Today is the first day I have felt somewhat *back* in my life and able to form complete sentences. I have been away too long, nearly forgetting what it is like to be present. Whether MS-induced, steroid-induced, or *other*-induced, I have been absent from my life for what feels like an eternal, three weeks.
It's not that I particularly FEEL better physically, although there seems to be some areas of physical improvement happening...like only having diarrhea once today (funny, someone commented to me that I knew how to spell d*i*a*r*r*h*e*a and I thought this odd LOL) and literally feeling like I can once again SPEAK in complete sentences without having the sensation my mind is cutting out. The dizziness feels more tolerable today and the nausea is down to a low roar in my belly...signs of life returning to an otherwise chaotic digestive system. The pain in my back and abdomen continues, but a switch to narcotic analgesics seems to be keeping this to only an annoying level. Even the weakness in my left leg/side feels less *tingle-y*...if that is even an accurate description of this sensation...and my jumping calf and face muscles feel a bit less excited.
OR, I am imagining all of the above...just like I have been trying to convince myself I have imagined ALL of these symptoms in the first place.
I had a long talk today with one of my wise mentors after breaking down on the phone in sniffling tears, telling her I was concerned I had lost touch with reality (because nothing could be found medically to explain)...that NONE of the past three weeks of symptoms were, in fact, real...and I feared I had imagined them ALL somehow in my head. This is often a theme I resort to when Multiple Sclerosis splatters me with it's peculiar form of crap hitting the fan...the disease cannot be real because it can't be seen.
She carefully reassured me I could NOT have *imagined* my way into observable diarrhea (there's that spelling again!), or low potassium levels, or bruises to my forehead from falling, or...even though I adamantly argued contrary to this about a list of recent symptoms as long as my arm. And...
She gave me permission to be ill...to be *sick*...to not feel well...and to do whatever I needed to do to take care of myself...to cry...to push back against the medical establishment AND the disease...to be angry...to grieve...to let myself get better...and to NEED others to help see me through this time.
It's strange to admit this but, not long after I was given permission to be *sick* this morning, I started to feel a bit better. The mind (and body) DO work in mysterious ways...
So many times when I experience my "maybe MS/maybe not MS" symptoms, I immediately cycle into a state of denial. It's as if I am not ALLOWED to experience this disease (or any other, for that matter) because, to do so, would show some sign of weakness. And, to show weakness would indicate I am vulnerable. And, to be vulnerable would mean I might NEED something outside of what I am able to provide for myself. And, the final blow of this cycle is:
IF I NEED SOMETHING I CAN'T RELY ON PROVIDING FOR MYSELF, I FEAR I MAY NOT GET THAT SOMETHING IN MY LIFE FROM ANY OTHER SOURCE.
My fear of "needing" from others could be psychoanalyzed to death. But suffice it to say in general terms (for most of us), that fear often stems from NOT having our needs met at some point in our early lives. To have been deprived of something - whether basic needs of food/water/shelter/clothing or the more developmental needs of love/security/acceptance/understanding - sets up a cycle of anticipated fear we *might* experience that deprivation again. Therefore, we (as human beings) will do whatever we must do to avoid that potential or actual deprivation later in our lives. It's really as simple as a child touching a hot stove for the first time and burning their hand...they learn to be cautious of the stove to avoid that pain again in their lives...whether or not the stove is truly *hot*.
As someone who bills themselves as *fiercely independent* (that would be me), my greatest Achilles heel is to NEED something from another. I have struggled with this dysfunctional thinking my entire adult life...and I continue to be confronted with it in later maturity...always finding a lesson time for learning just around the corner.
Somewhere along the way as a child, I learned that, to not NEED anything from another person, was a sign of great strength...and, in my early developmental years, this DID prove to be the case as I often would fend for myself in many arenas of life. It was apparent (through experiences I won't discuss here) the hand that held me could also crush me. But in adulthood, this learning became no longer functional in relationships and only served to WEAKEN my being in places I never knew should or could bend.
MS has a way of making me "needy"...it's symptoms are designed to bend what I think are even the strongest places of my physical and emotional being. It sneaks in without warning or notice and gives no outward definitive symbol of its presence, such as a broken bone or tumor. It never tells us up front how long it plans to hold us in it's grasp...sometimes gripping in very painful ways, then equally without warning, letting us go suddenly. MS defies logic and reason and turns the most solid of body and mind into a questioning hypochondriac at times. It moves from system to system and symptom to symptom, spinning the chamber on the figurative gun of life, as we wait in wonder or fear of an inevitable bullet...only to later learn, THIS TIME, the gun is not loaded...or, there IS no smoking gun at all OR a hot stove...just an imaginative fear there *might* be. MS sometimes takes away our mobility or our cognition, leaving us dependent on outside resources for our survival. It can cause the most tenacious to question their faith and values...and the most seemingly independent...to need...to become dependent on something, anything from another.
Today, MS has taught me once again, that I am weak in what I perceive as my strong places...and strong in the places I am most vulnerable. It teaches me to recognize, when I resolve my fears of *needing*, I actually become MORE self-sufficient and independent...and allows me to accept the caring hand(s) that hold me...until I am able to stand again on my own...