When I Fail At Keeping In Touch

When I Fail At Keeping In Touch

Recently, I had someone message me to ask about their friend, who, like me, suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. This person was pretty distraught that their friend really wasn’t getting back to them as quickly as she’d like. Her concern was that perhaps she had done something wrong, done something to upset her friend with MS. She figured that must be the reason that her friend wasn’t so quick with getting back to her. I explained that it likely isn’t that at all, but rather, that living with MS can make it difficult to get back to people in a timely manner.

I'm guilty of this behavior, too

After talking with her, I realized I’m pretty guilty of this behavior, too. In fact, I’m pretty sure that getting back to people and keeping lines of communication open and frequent is just one of many reasons that MS can turns friends into strangers. With all of the ways we can communicate these days, you would think that this wouldn’t be an issue. Even though I pretty much rule out ever talking on the phone, there are still many ways to keep in touch. Texting, instant messaging, email, and various social media outlets are just some alternatives. With all of these options, it would seem like I have no excuse, right?

Fatigue, cognitive issues, and memory difficulties

Despite so many avenues of communication, I’m still terrible at regularly communicating. One reason is most certainly fatigue. While it will seem like a terrible excuse to some, if you’ve ever experienced MS-related fatigue, you know it’s extremely valid. I can feel so heavy and so fatigued that even reaching for my phone can seem like a daunting task. Which means that I’ll put it off when I think about it. Putting something like that off then becomes a slippery slope because of cognitive issues. If I don’t do something as soon as I think about it, my memory difficulties will usually ensure that I’ll completely forget it. It’s not that I forget because I don’t care, that’s something I wish people could understand. I care very much, however, my brain simply doesn’t work the way it should.

I psych myself out

So it’s not always one issue that makes me bad at keeping in touch, but a combination of symptoms that come together in a perfect storm. Add to that, when (or if) I do remember to respond to someone or check on someone, I’ll realize how I had forgotten and feel a bit ashamed. Even with a legitimate excuse, it’s embarrassing and I’m left wondering if they’ll really believe the truth. I start to psych myself out and put off contacting them even longer. Even the most understanding friend or family member can get fed up with this behavior. It can also lead to them being dismissive of us and starting to not care, because they think we don’t care. It’s an awful and all too common occurrence for those with MS and certainly one that ends up severing some relationships.

Trying to get better

So I’m trying to get better at staying in touch with folks. I think keeping myself aware that it’s a problem is a key first step in getting better at it. Keeping my phone close to me and utilizing reminders is another step. Remembering to mark items as “unread” has been helpful too. When I am feeling decent, I’m also trying to go back and review my various forms of communication, to see what I’ve missed. Despite my efforts, I know I’ll still make mistakes. Some lines of communication will fall through the cracks. I just hope my friends and family will read this and realize that I do care and I will get back to you, I simply ask for some patience and understanding.

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