Friends and family have always been important to me, but this year’s spring clean has also involved filtering out harmful relationships. I am very lucky; most of my friends have been extremely supportive of my decision to treat my MS without the use of steroids or disease modifying drugs. One of these friends is a doctor who prescribes allopathic medicine on a daily basis. She is one of the most open-minded people I know. She has never treated my anti-drugs attitude with an ounce of doubt, she sees that I believe 100% in what I am doing and so she is supportive of my decision. She is training to be a GP and I am so pleased for the lucky patients she will soon treat. There are other people in my life who have been much less supportive.
Being over-sensitive is one thing – and a thing that many people with MS have in common (if this is something you need to work on I highly recommend reading A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle)- but having worked on this personally, I find I am much less offended now by things that people say. What I am talking about here is not over-sensitivity on the part of the person with MS, but negativity directed onto them by other people.
Some people are blinded by the system we live in. People who work hard everyday have reason to be critical of people who are able to work and choose rather to claim benefits. However, whatever the government and the ‘free’ press want you to believe; these people are a minority, and there are many people fighting chronic illness who need to work part-time or not at all in order to manage their condition. When the Job Centre decided that my fluctuating long-term condition did not mean I was not fit to work fulltime, one friend rejoiced, claiming this was a sign of my obvious good health (!) I have also had several friends who were critical of my natural approach to treating my MS. These people are dangerous for anyone suffering from a chronic illness, and these are the kind of people that we need to filter out of our lives.
Another source of negativity is that of people who do not approve of me taking responsibility for my illness, researching ways to manage it naturally and being disciplined in my endeavour to regain my health. A person I know who also has MS told me to “live a little!” when I refused to eat some chocolate cake (!) This was very funny to me; as I am following a diet specifically in order to continue living, and I hope “a lot” (!) but such is the behaviour of others who wish not to make themselves responsible for their own health. It is a personal decision; each person needs to make it for themselves.
MS is a challenge, it needs to be approached positively, and I decided, that if I am to succeed in my natural treatment of it; any negative influence in my life needs to be removed. It is nice to have childhood friends around, but not if their snide comments and mind games interfere with your healing process. One of these such friends snapped at me when I tried to defend her boyfriend in a discussion over him not being a professional, because he was working on an artistic project that did not generate much income. To me the sound of this guy’s creative dream was of great value and I tried to stand up for him but as a result was called unprofessional myself because I was working part-time. With friends like these…all the energy I invest into my health is undermined.
And so the process of de-cluttering began last winter, in the anticipation of spring. It has expanded into family life too, which has provided great relief. When family members are un-supportive or a source of stress or anguish the friction their words, actions or expectations bring to your life is just not worth it. So I have put one family member in their place, and where this was difficult to do, distanced myself from others. All of this has provided great relief and left me feeling unburdened.
Why should people expect you to do things for them because you have more ‘time’ or, if you do not work as much as they do, judge you as lazy? MS is a chronic illness, to manage it successfully you need to learn to manage stress – and remove unnecessary worries and tension from your life. Criticism, even when unspoken is felt and is very unhelpful. Things that other people have no trouble doing are not always as easy to do for someone with MS, no matter how ‘well’ they look. Chronic fatigue and brain fog are very common, as are many other invisible symptoms that people with MS deal with on a day-to-day basis. Anyway, I find that when people are critical and counterproductive in this way; it is that they are unsatisfied with their own way of living; they are only harming themselves. Distance yourself from that negative energy, it can only harm you.
In Judy Garner’s book (an essential read for anyone with MS), there is a section on relationships which talks about how MS cannot be walked out on by people who have it, but can by their partners. I am lucky to have a very understanding partner. But am aware that not everyone does. If you have MS and your partner or friends are un-supportive; you have great reason to let them go and start afresh. They will only hold you back, and may impede your recovery. MS is a journey, let it take you where you want to go, do not let others stop you achieving your goals – no matter how long they’ve been your friend, no matter how much they may need you; friendship is a two-way street. No one has the right expect anything from you. You alone can decide what you should do with your life; a stress-free life style with plenty of rest and exercise is the way forwards. It is great to have big plans. Recover your health first so that you are fully able to make them happen, leave the unhelpful people behind.