Trying to Look Forward not Backwards
I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 2010 at the age of 20; the year is now 2017 and my time with MS has been… eventful? Sure, compared to most people who have MS 7 years (a little less than that actually) is nothing but so much has happened in that time that it feels like it has been a lifetime! Not to mention the fact that 7 years to me, someone who is 26 years old, is almost a quarter of my entire life whereas 7 years to someone who is older than I am is a smaller fraction of their life. But that doesn’t really matter, what matters is that in the almost 7 years since I was diagnosed with MS I have never seen a therapist about dealing with this disease and coming to terms with the new realities I am always faced with. Now, whether my coping mechanisms are healthy or not (I am pretty sure most of them are not) I have survived thanks to one in particular; “always look forward and never look back”.
Dwelling on your problems
Even before MS came into my life I suffered from severe depression that I spent years trying to manage and get ahold of and what I learned was that I had to stop dwelling on the “problems” in my life and focus on moving forward. After being diagnosed with MS I realized that this same “rule” applied; don’t dwell on the past, on what was, or what could have been and instead focus on moving forward towards a better future. Just like they say “don’t look down” while someone is crossing a bridge or climbing a tall ladder or whatever I have always told myself to “not look back” while I am working my way forward because looking back often causes me to fall into a horrible depression…
Trying to look forward
So I try, I try to focus on looking forward and not backwards and for the most part I do just fine with it but every once in a while I end up peaking… I look back despite my trying so hard not to. There have been times (for example) where a song will come on that is heavy with memories from my past, memories that I did not even know I had! And as soon as the music starts playing those memories start leaking into my mind and the longer I let myself listen the more the pressure builds until eventually the flood gates burst open and flood my head with memories of my past before MS. That quickly leads to feelings of regret (shoulda-woulda-coulda) and longing for a time before I was hit with the train called MS. By thinking about my life before MS I inevitably start thinking about all the things I used to be able to do that I no longer can; I am now dwelling on what I can’t do instead of what I can. I am dwelling on all my problems, which is exactly what I taught myself to not do when depression was the biggest problem I faced in my life.
I know that the vast majority of people with MS deal with this in some way shape or form, I talk to people all the time dealing with this exact issue and I tell them the same thing I tell myself, “focus on moving forward, don’t look back, focus on what you can do not what you can’t”. But thinking about the past is not 100% avoidable because sometimes you hear that one song, taste that one taste or smell that one smell; that one thing that instantly brings you back to another time and place, another life. Now in the case of my first example? A song? I usually try to turn it off right away; I try to convince myself that I just hate that song and that I always have so that I will never sit and listen to it and therefore not really reminisce but every once in a while? I just can’t help it and I end up hating myself for it.
I think what is most difficult for me is knowing that I have reached a point where even if I could somehow reverse 50% of the damage my body has accumulated I know that I will probably never be able to do a lot of the things I once could so my memories of when I could do those things are all I really have right now. But I don’t want to be that guy who looks at his past like it was the zenith of life; I am only 26 years old, life should be getting better for me and though I don’t know how I know it will so long as I keep looking forward. But again, I am pretty sure there are better, healthier ways to deal with this problem so I think it is finally time that I start trying to get in to talk to someone who helps people deal with disabilities/illnesses for a living instead of me essentially just trying to sweep my problems under the rug. Maybe the healthier tactic will be to confront my past instead of avoiding it? Who knows? All I know is that for now? I am trying to look forward and not backwards. One day at a time.
How well do people around you understand MS?