The Importance of Talking About Your Struggles
Something I have always known, but maybe not been so good at, is the fact that we as people need to talk about our problems. Some people, especially those not living with a chronic disease like Multiple Sclerosis, may not be big on talking things out and that is ok. In my experience however, after having talked to hundreds and hundreds of MS patients over the years, it seems to be really unhealthy to not talk about things. I didn’t like to talk about my problems before MS so sometimes, even though I have got much better at it, there are certain things I just do not know how to talk about or simply do not want to talk about. Now what I have noticed about this in particular, both in myself and others, is that keeping things bottled up inside, no matter how small of an issue it may seem like, can really start to eat away at us. It’s like a poisonous weed, it starts out as a small seed planted deep within us but over time it grows and grows consuming every bit of the “positive landscape” we may have had inside us and as time progresses it begins to reach the surface and we may no longer be able to hide it from the people around us whether it is a family member, a friend or a stranger at the store. Keeping these negative feelings (be it stress, depression, anger, regret, envy, sorrow, frustration or whatever) buried within us does nothing but cause harm in some way shape or form, in fact, it definitely affects our physical health! Just read about stress and insomnia!
Now many people really promote seeing a therapist to talk about our issues and try to figure out how to deal with them properly. I completely understand how this could help but as I said before I grew up dealing with my own issues in solitude; I didn’t really like (or know how) to express my feelings and sometimes it is still difficult for me. I can remember as a troublesome teen, seeing a therapist one time and I hated it! I understand that there is a huge difference between seeing a “regular” therapist and one who specializes in people with a chronic disease like MS but I still just do not like the idea of someone being able to “get in my head” and “figure me out”. Granted, I am not a 16-year-old kid anymore, I am an adult who is much different than I was then, but still… That is just me… But I am working on it because I know that I really need to find someone I can talk to because though I do have certain people I can discuss certain things with, I definitely have problems/thoughts that I just can’t share with my friends, my family, or other people online and I think many of us can say the same; we need an unbiased ear to talk to.
But I am not here to push therapy, that would be hypocritical of me and though I am definitely occasionally guilty of not practicing what I preach I still have to draw a line somewhere. So instead I want to talk about some other forms of “expression” that I have found helpful in dealing with my problematic life, things I know other people in the MS community have found to be helpful in their journey with this disease, this journey with their “dark passengers”.
Firsts things first; it is important to understand why we can’t just bottle up and bury our emotions deep down inside. I already used the poisonous weed metaphor so how about a couple more to help illustrate my point? Do you know how an old steam engine works? Like on an old train? There is a metal boiler, essentially a large tank of water with a fire underneath it. As this fire heats the water it begins to expand and evaporate into steam and this steam escapes through a small pipe and because the steam is building up (taking up more space) faster than it can escape through this pipe the pressure begins to rise and this pushes some sort of turbine that makes the machine move. So, not talking about our problems would be like completely sealing up that pipe; the pressure will obviously still rise as the fire turns the water into steam but since the steam expands it will run out of room in the boiler so where will this pressure go? It needs out! So the boiler will simply explode. People are just the same; if we keep our negative emotions sealed up inside the “pressure” will begin to rise and eventually we will “explode” only when people “explode” as the result of suppressed emotions it’s usually in outbursts of anger towards undeserving people such as family members or friends. Here is another one, much more simple but it depicts a very important point; you can sweep a mess under a rug and sure, the room may look clean but guess what? That mess is still there. Just because you can’t see it anymore does not mean it is actually gone. Cleaning a room does not mean hiding the mess it means getting rid of it. So how can we get rid of our negative emotions?
Well, I spend a lot of time online as I am sure many of you do too. I talk to a lot of different people about a lot of different things whether it is one on one on Facebook or through email or whether it is in a more public forum such as through blogging or once again on Facebook. I also have some closer friends on Facebook (who also have MS) that I met through this disease but I have one in particular that I talk to almost every day and not only do we message each other but we Skype and talk on the phone. Sure she lives thousands of miles away but she is definitely one of my best friends and I have no idea how I would have made it through the last year or so had I not “met” her. See, in my opinion, having a friend to talk to is great but the friends I grew up with will never truly understand (or so I hope for their sake) some of the things that a friend with MS may understand because someone with MS has more than likely experienced many of the same things that are bothering you and they may also need to talk about that stuff! There are days where we may talk for hours on Skype or the phone and afterwards I definitely feel much better about life because I was able to relieve the “pressure” by letting some of that built up “steam” out! And as well, there are certain things two people with MS can joke about that someone with MS could not necessarily joke about with someone who does not have MS, so it really can help improve your mood!
So aside from talking to people, another great thing for many of us is to simply express ourselves; I blog, writing helps me organize my thoughts and express some of my feelings. Some people like to manage a video blog (Vlog) on Youtube and that is great as well! Not only can this help you “get stuff off your chest” but it definitely helps other people who may feel alone or afraid or people who simply just want to learn! Maybe you want to write about your feelings but not publically? I obviously just said that there are certain things I need to “let out” that I really can’t talk about with many of the people in my life so I have been meaning to start a personal journal as a way to simply organize my thoughts and get them out of my head and “onto paper”. Now, I can’t physically write with a pen and paper anymore (as many of us can’t) but you can start a free blog (with a service like Blogger) that is private so that only you as the administrator can view it. You can write whatever you want or post any pictures you want but no one else could ever see them! It won’t show up in Google searches and even if they somehow got your URL/blog address it would not let them in unless you set up a password to allow certain people to view it! Of course, if you do not want your journal to be stored online you can simply write in a word document on your computer and password protect it so that no one can sneak onto your computer and read your “secrets” without your password.
It really all depends on the individual and what they find helpful as far as expressing the thoughts and problems they may have. The fact of the matter is there are many different mediums to doing this out there and I have only named a few! What is important is that you do not keep things bottled up because eventually it will destroy you and the people you care about because really, that pressure will make it out in one way or another so the key is to let it out in a healthy and controlled fashion so that it doesn’t release itself into the world as a destructive force.
How do you manage the many problems, thoughts or emotions that may arise from living with Multiple Sclerosis? Share below!