MS and Emotions: Pessimism vs. Realism in Life With Chronic Illness
There is an ongoing difference of opinion between my husband and me regarding my general outlook on life. I consider myself to be a realist, whereas he thinks I tend to err on the side of pessimism.
I’m an overthinker. I’ve always felt things incredibly intensely. Interestingly, when I read a recent story about a small study that found that MS patients feel things more intensely but struggle to identify emotions in others, I felt seen. It made me consider whether the intensity of my feelings had increased since my diagnosis. Perhaps it has.
My perspective is slightly different, however. Those who know me would describe me as highly empathetic, so I wouldn’t necessarily say that my MS has intrinsically reduced my ability to sense emotions in others. I can sense energy, and it’s almost as though I take on other people’s feelings. If someone is upset or anxious, I feel it as if it were my own emotion.
My MS may come into this, though, when I consider the impact of fatigue on how I perceive situations. I have many analogies for fatigue, depending on what aspect of it I’m trying to explain. In this situation, I liken it to being wrapped in Bubble Wrap, as though there were a buffer between the rest of the world and me. It’s like a series of moments standing still in time and I’m watching myself from the outside.
Because of this, I don’t feel that I can fully connect with those around me, which conceivably leads to a failure to recognize their emotions. In turn, the intensity of my feelings, especially when combined with fatigue, often doesn’t leave room for other people’s feelings.
I challenge someone to find a patient with chronic illness who hasn’t fallen into dark moments of pessimism when dealing with their condition. Therefore, it’s important to recognize this reality and adjust one’s perspective. When symptoms feel relentless, when the heavy blanket of fatigue leaves little room for anything besides lying on the sofa in a stupor, and when the pain is all-consuming, it can be incredibly difficult to pull oneself out of the depths of pessimism.
By no means can I claim that I’m adept at this, but instead of thinking self-deprecating thoughts on such days, such as “I’m useless,” I try to set myself a goal, no matter how small. Some days this could simply be getting dressed or getting out of bed and then allowing myself to think, “I’ve achieved that today.” That’s something.
I do find it difficult, though, to avoid holding myself to the same standards as I did before MS. That’s a work in progress.
Has your MS affected your ability to perceive emotions in others? Please share in the comments below.
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