When I Can't Look In the Mirror

My life with multiple sclerosis is filled with a lot of the common symptoms that many with the disease experience, such as:

The combined effects of these symptoms

While all these can make life a bit difficult on their own, their combined effect of landing me on disability is often my greatest hurdle each day. To be a bit more specific, my illness forced me from my career, which has made me feel like an unproductive person. This feeling festers in my mind, no matter how much I fight against it; so much so, that I have days when I can’t even look at myself in the mirror.

An ongoing issue

If you’ve been reading what I write for a bit now, then you know this is far from the first time I’ve covered this topic. You likely also know that I am far from alone with these feelings. Since I left my career, I’ve been plagued with feelings of inadequacy, confusion about what I can do with my life, and even with questions about why I am still alive.

I am my own worst enemy

Sure, every time I meet someone who asks me what I do for a living it makes me consider my unfulfilled potential, but it’s not others who make me feel so lost. It’s me. I am eternally struggling with my own expectations of myself. In fact, if others questioned my life, I think I’d probably take a stand and stick up for myself. That’s not the situation though. I’m my own adversary in all of this, constantly looking down on myself for not being better.

Days when I can't do anything at all

I mean it when I say I have times where I struggle with looking at myself in the mirror. Yesterday was one such day. I woke up, and not only did I have little to do, my body was enveloped with fatigue, making even getting off the couch seem like a far-fetched idea. There are many days when I can busy myself and pull the wool over my eyes for a day, pretend like I’m everyone else, that I’m productive. Then I have days like yesterday when I feel like I can’t do anything at all. I simply exist, I feel like a burden and like a drain on resources. I’m embarrassed of myself, even when I’m the only one in the room. I can’t help but feel I should be doing more, that I should be contributing more to the world. I’m 42 and I look at others my age with their careers, with their families, with the impact they make on others, and I want that. That should be me, shouldn’t it?

I know it’s complicated

The next day, I can look in the mirror and feel a tad better about things, at least for the moment anyway. I know that I worked very hard before I was forced to move on from my career. I know that I’ve had some accomplishments in life. I also know that living with a chronic illness like MS is a job on its own, that I am actually very busy, busy being sick. I know that I work hard to simply survive. If I were capable of doing more, I would certainly do it. I know deep down that it’s not my fault and that I shouldn’t judge myself. Yes, I still accomplish things, it’s just that the scale of those accomplishments has changed.

Fighting myself

The story of MS for many people that live with it is one of constantly fighting ourselves. Yes, physically, our immune system is attacking our nervous system, but many of us are also battling our own thoughts and expectations for ourselves. Some days we will win that battle, others, we may have trouble even looking in the mirror. I do actively seek professional help for these thoughts, as I encourage everyone to do. That doesn’t mean I still don’t have bad days though. Fighting MS is a lot more than just fighting our symptoms; we’re battling our own expectations for life, too.

Thanks so much for reading and always feel free to share!

Devin

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