Skip to content
By continuing to browse this site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.
Click here to find out more »
Voices

Dublin councillor with MS: 'I was on a walking stick at 32 ... now I plan to run the marathon'

Mark Wards writes about his journey from crippling depression to running the Dublin City Marathon for MS awareness.

IN 2005, MY life as I knew it was over. After years of being hospitalised, misdiagnosed and countless tests I was diagnosed with Multiple-Sclerosis (MS).  I remember getting the news and my feelings were a mixture of relief and fear – relief that I knew exactly what I was dealing with, but the overriding emotion was fear. Fear for my family and my future.

My initial reaction was to turn into Dr Google. I researched everything I could find on MS. My state of mind at the time would not let me focus on anything positive. I basically diagnosed myself in having the worst case possible of MS.

I developed a persona that enabled me to put on a front to the outside world, that everything was fine. I was getting pats on the back of friends saying how well I was coping. The reality was different. Inside I was dying. I was caught in such a ball of fear that I isolated myself from my family including my children. I was unable to articulate how I was feeling.

I slipped into depression for a number of years. I lost a career, I pushed family and friends away. I could be on Croke Park’s Hill 16 surrounded by thousands of people and yet I felt alone. I was afraid that if I talked about how I was feeling that the persona I was portraying would shatter and I would shatter with it.

There were many interventions by concerned people during this time. I went to doctors and counselling but because I could not open up to them nothing worked. My physical health deteriorated. I was on a walking stick at the age of 32.

I had little power in my hands. I was in constant pain. I was always fatigued. My moods were extreme.

After losing another job, I found myself unemployed for the first time in my life. The shame I felt as a man who always provided for his family multiplied the other issues in my life. I had a complete mental and physical breakdown.

Depression crippled me emotionally. I could barely wash myself. My self-esteem was non-existent and I pushed everybody who cared for me away. None of this was my intention but rather symptomatic of depression.

Turn around

During this time a new fear replaced the fears I had about MS. The fear of losing my children and not being there for them kick-started a psychic change in me. Slowly I started to make changes. The first change was the easiest and also the hardest. I began to talk.

I started to change my lifestyle. I changed my diet, stopped drinking alcohol and started exercising. Gradually things started to improve. I enrolled in a course that led to college. A memory that always sticks with me is walking through UCD with all the other students and finally realising that I was as good as any of them.

I qualified as a behavioural therapist and was working in a job that I adored specialising working with people with addiction issues. I had a talent working with people who society had discarded.

I live day by day now. I believe that we only get one chance of this life and I take every opportunity I can make a difference. When I got the opportunity to represent my community of Clondalkin as a councillor I didn’t hesitate even though it was a big hit financially.

The future

To be honest, I am not a fortune-teller, I have no idea what the future will bring.

I have decided to sign up to take part in this year’s Dublin City Marathon.

The reason I have decided to take part in the marathon is to raise awareness for newly diagnosed people with MS. I was diagnosed at the age of 31, on a walking stick by the age of 32 and had myself convinced I was on the scrapheap at the age of 33.

Today I am healthy, mentally and physically.

My relationships with my family and friends are unbelievable. I live a fully active life where I try on a daily basis to make a positive difference in people’s lives – to show them that there is light at the end of the tunnel. If what I am doing helps them and their families not to suffer the way I and my family did it will be worth it.

There will be a lot of people who know me who will be shocked to find out about this. I do not need to speak about MS now as it does not impact my life as much. I have bad days but they are getting further apart. This is the first time I have spoken about MS publicly.

Having MS does not define me. I changed my thinking about MS. I am not an MS sufferer, MS suffers me, I haven’t got MS but rather MS has me and god love it.

If I believed my thoughts in 2005 I wouldn’t be able to walk to the shop today but instead, I’m running a marathon.

Mark Ward is a Sinn Féin councillor with South Dublin County Council. 

Read more from TheJournal.ie

COMMENTS (21)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

Leave a comment

cancel reply
Back to top