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The Brian Petrelli Team

My Diagnosis with M.S.
-Brian Petrelli

A few months after I received my Real Estate License, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Besides my immediate family, I told no one for almost two years.

Multiple Sclerosis is a scary, unpredictable disease and it affects everyone in different ways. For me, high temperatures cause my arms and legs to tingle, go numb and do weird things. I've had vision problems, a few other "episodes," and my biggest issue is spasticity (muscle tightness). For each person, it's different.

Open Invitation To Talk

When I was diagnosed, I had no one to talk to, no idea of what my future held, and I was filled with fear and anxiety. If you are seeing this message, even if I don't know you personally, I welcome you to contact me by email ( ) or cell phone (303-817-0209).

This is a legitimate invitation because I vividly remember feeling alone and terrified. Having someone to talk to would have made a world of difference to me.

Thoughts After 20 Years With M.S.

This is a Facebook post that I made on my 21st anniversary with multiple sclerosis:

Today marks the 21st anniversary of the day that I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

When I was diagnosed with M.S., I had no one to talk to and I knew very little of what to expect. It was a very lonely and scary time. As I do every year, I want to invite anyone who has been diagnosed, or who had someone close to them diagnosed (Facebook friend or not), to give me a call to talk about the disease.

This year's post is going to be different from anything I've shared before. It's long and most likely won't apply to you unless you are struggling with something difficult.

Every year I am contacted by several people who have been diagnosed with M.S. or a similar condition. Almost every time, I am asked how do I "aways have such a positive attitude?" or how am I "always so happy?"

I will try to honestly answer how I "usually" have a positive attitude and how I am "usually" happy.

When I was first diagnosed, I went through a deep depression. I figured that my life and everything I had worked for (my health, physical fitness, independence, future activities, kids, etc.) was over. In the first six months I lost 40 lbs., and almost gave up trying to do anything other than earn a living.

During that time, I questioned why God would allow this to happen to me. There was a lot of bargaining, frustration, yelling, crying and raw anger at God. I was mad, bitter, or sad 95% of the time.

(Before I continue, I need to stop and tell you of a time when I was quoted scripture from a pastor at the worst day and lowest point of my life (This was before my M.S. diagnosis). At the time, I came into his office, and his only response to my world falling apart was to quote Philippians 4:4-7 in a cold, matter of fact manner:

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

It was at that moment that I wanted to lunge across his desk and punch him in the face. Repeatedly. Violently. Did he not understand what was happening?! That's all he had to say?!

My world was a mess. Everything I had planned for my life was now a humiliating disaster. In response to that, without any explanation, the Pastor simply quoted that verse and nothing else. To be fair he was a younger pastor, and his intentions were good, but the dispassionate way he presented it to me at the time simply made things worse.

It turns out that the worst day of my life was the best day of my life. That day changed the trajectory of my life and led to the family, life and love I am surrounded by now.

But that painful interaction with my pastor, and his seemingly callous and rigid response stayed with me. It is why I hesitate to simply quote scripture to those who are struggling.

It's why I hesitate to do it now.)

Having said all of that, my struggles with M.S. have brought me closer to God and helped me see my life, and this world, from His point of view (usually).

Ironically, the scripture that my pastor quoted to me at my lowest point, is one I remember quite often (although I use quite a bit more context with it). When you see this world, and our situation in it from the perspective that God wants to use us as we are, it makes you understand that every interaction with someone is a chance to show them that the joy that you have is real. Not to "fake it" in front of them, but to show them that being in a wheelchair with half your body's muscles in constant spasm doesn't mean you can't laugh, make them laugh and enjoy (rejoice in) what God has given, and done for, you.

When you see me happy, fun and with a positive attitude, never forget that we all have times where we break down, cry, and get angry. We live in a broken world, and we're all broken inside of it. I am certainly not an exception. I still have my moments of anger and sadness. Moments where I mourn who I used to be and get frustrated at my limitations now.

So, to answer the question of "How do I stay so happy and positive," I risk repeating the mistake that my pastor made decades ago. I want to quote another Bible verse. James 1:2-4:

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

Yes, M.S. (or any horrible situation) is terrible to live with. Yes, I've begged God to take it away from me. But he has used the disease to mold me into a far better man than the self-reliant, do-it-on-my-own, 27-year-old Brian could have ever been. He's still using it to work on me.

I'm going to give the ultimate spoiler alert here. In the end, Jesus wins. In the end, whatever I am dealing with here is only temporary (Romans 8:18). What I can do, is to use what I am capable of now (and what I'm not) to try to love God and love others.

So, while I don't "rejoice" or "consider it pure joy" every one of the 100's of times a day I have to deal with my M.S., I do try to see every struggle as a way that God is changing me. I try to "rejoice" and thank Him for the people he has put in my life to help me. I would never have met many of them if I didn't have this disease. My life is vastly better because of them.

I try to find "joy" that my inability to do many activities gives me extra time at home with Erica to enjoy our patio, a cigar, and a bourbon. To play video games with my sons. To just be there and available.

I try to "not be anxious about anything." (I struggle with this one.) At 48 years old, I should be in the prime of my career. However, instead of my career going in the direction that I thought I wanted, I have been "forced" to rely on an amazing team of agents that have made our company better and more fulfilling than if I had gone it alone.

I try to thank God for the things that I hate and that constantly remind me that I will never walk again on this earth: The electric wheelchairs that makes my life functional. The MRI's, medications, and injections that I am forced to take every day just to stay mobile.

Finally, my disease helps me remember that every single person is struggling with something. They just don't have a wheelchair to draw attention to it.

So, if you're struggling with something, I probably can't help. But we can sit on the porch, have a drink, and laugh (and cry) together.

The simple answer to the question "why am I usually happy," is because I try to always remember two things: 1.) I try to rejoice in what He has given me and 2.) Most importantly, to remember that in the end, Jesus wins.

If you don't know that, then you can give me a call as well.