Multiple Sclerosis and Jealousy
I recently wrote an article about the loneliness that those of us with MS or other chronic illnesses can experience. After talking with readers who also encounter this loneliness, I realized that there is another feeling that goes very much hand in hand with it: jealousy. This is, of course, something that I deal with as well. I feel a bit embarrassed talking about these feelings of jealousy I have, but I have always made it a point to be completely open about my experiences, so here we go.
I get jealous, insanely jealous at times, of my friends, family, wife, and even strangers. I’m at a point in my battle with MS that I can get out a little bit, but it’s a struggle, and I pay a heavy price for it. More often than not, I have to skip events or cancel at the last minute. Sometimes I know the location will be too warm, have too many stairs, or not have an easily accessible bathroom, etc. Other times, my symptoms just rear their ugly head. I’ll suddenly be in too much pain, or having bad spasms, or unable to use my legs, or any of the other issues that arise on a routine basis. Having to miss out on so much can really take its toll on you. There is the loneliness factor that I discussed before but that can quickly turn to feelings of jealousy as well. I want to go out, I want to do what everyone else is doing, I just can’t.
Sometimes, I can even be jealous of strangers. I used to be pretty athletic; now, I’ll occasionally see someone on a run and I’ll be overcome with jealousy and sadness. I want to pull them aside and tell them how much they need to appreciate that, how it can be gone so quickly. Even hearing people complain about work stirs something inside me and makes me think about how much I’d like to be able to go back to work.
The proliferation of social media has made it much worse. We are all so connected these days that we can see (at least the good parts that people want us to see) all of our friends and acquaintances living their lives. As someone who is home most of the time, I tend to look at social media even more than most. This has become a huge problem for me. I have friends that travel all the time and it kills me. I’m happy for them, but it kills me that I can’t do that. I see friends travel all over the country and world and think, “Wow, it’s a massive struggle for me to travel just an hour and half away, let alone do all that!”. This often causes a fair bit of internal reflection and I can’t help but wonder, “What happened to me? Why can’t I still do that?” There are times when it gets bad and I forbid myself from looking at social media because seeing others live the life I used to live can have strong negative effects on me.
These feelings of jealousy are natural but can be destructive. If you let yourself focus on them, you might end up being extremely angry at people you love. I’m sad to say I’ve had this happen to me. I’ve literally told my wife that I no longer want to talk to some of my closest friends because I see all they do and it makes me jealous. I’m lucky that my wife can usually calm me down and talk some sense into me. I’ve become angry with my wife and family at times because of it too. Never for long, but it’s an awful thing. Aside from anger, this deep jealousy can be a path to depression. This cycle happens to me frequently: I’m jealous, then angry, then crushingly depressed.
I’ve started to realize recently that it’s not just friends, family, and strangers that I envy. I’m jealous of who I used to be. That’s really be the biggest thing in helping me deal with all of this. That this isn’t about others at all, it’s about me. It’s about dealing with these limitations that I have now. I’m constantly on the search for little things and hobbies that I can say are mine and that can bring me joy in my current condition. Instead of thinking about my limitations, I try to remind myself that it’s just a different life, not a limited life. I also try to be thankful for the things I did and the opportunities I had prior to my disability. I try to remember this is a new journey, and to focus on enjoying life now and not living in the past. These jealous feeling still creep up though, so remember, any of you have encountered this, you aren’t alone.