Exactly how I happened upon it I’m not exactly sure, but there it was… A picture of me at work. The memories came rushing back, and I relished in them. It made me smile. I remembered the day, having my coworker wanting to take the picture that morning, the outfit, how much I enjoyed my job, how I felt when I was able to work…
There are many moments in life that leave us feeling defeated, brokenhearted, and at a loss. The moments that leave you struggling and it hurts so much you feel that you can’t imagine going on. I’ve had a handful of these moments happen in my life, and one of those moments is when I realized the life-changing reality that MS could bring.
The harsh reality
When I was first diagnosed I didn’t have a clue what to expect, because honestly, I had never even heard of this disease. All I knew was that it sounded scary, but I was young, naive, and resilient, so I didn’t worry too much in the beginning. Years after the fact, I began truly understanding the negative effects it could have on my body. And those moments left me questioning everything. I would compare it to an unseen, bad break up. You don’t sense it coming and it leaves you wondering what on earth you did to deserve such pain. It hurts in every imaginable way. You feel like a piece of your heart has been ripped out and stomped on, and it leaves you gasping for air. Everything you imagined and had planned for your future is now a big question mark. When I finally grasped the seriousness of this disease I went through all of those emotions. It hurt like heck, and left me bewildered. The reality of it was harsh, much like the distress you go through when you experience your first true heartbreak.
Hindsight is 20/20
Personally, years after my first heartbreak, I see now why it never worked out. Of course, it’s still easy to wonder what life would be like if you were still with that person, but with time comes a sort of peace. I have peace in knowing that things with that person ended, because if they wouldn’t have then I wouldn’t have the life that I do now. I would have stayed in my hometown and never met my husband or all of the amazing people I now know. I would have never had my son. So, in ways I thank my ex-boyfriend for breaking my heart, because if he wouldn’t have then I wouldn’t have my beautiful family and friends that I can’t imagine life without.
Talking about the effects that increased temperatures have on those of us with Multiple Sclerosis is something I’ve done many, many times.
Discussions of the effects of warmer weather are common in publications geared towards MS. However, one aspect of this weather that I feel doesn’t get its due is the effects of increased humidity. As we have been going through a period of intense humidity where I live in the mid-Atlantic United States, this seems like as good a time as any to talk about it. Increased humidity can be extremely devastating to someone with MS, even when the ambient temperature is fairly mild. Increased humidity alone is enough to raise our body temperatures and bring about a rapid worsening of symptoms.
Like many people suffering from a chronic and often invisible illness, I rarely bring up how I am actually feeling when talking to someone. Even when specifically asked, I’ll give the standard “I’m fine” or “oh, you know, good days and bad”. I will, occasionally, if I feel comfortable enough, be more truthful and explain that I’m in pain, or I had a bad fall, or I’m fatigued, or any of the many, many symptoms I encounter. Being truthful about how I actually feel is a rarity, so it’s especially disheartening to have someone complain about their own health afterwards. Regardless of the reasons for doing it, this act of one-upmanship can be especially discouraging to those with a chronic illness.
Why do people do this?
I’m not entirely sure why people feel the need to one up someone when it comes to talking about their health. Some people will obviously be trying to sympathize and show that they too know what it’s like to feel crappy. I’m sure some people don’t know how to relate and think that talking about the negatives of their health seems like the best option. Others though, just need to be the center of attention. They always have to be the person with the worst condition. If you are fatigued, well, they’re “super tired”, too. If you are in pain, they’ve also got pain somewhere. Whether it is truly trying to relate to us or just trying to gain superiority and attention, it’s still pretty demoralizing.