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.

Alienated

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.

Thanks for reading!

Devin

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Comments

View Comments (8)
  • Julie
    9 months ago

    I left work not long after I was diagnosed. Our department was being outsourced and I didn’t see the point of staying with the company.
    Some of the other women started to meet once a month for lunch or dinner just to stay in touch. These were women that I had worked with for 20 years. We had gone thru family failures, deaths, kids, and heartbreaks together.
    After a few months, I realized that these women had all gone on with their lives and I was still stuck where I left off. I felt like I couldn’t identify with any of them anymore. They talked about their new jobs and I didn’t have one. I certainly didn’t want to fill the dinnertime conversation with my medical problems.
    I stopped going after a while. I found it too depressing. Then I realized I really missed these ladies. I eventually started going back. 18 years later we still meet once a month. The conversations have shifted to family birth, death, loss and joys. All things I can identify with! I had given up on people that I actually cared about and that care about me. I still get bummed when they talk about work and coworkers but I have found it worth the time I get to spend with these women I have known for the better part of my life.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    9 months ago

    Thank you Julie! I’m glad to hear you have gone back to your group. I know exactly how you feel about no longer having anything in common with people, it’s something I am very much dealing with at the moment.

  • tfs
    9 months ago

    Devin, as always, I’m inspired by your writing. I think your awareness of this tendency is very important. We don’t have to beat ourselves up though for being human. The self-absorbed perspective does make us very unhappy. And as George Harrison wrote: That is not what we are here for.” We keep trying and that is enough. There are many tools at our disposal. Isolation kills.Keep writing. It helps us all.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    9 months ago

    Thanks so much tfs!

  • gunsnglitter69
    9 months ago

    Thank you for writing this. It is very timely for me at the moment

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    9 months ago

    Thank you gunsnglitter69! Very much appreciated!

  • SueK
    9 months ago

    I understand the frustration of people not understanding our pain and struggles. I really do. However, we quickly jump conclusions that the person who complains that their package was damaged or their refund was delayed are being frivolous. But what do we really know? Everyone has a story, not told. What if they are a bit more prone to frustration because they have bigger fish to fry. Perhaps their child that is dying, or they are victims of abuse? Maybe they struggle with a far more serious illness? I find far too many MSers believe their disease outweighs anything that anyone could possible be facing.

    On a site I’m a regular on, one young woman with RRMS stated that she is so angry and jealous of her sister.

    “My parents pay more attention to my older sister. Sure! She has stage four ovarian cancer, but what about me? They are useless! Maybe my sister is sick for now but I’m stuck with this f***ing MS the rest if my life!!!”

    When I commented that at least MS will not kill us, she lashed out stating that “ALL cancers are curable but MS is not!”

    Yes. Perhaps we do push people away. There is such anger and rage among some that have. They quickly lash out at those who fumble their way through trying to be supportive when they simply don’t understand, and think their struggles take priority in this world. Are we so much better? Are we infalliable? No. We all make mistakes, but easily forget that. We suffer, but no more than others. I watch my brother, mother and father die from cancer and i feel blessed to have just MS and diabetes. There may not be a cure firveither, but how i fightbit and keep it at bay is within my control.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    9 months ago

    Thank you SueK, I hope other will read this and see it as a reminder!

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