People have referred to me as what they would call a gentle soul. Animals are my biggest love, I love campaigning against unfairness in society and I love the company of books over that of certain people. Being kind, caring and having empathy is something my mum always told me to be, because not everyone has an easy life. Despite being a lone parent, she taught me well.
I rest my case about awarding myself such qualities though, as articulating what I believe to be, is not up to me.
As a child, my best friend and I did a lot of role playing, acting out what we thought would be adult stories and/or emotions. In a way it opened up a whole storybook filled with people, each with their own psychological qualities and mindsets. We talked for hours about how we would deal with these emotions. It was not always an easy task; nevertheless, I believe that my love for psychology was born during those days. Recognizing people’s emotions or ‘reading people’ came easy at some stage.
Despite a detour and studying library sciences, twenty years later psychology is still one of my main interests. After securing a diploma with merit in Counselling studies and a certificate in Psychology as well as a deferred degree(*), it should be easy so to think that being in tune would help me deal with my own cerebration. Since last year however, I have moments where I struggle trying to forgive and forget some friendships gone sour. I keep trying to figure out what went wrong, why, where and when but I am not shown an answer to those questions.
Moments of stumbling like this never last long though – I will not allow myself to be dictated by friends or friendships too selfish to be kept – but when a tiny, bad seed is planted in your mind, you try hard not to let it grow out of control.
My frustration, in my eyes at least, is still valid. Living with an illness like multiple sclerosis is unpredictable as is. Besides not knowing if I will be fit enough tomorrow to walk around, or if I will be able to sleep at night of neuropathic pains, as well as dealing with a lot of doctors and medication, MS really does change your life.
I do realise though, that from the opposite point of view, it must be hard for people trying to deal with someone who had to change out of medical necessity. It must seem as if the old me is long gone, and people around me had to accept a new friend in their life.
It’s my belief that people should aim to be the kind of person they want to be best friends with. In doing so, you attract people either quite similar to yourself or you meet the opposite of what you are. What follows are close friendships, if not relationships. You hope that from now on, your friends will be there in good times as well as bad ones, and that everything in your or my life will be overcome no matter what the issue is.
In trying to learn what drives people, I sometimes become a person too analytical for my own good. But as any human being with a brain built to think, dream and feel empathy when necessary, I have learned that not everyone has your best interests at heart. And at times, especially when severe fatigue takes over my day, learning to accept this is a mountain too high to climb.
Time heals, but it often makes you recall and remember what happened, and the hurt comes back to remind you that not everyone is what they claim to be. I think I’ve made a step forward, and for a split second I am reminded of how certain people have reacted towards my illness. Remembering how they decided to – literally – leave me behind because they could not handle my multiple sclerosis is my biggest hurt. Quite often, it seems as if only people living with MS know what I deal with on a daily basis, and while I love my MS friends a lot, I do not want to say that fit or healthy people don’t realise what my life is all about. Some simply do, others don’t.
Only then I become acutely aware that I am not the same person anymore. I could almost split my life in two, saying “my life before MS” and “my life after my diagnosis”. Where it used to be “life before living in Ireland,” it now has a much deeper meaning. I did not ask for this diagnosis, other MSers didn’t ask for it, yet we all share the same common denominator: we are all changed people. Every single one of us.
When I think further, there must be a lot of people living with a degenerative illness who are going through exactly the same ignorance as I am. Where I hope that my MS friends can move forward easily after being hurt badly by people who meant nothing, I know I have to protect myself from feeling negative energy from toxic people.
Being positive and happy-go-lucky, I will not be dragged down. Out of necessity I learned to step away from toxic friends and friendships as soon as it becomes apparent I am being held for a fool.
Forgiving myself for having let myself be hurt is paramount so. I have other people in my life who are still there from day one; my family is amazing and ex-colleagues and friends still take time out to talk, meet up for a coffee and listen to how I’m doing. Having a support network is imperative and with their help I am ready to completely break away from feeling resentment.
Instead of counting sheep at night, I count my blessings instead. I am blessed to have people in my life that care, support and would do anything to help me out when needed. Instead of focusing on a few lost friendships, I am focusing on the ones who stepped up. And instead of being overly analytical, I simply enjoy being able to read people the same way as I read books… with a lot of love and an awful zest for life.
Living with MS can be difficult and testing, but only if you let it.
(*) Deferred 8 years ago because of diagnosis, still dying to return. Waiting for a great lottery ticket to shoot me back to university! :)
©Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2013. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.