It's Okay to Have Fun!
When you live with a chronic illness, as I do, the idea of doing something fun can become complicated. Don’t I need to be strict and focus on my health? Will people judge me? I’m disabled, so many things are likely frowned upon, right? If I smile, doesn’t that give the wrong impression? As I wrote, in one of my first ever submissions to our “stories” sections, do I even deserve to have fun? The perceptions of others combined with the massive amount of guilt my MS puts on me often gives me pause when it comes to enjoying myself. That shouldn’t be the case though, so I’m here to remind you: it’s okay to have fun!
A common issue I struggle with is how I am perceived when someone knows that I have an illness. Even more so if they know that I am disabled. Most people have a pretty narrow view of what a disabled or a sick person should look like. I don’t normally fit in that view. Many people with multiple sclerosis often have symptoms that are not easily noticeable and I most certainly fit into that category a lot of the time.
Disability and joy
I think there is a common bias amongst people, healthy and not, that if you are sick, particularly if you are disabled, you shouldn’t be seen having a good time, as if our lives should be devoid of smiles because of our condition. Not long after I started writing, I mentioned in an article that I enjoy having a few beers. Well, my inbox got several messages lambasting me for doing such a thing, saying that it isn’t healthy and that I should be ashamed of doing such things. I’m sure I’m not the only one with a chronic illness who’s been looked down upon by others who have an uneducated and antiquated opinion about how a sick person should conduct themselves. When you come across these attitudes enough, it’s bound to make you question yourself.
In general, I’m not someone who cares much what others think of me (if I did, I wouldn’t be as open and honest in my writing as I am). So, like many of us, I am often my own harshest critic. I tend to experience a tremendous amount of guilt because of my MS. While I know that it’s not my fault that I have this disease, I still tend to feel a bit like a failure because of it. Being unable to work has been a gigantic mental hurdle for me. Even though it wasn’t my decision, I feel guilty about it. That same guilt makes me feel a little bad when I’m having a good time too. Even though I’m here telling you to not have these feelings, I still suffer from them myself. I often feel like I don’t deserve to enjoy myself. I have this unreasonable feeling inside that makes me feel like it’s wrong. I’m sick, I don’t work, I should just sit there. It may sound ridiculous, but that crosses my mind often.
Enjoying life with MS - You deserve it
The reality is that we deserve all the fun and good times we can get. Even if they aren’t always healthy and even if they aren’t always productive. If you are at all like me, you go through enough bad times to make up for it. I wake up in pain every day, I have spasms, I get confused, I fall, and the list goes on and on. Living with a chronic illness like MS can be pretty damn awful. So put other people’s perceptions aside and swallow your own guilt and allow yourself to enjoy life now and again. It’s okay to smile and it’s even okay to have fun. You deserve it.
Have you ever heard someone say the following: