The Lives of Others

Recently a family friend has had a major health-scare. On the day he was meant to be discharged, we didn’t receive any calls until late in the day, by which time my wife had become increasingly worried.

Eventually we heard that everything was fine and she broke down and admitted that after everything which has happened to us (the example she gave being my diagnosis with MS) she always expects the worst.

This was pretty mind-blowing to me. I was diagnosed getting on for 10 years ago. So my wife has been expecting the worst to happen to us ever since.

I know I can get a bit self-obsessed at times – it’s quite a life-altering diagnosis and requires a fair bit of mental recalibration. But this was a reminder that the people closest to us are having to process it too.

For example – when my wife and I first got together, I’d just come out of a long relationship, so I probably didn’t look like the safest of bets to her family. But I won them over enough that they gave me their permission when I asked for their eldest daughter’s hand in marriage.

So obviously MS showed its usual sense of timing when I received my diagnosis a few months later.

I subsequently learned that her parents had a conversation with her about whether this was what she really wanted, to take on somebody with such an unknown future health-wise. Which is obviously quite an odd thing to know about your in-laws.

But unsurprising. As a father, I get it.

At present we’re living with them while we sell our house. So the house contains four adults, one three year-old and one grumpy Staffordshire Bull Terrier. It’s been tricky but we’ve managed to rub along together okay. But there have been a couple of occasions when I’ve been aware that I’ve been having some obvious mobility issues when this conversation has come to mind.

I think this is more my problem than theirs.

We all know that MS affects each of us in uniquely awful ways. “No two the same” as the UKs Shift.MS site has it. But then we all visit the many, many MS-related websites and blogs, not in a rubber-necking nosy way, just to feel a bit less alone.

I know that I’m guilty of blithely over-sharing left right and centre, both here and at my own blog. But it’s done in the understanding that the people who read it will “get it”.

This stuff is very much out there and in the public realm. Published in my given name. And – on social networks and in my personal and professional life – I’m not exactly shy about coming forward.

Which is why it comes as something of a surprise to find how uncomfortable it makes me when a member of my family reads something I’ve written. I know they’re not reading to be nosy but still.

It’s a reminder that this stuff spreads wider than our own little lives. You can’t pick your audience.

Or at the very least, we need to know that the way we react to our everyday – or the blogs that we write – are not precision weapons and the people around us can get caught in the crossfire.

And if we’re lucky they’ll go through it all with us.

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