Guys, I am struggling. All the hormones, all the waiting. The exhaustion — mental and physical. The guilt and negative thoughts. I’m really struggling.
But after an hour of tears in my therapist’s office and the ugly sobbing of so many incredibly unkind words toward myself, Dr. C suggested a thought exercise.
While I can’t quite wrap my mind around self-kindness, to treat myself as though I were a good friend, I can invent a friend and do pretty much the same. (I’m excellent at make believe, which is the nice way of saying lying.) I can invent a friend with a new diagnosis of, say, MS. (She was infertile at first, but Dr. C though maybe that would be a bit too much. So MS it is.) A debilitating and life-altering disease. A diagnosis that affects an individual and his or her partner. Sort of like infertility…
What would I say to that friend?
To my fictional friend, recently diagnosed with MS.
Your life is different now and will always be different. But your life is most definitely not over.
In fact, nothing has actually changed. Instead, you have an answer. It’s a terrible, horrible, no good and unwanted answer. But it’s an answer. And the answer doesn’t actually change a single thing about you.
The MS was always there. It’s a cruel trick of genetics, fate, chance. A cruel trick of whatever it is you believe controls the uncertainty in life.
(Personally, I believe in biology and probability, even when I don’t like it. (And sub-parenthetical, I apologize for being the kind of friend who cites their own blog in a letter to a friend.) But I have to let you chalk it up to whatever it is that you believe in.)
It’s not a punishment or a judgement on your moral fiber, the being that is you. It’s a circumstance. And you are not a victim of circumstance.
You are brave. You are resilient. You are head strong and heart sure. You love and are loved. None of those things will change. They are, like you, unshakable at their core. Because they make up your core.
Yes, there will be bad days. Days when MS feels like the only thing. When it feels suffocating and dark and all encompassing. Those days will pass. And there will be good days, days when you forget MS exists at all. Those days will pass too. Each is only a day. A day inhabited by the same brave and beautiful you, capable of anything and everything. Even surviving, living, thriving.
No one who loved you before loved you because you didn’t have MS. And there’s no reason to expect that anyone will love you less because of it. You are loved for something much deeper than your external circumstances, including what your body can or can’t do — by your spouse, your family, your friends, your dog. Like you, those loves will not change.
But the MS may, and likely will, change your mind and work some magic on your heart. It may increase your capacity for empathy and understanding. Maybe it has done these things already. Yes, it may also sometimes make you feel jealous and ragey and bitter about the able-bodied, unaffected folks around you. But a small price to pay for the beauty and appreciation and opening of heart you get to experience, don’t you think?
It’s not so much that MS itself is a blessing. More so that it’s not a curse or a punishment. It’s not out to get you. It’s not your fault. And because you are who you are, you can take what MS gave you, the cliched lemons, and make some cliched lemonade. Maybe some lemon bars too. Because you’re talented in that way and always go beyond the cliche to find something a little deeper and a little more dusted in powdered sugar.
Yes, MS is forever and it is yours to live with for all that time. But you will. Live. And love. And be happy and sad. Joyful and sorrowful. Grateful and jealous. Brave and scared. Just like everyone else, but also a little bit different than most.
I can’t necessarily understand, but I’m here for you, as your friend, as someone who loves you. And I’ll always be here for you, as someone who tries to understand and never stops loving you. No matter what.
Meant to be a mom or not, I can be a pretty stellar friend. Certainly a better friend than internal monologue-ist (which is not a real thing, I just invented it to make the point that I’m a total jerk to myself). And now, when my own verdict arrives in the near future, I can read the letter above. I can sub out the MS and sub in a state of infertility no longer changeable. And most importantly, I won’t have to go to my crappy internal monologue-ist for her thoughts on the matter. In fact, I may even have to let her go and re-post for the position.
We’ve decided to go in another direction…
Help Wanted — Qualifications: eloquent, Harry Potter fan with good sense of humor. No jerks need apply.
And with that, I suspect I may be trying to hire Mindy Kaling as my internal monologue-ist. She’s even had appropriate experience. This could be excellent.