Why I Left People Behind
While you would probably never think it if you were to see me or talk to me, I am disabled. I’ve explained how I got to this point in the past. I’ve also explained that being disabled isn’t always what you think it means. I’m also very far along in my life with MS, living with it almost as long as I didn’t live with it. Those facts all contribute to an issue I’ve had over the past few years, that I have trouble maintaining relationships (friends, family, and others) with those I knew before I was in this position. “Trouble” is putting it lightly; I’ve flat-out avoided and even severed relationships over the past seven or so years because of, at least partially, where I am in life due to multiple sclerosis.
I can’t relate to people from my past
A few months back, I actually wrote about how I was “longing for belonging.” How I felt like I didn’t fit in with many people. I mentioned the loneliness that comes with being disabled and the physical isolation I experience. I also mentioned that I simply couldn’t relate to most folks as much these days. All of that factors into this discussion about why I’ve avoided people from my past: I no longer have anything in common with them.
Feeling shame and embarrassment
Another huge reason I avoid people from my past is the extreme shame and embarrassment I feel when I talk to them. I know that logically I shouldn’t feel like that; I know I didn’t choose to be in this situation or cause it to happen. I know I’m doing a great job at living with this illness, but that doesn’t change the fact that I once wanted something else for myself. You can be living a good life, but still think about the life you wanted, intended, and were on track to have. Legitimate excuse or not, no longer succeeding in the way you wanted and talked about is embarrassing.
Maintaining past relationships made me feel worse
Being around people who knew me when I was successful at something other than being sick became a problem for me. As time went on, the more I maintained relationships with people who knew me before I became disabled, the worse I felt about myself. It wasn’t anything they said or did, it was my own messed-up mind. Why don’t I feel this way with people I’ve met since I’ve been disabled? Well, I don’t know exactly, but I imagine it has to do with the fact that this is all they’ve known of me. So I don’t look at them and think of what I was or could have been.
I confess, I would get jealous of people I knew living the life I wish I had, the life I thought I was supposed to live. That feels like a terrible thing to admit, but it’s true. Friends and family doing great in their careers, getting married, having kids, etc. All things that are no longer possible for me. I was once in a position for all of that, alongside them. Now I’m not, but often wish I was. That would get to me sometimes and no matter how well I handled those feelings of jealousy, they’d still pop up from time to time.
The relapse that finally knocked me out of work really caused me some cognitive issues. With that, I started having a lot of memory problems which led to me not remembering as much about those relationships as I once did. It sucks to admit this, too, but I have gaps from my past, not always, but often. So I didn’t always have the level of comfort with people that I probably should have. At least, not all the time. Those cognitive issues also made communicating more difficult for me and much harder to maintain.
It's an explanation, not an excuse
My issues are my own; none of these reasons I’ve put out there are due to anyone but me. I’m also not trying to excuse why I’ve been a bad friend, brother, or son. I’m simply trying to explain some reasons why I’ve turned away from so many relationships I’ve had. I think these types of problems are common for people in my position. Folks that are suddenly put in a spot that is different from most people they know. While everyone around them continues on, we are left behind. As that happens, it becomes easier for us to not talk with people from our past.
How well do people around you understand MS?