Monday, October 6, 2014

The Elephant

I'm in the sixth day of this little game I play with myself sometimes called MS Free time. What might MS free time entail? It is just a period of time in which I stop all talk about MS, and resume my life as if I was never diagnosed. Simply put, I just quiet my loquacious nature for a bit. I don't totally ignore MS though... I still take my meds. Oh, and I had a brief conversation with my mom about it today, but that was less about my MS and more about emotions surrounding chronic diseases.

I have successfully gone MS free on several occasions, one of which was my trip to Canada in the beginning of the summer. So why am I blogging about it then? Because, as my mom said today, I don't know how to quiet my mind. My friend and I talk about my inability to relax, I disagree and was telling my mom I am great at relaxing, which is true, but only physically. I mean I can ignore dishes in my sink and the ring around my bathtub for weeks out of my 'need' to relax, but my mind NEVER settles and relaxes. The time I was able to best settle my mind was when my buddy Mike coaxed me into practicing Buddhism. I'll tell you what, there is nothing like chanting away, in a language that you don't understand, to pull you away from your mind. Focusing on what syllable comes next is about all my mind can handle when I am sitting in a room with a hundred people chanting. It is somewhat soothing, but I would always get so focused on the words because I never wanted to mess up my neighbor with my bad pronunciations of the sacred words my neighbor was saying, and actually understood.

After my brief conversation with my mom today, I am understanding that being in a room with a person who has a chronic disease can be very similar to my experience in the Buddhist temple. I never wanted to disrupt the rhythm of the person sitting next to me, to gain a better understanding of the words, because they were so focused. The reality is, that person would have probably welcomed my questions and curiosity because I would have been trying to gain insight on something that is so precious to them.

You see, having a chronic disease is like walking around with a big elephant sitting on your shoulders, and it takes a special person to approach you and knock that elephant away. Last week I had the pleasure of spending time with a friend that I don't get to see or talk to very often. This friend asked me questions that may have been perceived as uncomfortable to the closest eavesdropper. The questions ranged from relationships to MS (which actually is best described as a relationship in my world), and I graciously answered every question, and was actually delighted to have someone ask the questions that very few will bring up.

So what does this all mean anyway? Well two things. The first is, if every you approach someone who tells you they have a chronic disease, don't feel like you can't ask questions and explore their situation. They likely want to talk and are more than willing to share their experiences with you. Not to mention, you might get to hear them talk about the fact that they initially thought they had formaldehyde poisoning, NOT MS...

Second lesson is really specifically for me: The MS breaks are necessary. This past weekend, I had the most fun having carefree conversation while installing doors at my friend's house. I think the reason I was able to let my guard down and just have fun making mistakes and a mess at someone else's house is simply because the elephant does not exist with this friend!

So, here's the thing. I'm not scared to talk about it, neither should you. Let's work to turn that elephant into a tiny little mouse! 

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