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The Wise Man Seeks Not Pleasure, but Freedom From Care and Pain.”                   Aristotle

Note: The beginning is repeated in About Me but please scroll down for much more.

I have follow-up questions (your comments would be greatly appreciated):

  • What if seeking Freedom from Pain is impossible?
  • If it is impossible, can one still achieve Freedom from Care?

What if health issues like Multiple Sclerosis guarantees you will have pain at some level all the time. You are given a life sentence of ceaseless pain and suffering. There is never a day off.  Your uninvited guest is incurable and progressive – it only gets worse. Maybe you finally got diagnosed with fibromyalgia, or psoriatic arthritis, or severe muscle spasticity and painful joints.

Perhaps you have Spinal Stenosis – the narrowing of the circular hole as you look down at the vertebrae from the top of the spine – and you see the delicate cord that travels from the white matter in the brain into the spinal column where it is protected by brilliantly designed flexible yet protective vertebrae. In between each vertebrae is foramina, where our “secondary nervous system” branches out from our primary system in the brain and spine and from there spreads throughout the amazing human body. What if those are narrowing from stenosis & causing neuropathy – a ‘pins-n-needles’ sensation like when limbs fall asleep? In its extreme cases, the cord is impinged and paralysis can occur.

What if you have had 4 cervical vertebrae fused together in your neck, have had surgery on each shoulder and 2 on one knee? I could go on and on…, but an even bigger question is…

What if you have ALL of the above? If you can believe it… I do.

“Are you f!€king serious? I just turned 35! I was still playing baseball 18 months ago. Now I can hardly walk at all because the legs that used to propel me high enough to dunk a basketball are weakening every day from a disease in my brain? Now I cannot walk in a straight line? The way I walk has changed? Vertigo is a part of my life. I’m in excruciating pain all the time, I have no energy – not ever – and it’s progressive so it’s only going to get worse… what’s not to love?

“So I have 30 lesions or scars on my brain, some as big as 1.8cm, and 10 have already turned into Black Holes? There are 10 very distinct black spots on my MRI. They’re caused by repeated attacks on those 10 cells or axons that connect those cells to others and allow instant communication?” after so many attacks the cell dies and atrophies. Eventually the brain tissue collapses and fills the void. You call that ‘volume loss’ but essentially the brain shrinks? WHAT?!

That was me September 24, 2006. The neurologist confirmed what I already knew, which was that I had Multiple Sclerosis (MS), for quite a while by then to already have 30 lesions & 10 black holes. And having any disease much less Multiple Sclerosis was not even a consideration until I couldn’t maintain my balance. All the unusual aches & pains, all the irregular things that I knew were indicative of something wrong but just chalked it up to getting old and being in probably the worst shape of my life at that time. Oops!

And the several doctors that looked me over in more ways than I care to remember over 4 years before being diagnosed, not one thought to order a CT-Scan or MRI but instead concluded it was stress – 4 years before… not your finest moment! No doubt would have been helpful to detect MS much sooner and maybe I now don’t have 52 lesions with 10 black-holes. Maybe I still have the wife I spent ten (10) years with who understandably left because I was miserable and no one could tell me why except it’s my body reacting to stress of running my own law practice at 31, and a Family Law practice no less, so my body’s reaction to the stress was unlike anything I’d heard of before. It was clear the doctors were guessing yet I knew there was something really wrong with me.

So within a few years I go from thinking I have it all figured out. After being the first member of my family on either side to attend college for more than a semester. Earning BA in Philosophy with minors in Political Science & History. Become the proud recipient of Philosophy Department’s Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement. Earned a Doctorate in Law (Juris Doctorate, JD) 3 years later & passed the Florida Bar the only time I sat for it. Got a successful practice up and going and was happily married to a beautiful & brilliant woman where we enjoyed our blessings since we live in St. Petersburg overlooking Tampa Bay… I thought I followed the rules and did everything right. Then I was blindsided!

Right when you’re at your prime, everything drastically changes and it’s all taken from you. I tried to keep practicing law but my doctors were right. That kind of stress is Russian roulette for the disease like this but I am stubborn and wanted to try again once I felt better thinking if I can just strike a balance that didn’t exist & kept paying dearly for it. This took three attempts and serious progression to realize it was time to stop. If I want ANY chance to walk my daughter down the aisle at her wedding I need to take care of myself properly.

After the last several months it was clear I had to finally listen to my Neurologist and retire from the practice of law. That was the only source of extra income that kept me along with the disability. I am proud to say I worked hard enough to get back to earning enough to lose my disability for 13 months. Unfortunately my mother got very sick and died which sent me into another relapse and again kept me out of work for months. This is not what I want.

This is not why I spent so much time, money and effort to become a lawyer. I am not a lazy man that wants to live the good life off the government and help from a generous few. I want to pay them back for the thousands they’ve loaned me. And I will be a role model for my daughter to see how to handle adversity. Right now it still hurts when you feel the shame when your 7 yr. old little princess starts to ask about why there is no food in the house… that is shame and I won’t have it anymore.

It has been a long and nearly imperceptible journey to becoming this unrecognizable person and my journey to find myself again, to redefine myself will be an exciting one and I hope you will join me. I have just starting to fix all this, and it will take some time, but I have already come quite far. One doesn’t take the route I did to become a lawyer only to then sit back and live like a pauper by living off my disease. Not sure how people can live just off the disability, but I simply didn’t pay in enough so I’m not even close to the poverty level.

Now I am back on disability and – I am not ashamed so here goes – I must acknowledge it is impossible to live off the just over $1000 per month in Social Security disability I receive. For a decade practiced law to supplement the disability and stay above poverty level but can do so no longer. How can anyone live on that? You cannot. I was in my mid 20’s… no one thinks of getting an incurable, neurological disease that will keep you from what I spent my life trying to become so what I paid in was pathetic.

Now what? I must find a way to happiness… or if not happiness because there will always be pain, find the best way to seek and perhaps achieve the “Freedom from Care” of which Aristotle spoke.

Well, I have been dealing with shame of being a defective human being since diagnosed. It appears I have lost my identity as a Lawyer. But from having the relationship and house of your dreams to being a diseased, shell of your former self having your most productive earning years taken from you. Add to the disappointment of not being able to give my daughter the material things we all want for our kids. I also know the diseased freak I saw in the mirror is unworthy of another’s love, so it is best to simply acknowledge that no one will ever love me so I can get that out and move one just get that out of your mind. This is a life sentence of solitude and suffering – and being a single parent trying to be an example of how to handle adversity while seeing myself as a lame, worthless member of society that looks pretty healthy. These are thoughts I knew were logically inaccurate but they are still very powerful.

I handled it so poorly for a decade and carried much shame and guilt… an overwhelming sense of worthlessness for so long. Those days are done! There will still be struggles and bad days, but I am going to get busy living. I love to write and think there is much worthwhile I have to say and even more to learn. The intellectual life is only interfered with by how much I allow the pain into that part of my life. Constant pain can so easily take over all of you but I choose not to allow that to happen and embrace who I am – all of it. And not be ashamed of it or feel guilty and ashamed of all it my health will keep me from achieving (or using that as the ready-made excuse).

Now I want to be a writer. I want to build a community of people with similar interests and curious minds that may even value what I think. I want to be big enough for a Podcast and I will. That will be sensational but will also take some time. Meanwhile I am forced to ask for donations as the work will justify it. The request for donations will go away or I will launch a charity and continue donations for The National MS Society or something as soon as possible.  Now I swallow my pride, set aside the shame and ask you to PLEASE:

  • SIGN UP FOR EMAIL, get your friends to as well; and
  • DONATE only if you can spare $10 minimum or more. Donate Here

I can verify everything about me in this post if there is any doubt. But now I must humbly ask that you to sign up for the email, get as many friends to do the same, check out my work as new posts will start coming regularly, and if you can spare $10 or more to donate  I will accept it with humility and assure you it is needed, for a good person that will get out of this spot but will never forget those that helped while I get a Freelance writing career underway.

You will see the effort I put into  making this blog will be worth $10 every once in a while and I most anxiously await comments and a sense of community. I can keep working and soon have enough freelance work to survive and can proudly stop taking donations for myself and will perhaps send them to the National MS Society. My mind is all that that MS cannot take away from me and I will figure out how I can support myself & my daughter, give myself time for therapy and nutrition and life a full life through my mind, my curiosity, my love of learning, and hopefully gather a community to generate dialogue and a civil exchange of ideas.

Whether healthy or not, who among us will not benefit from examining how to go about living a good life?  Let us explore that topic and the countless related topics together. We will and enrich our own lives and the lives of each other. I look forward to it.

Please take the second to sign up for email alerts and open the site so I will get legitimate traffic and a following even if some of the entries aren’t for you. The focus will be my search for how to live a “Good” or “Happy” Life despite the obvious challenges. I will focus on continuing to learn and grow intellectually in the never-ending search for wisdom or even happiness.

Publishing books and a podcast will come if the following builds. Everyone can help me just by sharing this with people you may think will like reading about my journey. Be it because they have MS or their own problems and/or love to see how I apply Philosophy to out daily lives. Maybe they will benefit from a group of people who refuse to be defined by their limitations. Perhaps you may just think the site is interesting on its own merit. Whatever the reason, please give it a shot and spread the word. I really think you will like it. Thank you so much for getting this far & signing up for the email.

With humility but no shame,

Kevin Farris