A woman looking down while a monster peers over her shoulder representing the presence of a chronic condition that is invisible but always with her.

The Monsters Within Us

“You never know what kind of monster is hiding behind a friendly smile.” This quote was found in a book I recently read. I am a sucker for books that keep me on the edge of my seat, and I have been addicted to book series on my Kindle about fictional FBI and police cases. As a mom, I know how important it is to have my alone time, and my “me time” has recently become getting in the bed once the kids are asleep and escaping with these books for a while.

MS: the invisible monster

If you’ve read some of my past articles, you will see that I have often used the word "monster" to describe MS and its symptoms. I have also written an article about not judging someone on their outside appearance because we never know what someone is dealing with. My MS is primarily invisible, so this is something I am deeply passionate about. The quote I shared in the first paragraph reminded me of that. 2020 was a year of monsters in itself, but adding illnesses and diseases like MS is a monster, too.

A smile doesn't mean a person isn't struggling

I try to be as nonjudgemental as possible, but I am human and I do have my days where I find myself judging someone for their actions. I am consistently reminding myself that while I may want to judge, I do not know what kind of day they are having or what monsters they are currently fighting. Just because someone may be smiling, it doesn’t mean they aren’t facing hell on the inside. I have many days when my monsters lie right beneath my skin, yet I keep a smile on my face. There are many times I wish I wasn’t this way because I am often told how strong I am, and now that I have triplets, I get the comment of, “I don’t know how you do it all” often. Some days, I just want to wipe the smile off my face and SCREAM that it isn’t easy.

Feeling frustrated and helpless at time

My husband works so hard for our family so that I can work from home and raise our babies. That means I am by myself most days. I, unfortunately, do not have the convenience of family nearby to help. So, I have learned over the past 15 months how to do it by myself. Many days, I want to cry out in frustration. I feel helpless more times than I would care to admit. I try to remain positive because if I don’t, I might break, which I cannot afford. I have MS and 4 kids; I am not a superhero. I am a mom doing my best for my children.

Stress and exhaustion

Little do those people know that there are some days that I am so drained that all I want to do is lay in my bed and cry by the end of the day. The pasted-on happy face isn’t always full of cheer. Honestly, behind the smile, my happy face is full of stress and determination more often than not. There are many days I lay down in exhaustion, just grateful to have made it through another day. There are moments I break down. There are times I have to go to my room and close the door just to have a moment alone, a moment to breathe.

Outer appearances are deceiving

I do not write any of this for sympathy or pity. In fact, I began writing this with positive intentions, but sometimes a girl has to vent. I am madly in love with my children and our life! I write this as a reminder that we all struggle. I write this to remind you to remember that just because someone is smiling and friendly, it does not mean they have not had their fair share of monsters that day. Outer appearances are deceiving.

Still grateful at the end of the day

Thankfully, as most of my days come to an end, I lie down grateful and in awe of this life. I am thankful that despite MS, I have gone on to have 4 beautiful kids and a loving, supportive husband that provides for us. But there are also the days I lie down with exhaustion so heavy that I wonder how I will do it all again tomorrow. Sometimes, I don’t even realize the monsters are within until I have reached a point that they start clawing their way out in the form of outbursts or crippling anxiety. As important as it is to remember to be kind and nonjudgemental, it is also important to remember to take those little breathers and step away if needed. We have to keep those monsters at bay. MS is enough of a monster for us each day!

With love,

Calie

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