My Alienating Perspective
As I sit on my couch, scrolling through social media on my phone, I notice a torrent of updates from a family member complaining about some recently delivered cleaning product arriving damaged. As I read up on the tirade, it became clear that this was more than an inconvenience to them, it was just another sign of how their life is somehow worse than they’d like it to be. These sort of complaints are common, especially in this day of social media, where it seems like we can often have a steady view into people lives any time we want (or don’t want). This often unfiltered view into people’s lives and their daily problems can often make me feel alienated from and resentful of many people. As I struggle in a fight against Multiple Sclerosis, the many mundane problems of most people begin to feel trivial and greatly impact my perspective on them.
Everyone has problems
I get it, I do, everyone has daily difficulties in their life. Let’s face it, everyone sees their own issues as the most important, the most difficult. As I sit here and complain about someone’s mundane problems and compare them to mine, there could be someone dying of cancer seeing me complain and think the same thing about me. You can never truly be in someone else’s shoes, so we shouldn’t judge them on what they complain about. Not everyone can handle the same threshold of pain and problems that life throws at you. I know all that, I know that any sort of judgment is wrong. With my perspective, when I see someone complaining about a crappy day at work, when I’m unable to work and wishing that I could even have that bad day at a job, frustration begins to build and I can’t understand them. But perspective is the key word there, I’m not seeing it from their perspective, only my own. I fully understand this, but it doesn’t make it easier.
When you live a life with a disease as long as I have and have had the problems I’ve had, it becomes harder and harder to match the perspective of those who haven’t gone through that. We often say, you don’t “get” MS, until you get MS. Lately, I worry about the inverse being true. Have I been fighting this disease so long that I now forget what life is like for other people who don’t have it? Am I losing that ability to connect with most people? It sure feels like it sometimes. Having an extra or different set of daily issues than most has made it harder for me to relate to people. That kind of scares me. For someone that already feels pretty isolated, it makes all of my time alone even more difficult. Loneliness is a huge problem for many people with MS, and this is no doubt part of the problem. It’s not simply that we are physically separated from most people (though that is a big part of it), it’s that our perspectives change and we can no longer relate to others.
This isn’t just an MS thing
I’ve been trying to take a step back these days. Every time someone complains about something, and I begin to think, oh really? You think your life is hard? I try to stop myself. I try to remember that none of this is about difficulty. This isn’t about one person’s life being more difficult than another’s life (no matter how hard it is not to think that). It’s about differences. Their life is just different than mine. I know I need to halt my rush to judgment, my reaction to think, “oh, my life is so much more difficult”. That’s so hard to do, but I challenge all of us to stop and reflect before we rush to judgement. Many times, someone’s complaint may seem trivial, but it may be a sign of something deeper, it may simply be a final straw. I think we all need to realize that we can never really be in someone else’s shoes, we can never know their perspective. Everyone is going through something they aren’t talking about. It’s important to remember that. When I do, I suddenly don’t feel as alienated. We don’t need to see someone else's perspective to be understanding of it, to recognize that it’s simply different and not less difficult.
How well do people around you understand MS?