Don’t Let the Past and Future Be Obstacles While Living With MS
Columnist Ben Hofmeister works to acknowledge his present reality with MS
While helping me get dressed this morning, my wife handed me a T-shirt from a dresser drawer across the room. It happened to be a shirt commemorating an event from my pre-multiple sclerosis (MS) past. It’s what you might call a “been there, done that, got the T-shirt” kind of shirt, and I found myself inspecting it closely before I put it on, fondly remembering something from the past that I can no longer do.
Scars might be reminders that the past is real, but I have to say that I prefer T-shirts. The irony that multiple scars from sclerosis and lesions are now constant reminders of my present isn’t lost on me.
When you’re living with MS, the past can be problematic. I’ve gone through periods of not wanting to acknowledge the past because it hurt to remember my faded abilities. Conversely, there have also been times when I wanted to escape the present by pretending that I was still living in yesteryear. Neither option turned out to be particularly helpful or healthy.
I wasn’t born with MS. OK, maybe the genetic predisposition was always there, lying in wait for a triggering event, but if my life were a book, there would be distinct before- and after-MS chapters. Just like rereading a favorite book, paying a visit to your own past can be a good thing — but life continues and you have to go on to the next chapter and the next, until the book is done.
You also can’t start reading a book in the middle and pretend that all the chapters that led up to that point don’t exist. The past is absolutely vital to the present. I’ve had my share of not-so-great moments, but my past, for better or worse, shapes my present, and the two add up to shape my future.
The future is also problematic when you’re living with MS. I spent the bulk of my pre-MS life not considering hope to be part of any worthy plan. Now, sometimes it seems that hope plays a part in all of my future plans. For example, I’ll say, “I can’t plan on having enough energy for ____, but I hope I do.”
That future hope has to be tempered by present reality, however. I feel like I wasted so much time after my diagnosis, confidently hoping instead of doing the things I could while I could. The “I’ll do ____ when I get better” mentality, while optimistic, cost me time that I can never get back.
So, what’s to be done? How do we balance all this? I was sort of hoping you’d tell me. In the meantime, I vow to not forget the past, to hope for the future while not wasting time wistfully dreaming about it, and to acknowledge my present, even though I refuse to embrace it.
Leave a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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