If your life is like mine, Multiple Sclerosis has the potential to occupy most of your thoughts during the day. Maybe your symptoms require near-constant attention. Or perhaps, like me, you experience constant nerve pain. I bet you’re irritable. I bet sometimes you wish those around you could feel what you feel so that they could truly understand. I bet that you’re often sad. I bet that you’re driving the world away from you. Multiple Sclerosis and relationships don’t always go well together. I’m writing today about grace, kindness, and regret.
I live in admiration of people who live lives that are not dictated by their disease and symptoms. It’s unlikely that I will ever believe in the power of positive thought, but I do believe in smiles and in kindness. As I get older I realize that my face is going to be lined from a furrowed brow and frowns. Instead, I want laugh lines. Instead of tolerating my days, I want to live them. I do not want all of my experiences to be colored by pain and fear.
Why would I ever wish that those around me could feel what I feel? I should be grateful that they are free from it. And I am grateful – I am grateful for those that have remained with me and have tolerated me. Looking back, I have complained more than I should have. Was it justified? Sure, as much as any complaint can be justified. Should I have? Well, that depends. Things grow: from saplings to trees and from infants to adults. We also all grow in understanding and wisdom over the course of our lives. Some are fortunate enough to grow in compassion. Everyone is on a path to understand themselves and the world we share, and we are all at different milemarkers.
It’s easy to feel hurt when others don’t seem to care or understand what we’re going through. The truth is, they can never possibly fully understand. Accept this, love them and accept their love. Recognize them when they treat you with grace and compassion. When they treat you as though there’s nothing wrong with you, even if you are keenly aware at that exact moment that there are problems, try to see yourself in their eyes.
We must remember, even when the disease feels like it is controlling our lives and every moment of our day – the truth is that the world does not revolve around us. Our loved ones, even the person closest to you of everyone in the world, has their own set of priorities and things that they care about. So many family members ask my husband how I’m doing – I can see that it hurts him that they’ve stopped asking him questions about himself.
Each year I make a list of goals that I hope to accomplish or begin to work toward for that year. At the top of list 2012 is “stop talking about MS.” My blog is exempt from this, but I don’t want this disease to define me to other people even if it defines me to my own self some days. I am more than my disease and so are you.
My goal for now is to spend 1 day doing everything I can possibly do to not focus on MS. To focus on those around me. To not bring it up to anyone. To take down the handicap placard and drive without oncoming traffic seeing that label next to my face
If you’d ever had to take baclofen, diazepam, or most other drugs common to those of us with MS, you know that your driving was awful as you got used to the drug. When you were younger you may have judged people more. You may have cared less about other people’s problems. Be patient and kind to those you meet. Try to accept people around you with no judgment. When the light turns green and the driver in front of you doesn’t hit the gas right off the bat, remember that you’ve probably done worse.
All of my regrets can be distilled down to one simple wrong: at times in my life I have been unkind or not kind enough. When we are engrossed with our disease, do we remember to be kind to others or do we just expect their kindness in exchange for our existence? Care about others the way you want them to care about you. Try to understand what others are going through the way you wish they understood your pain and disability. For one day, try to be the rest of the world. When others fail you, forgive them.
Think about yourself very critically for a moment. Deep down, you know that there are things you do that can wear on those you love. Be grateful for your loved ones. You are blessed to have them in your life. When you feel irritable and find yourself feeling angry with someone you love, remember the things you love about them. You should always stand up for yourself, but choose your battles wisely. Love those around you with all your heart.
Sometimes an MS diagnosis can make us feel very alone. But we aren’t. I am grateful for my family and for my husband’s family – they are all concerned about me and love me very much. I am grateful for my friends who put up with me limping around slowly, unable to stand heat, being a general drag. I am grateful for my employer and coworkers who show faith in my ability and don’t discriminate against me. I am grateful for my friends with MS who understand life with MS so well. I am grateful for everyone in my life. Of all things in this world, I am most grateful for my husband who loves me unconditionally, before diagnosis and after.
Who are you grateful for? How can you be kinder to your loved ones?