Am I Lazy or Is MS Actually to Blame?
Last updated: April 2022
Most people living with multiple sclerosis have probably experienced the feeling that others think they are lazy. Or maybe they have flat out been accused! At the very least, I'm sure everyone has encountered at least one other person with MS who has shared this experience. It can be painful to feel like you're being looked at as a human sloth due to your inability to "keep up" because if you have MS, you can't help it. MS commonly causes people to not be able to do the things they once could. But lately, I've been catching myself wondering if I really am lazy.
Are people with MS lazy?
Why do people think we are lazy? Well, in my opinion, this is an easy question to answer. People tend to believe what they see. I think it's human nature. With that in mind, what do we know about symptoms such as fatigue, spasticity, pain, or vertigo? They're invisible. You can't see them, which means the people around you only get to see you "lying around doing nothing." They see the 'what' but not the 'why.'
Making assumptions based on appearances
Since people usually accept the easiest explanation as the most likely explanation, you can see why they would jump to the conclusion that you're just being lazy. I find this really frustrating, but I do understand it. I'm sure I've made similar assumptions based on appearances even when I know that you can't judge a book by its cover. That's just how our brains work. It's up to us to catch ourselves in moments like this and seek the entire picture before reaching a conclusion.
It's symptoms of MS fatigue
This all leads to one of the most challenging and irritating parts of everyday life with MS: trying to explain to people that there is something there, even though they can't see it. It's unfortunate, but this is a burden that falls on us - the ones living with this illness. It can be really hard to explain something that we ourselves don't entirely understand. But I guess it's just another responsibility that came with MS. Having to teach others around us about a disease we are often still learning about ourselves. Sometimes we succeed, but a lot of the time we don't. That is one more thing in life with MS that we don't have much control over.
But what if it's not MS?
Despite everything I know, and despite the fact that I would tell anyone else saying what I'm about to say that they are wrong, I have caught myself wondering...am I? Am I lazy, or is it really just my MS? The thought comes from a small part of my brain, but it actually raises many questions for me. Questions like, "Why do I feel lazy?" "What am I doing to make myself feel lazy?" and "What can I do to stop feeling this guilt?"
Why couldn't I get more done?
I've literally been having a hard time falling asleep at night because this question has really been weighing on me lately. I lie there thinking about everything I accomplished for the day and wondering why I couldn't do more. Why I didn't exercise. Contemplating how I might be able to get more done tomorrow. Listening to my inner-monologue debate, whether it's a matter of how or if I can achieve more. Because maybe it really is just me? Perhaps I really am just lazy?
What I know and feel don't always match
This is just one example of how MS can cause conflicting thoughts and emotions. I know I'm not lazy. I hate it when I'm not busy. I hate feeling like I wasted another day. I could never live a life of idle luxury without losing my mind. I know about and have felt the benefits of exercise, especially when I compare it to how I feel when I don't.
At the same time, I often feel like I can't keep up with my responsibilities in life. Sometimes I feel like the world is asking way too much of me, sometimes. So, at times I feel like I am lazy and subconsciously using my MS as an excuse. This all leads to the heavy feeling of guilt that's been keeping me up at night. What I know and what I feel about my MS don't always match.
Trying to make sense of how I feel
Turning back to my bedtime reflecting on the day and trying to make sense of the mess of thoughts and feelings I've been living with, the answer seems obvious. I'm currently not doing as much as I did even just six months ago. I'm not going on my morning walks, I'm not leaving the house to run errands, and I'm not exercising the way I should be. It would be easy to blame this on the pandemic, but that's an excuse that can quickly be debunked with ease. The only blame I can actually attribute to that excuse is how it "shook up" my routine.
Getting back over the hump
Just because things are different and maybe even a little more complicated doesn't mean they are impossible. I know I can still do most of those things - I'm specifically referring to exercise - even if they aren't as easy or comfortable. But because I'm not? I've found myself back at the bottom of the hill you have to overcome to feel the positive benefits of exercise. I think if I can get back over that "hump," I'll start feeling less lazy and more productive because getting the amount of work and healthcare chores I've gotten done lately doesn't seem to be helping.
Something for people with MS to keep in mind
I could be wrong, but at this point in time, I really feel like the fact that I've not been moving as much is the reason I'm wondering if I am actually just lazy. Which I'm not. But I feel like I am. I wonder if this example of conflicting thoughts and emotions is something that others have been dealing with lately? If it is, maybe we have a sort of mental/emotional health issue on our hands in the MS community? Or perhaps this is one of those "no-duh" situations that everyone already knows about, and I'm just barely catching up to this reality.
Let me know in the comments if you can relate to any of this and if you have any tips for others dealing with this feeling.
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