Today I forgot that I had MS. I didn’t remember until I got to work and saw my Walk MS team sign hanging in my office. I was surprised at first, not that I had MS but that I forgot. How could I possibly forget something like that, I wondered? I felt a little guilty but then I felt gratitude because I realized that it wasn’t the first time. I forget all the time and I’m glad that I am able to forget but it got me thinking about the MS community in general and wondering if I’m alone in this respect.
I am a member of several online groups for MS and a few months ago I unsubscribed from all of them because I couldn’t handle how they made every single second of every single day about MS for me. They’re great for when I have a question about symptoms or how to cope with something but with the constant interaction with group members, I couldn’t help but feel like I was beginning to use my illness as a crutch whenever I didn’t want to do something or as an explanation for every single ailment that I ever had.
Social psychology indicates that we tend to gravitate towards people that have things in common with us. Once we develop that bond or sense of belonging, we also tend to influence one another’s behavior. I was slowly losing my sense of self-awareness and instead, adopting that of the group, most of whom were in much worse physical condition than me. I had to get away. I have lots of things that I want to accomplish and even more things that I enjoy doing in my spare time and I realized that I don’t have the time or the energy to dedicate to the constant thoughts and worries that the groups were creating for me. Instead of helping, the groups were only adding to my anxiety. I’ve worked extremely hard at identifying my sources of anxiety over the past year but more importantly at eliminating or overcoming them and this was a win for me.
The change was almost immediate. I stopped thinking of myself as a person with MS and started thinking of myself as a daughter, a sister, a wife, a friend, a dog-mom, and a co-worker and I’m proud to be all of those things once again. I am mindful. I am focused. I am present.
Perhaps my symptoms and disabilities aren’t as severe or as life-altering or maybe I just deal with them in a little different way. I struggle to do something as simple as button my pants or zip my coat multiple times a day and often deal with fatigue that forces me to slow down or skip out on things I really want to do. I have trouble making my right foot operate correctly some days and have the balance of a two year old but I enjoy the challenge of finding new ways to do the things I need or like to do. I don’t necessarily think of my symptoms as symptoms. Instead, I think of them as just another part of life for me and that’s the way I’d like to keep it.
I’m not a fighter or a warrior. I’m just really good at coping.
Sometimes I cope in private and don’t share things with anyone at all and other times I cope by sharing EVERYTHING. Writing about it is one of my favorite coping mechanisms and while I may have bad days or weeks, I choose not to make my life all about MS. I’m not a person with MS. I’m just a person and I will keep on coping in the best way that I know how. Thanks for listening.