn’t showing symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. It was bittersweet news because I didn’t know if it meant ‘You’re fine’ or ‘We’re waiting for something really bad to happen to tell you that you have Multiple Sclerosis.’ Shortly after this, the karma moment happened. I woke up and couldn’t see.
December 23, 2019, I walked into my neurologist’s office and was given the earth-shattering news the activity in my MRI had progressed. I was now Cara with an incurable disease, 2 days before Christmas. I was Cara with Multiple Sclerosis. I needed to find people who could help me understand this. I didn’t know who to talk to or how to feel. I decided, we all have social media in common so I started my Instagram page, and it saved my life.
I was extremely suicidal and felt so isolated. Life did not feel worth living. I could not comprehend how anyone just takes this news and thrives. I only saw a wheelchair, no kids, and a miserable existence. Little did I know, the chronic illness community on Instagram, and MS, in particular, would make me feel apart of something bigger than myself. More importantly, it gave me a purpose. I had 16-year-old men and women asking ME for advice because they have weird symptoms, and were scared. People without family reached out to confide in me, and it made me feel like I had a reason to stay.
It’s been 345 days since my diagnosis. Since I genuinely thought life was over and I’m here to tell you – your journey is only beginning and it’s going to be hard but YOU’VE GOT THIS! My grandmother Susan used to always tell me growing up, ‘There is no such thing as a bad life, just a bad day,’ and I have applied this statement to my day for the last 345 days.
It’s easy to lay down and let how you feel win. I could lay in bed all day and feel sorry for myself, or I can be a positive light in someone else’s day to give them the determination to believe in themselves. I’m still human. I have bad days, but I have grown to love my Multiple Sclerosis rather than hate it. Hate is a feeling that robs you of feeling the good things. Multiple Sclerosis does not control me. The only thing I am certain of in my life is I may not be able to control the situation, but I can control my reaction and that’s what’s important.
Yes, I’ve had a hard life. Yes, it’s unfair that at 23 I got diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. But if all I did was focus on the what if’s, I would be no better off than the Cara who told herself every day as a teenager she was going to die.
I wake up every day and I write a gratitude list. These aren’t huge things. It usually goes a little something like this: ‘I am grateful for the sun. I am grateful for water. I am grateful for the love of my family I am grateful for medicine.’
These little snippets of gratitude give me something to smile about every day and that’s how I survive. To anyone who needs to hear it, you might feel like you’re on an airplane that is plummeting towards the ground, but someday you’re going to get out of your seat and get that airplane to the ground safely. Yes, it’ll be traumatizing, but you’ll look back and recognize if you could get through something that difficult, you can get through ANYTHING! I promise.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Cara Molloy from Derry, Northern Ireland. You can follow her story on her MS Instagram or personal Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more about chronic illness:
‘I felt the right side of my face go numb. ‘I’m sorry, we found some lesions on your brain.’ At just 20 years old, I was in shock.’: Young woman with multiple sclerosis says ‘I have lots of life left to live’
‘Ma’am, have a seat.’ I wanted to scream, ‘Look at the scar down my chest, I’m not making this up!’ but it was too late. They didn’t believe me.’: Woman finally diagnosed with invisible illness Myasthenia Gravis after 6-year battle
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