Yes, There is an “I” in Illness
by David Gay
Shortly after I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, I started to see completely double out of my right eye with the exception of looking up. In order to see straight I had two options, either tilt my head so I was looking upwards at everything, or close one eye.
When I arrived at my fiancé’s parents’ house, I was forced with a difficult decision. Do I have my fiancé drive me to their door and help me get up their rock steps without falling, or do I put on a show like nothing is wrong? After all, I was just diagnosed and I wanted them to see me as someone who could still take care of their daughter.
I decided to choose the “look at me being the man in this relationship” route. At the end of the weekend, I jumped in the driver’s seat, buckled myself into the car, and took off down the road. I think of this as comical now, since after I pulled out of the driveway I had to lean my head downward in order to see straight. A few miles later I pulled over and let my fiancé drive.
This was one of the most humiliating days since having any symptoms with my illness. All I wanted to do was prove to my fiancé and her parents that I was a man who could take care of her for the rest of her life. In that moment, I felt like I failed.
Looking back, I have come to the realization that coping with my illness means that sometimes I need to be selfish. So many things could have went wrong that day, all because I wanted to “take care” of someone I loved. Yes, I look back and laugh at myself because when I drove away I must have looked quite funny with my head down trying to see straight. What I have realized is that it was not worth it.
What we all need to realize is that unlike the age old saying that there is no “I” in team, there is an “I” in illness.
No matter how selfish you feel, or how much you worry about being a burden to the ones you love, sometimes you need to put yourself first. I am always reminded of how lucky I am that nothing happened when I drove that car away.
So I am giving you permission to put yourself first. There is no one in the world who can sense exactly how you are feeling, and what symptoms you are having because of your chronic illness. You are your biggest advocate. Be selfish not because you want to, but because you have to. After all, sometimes being selfish can stop you from doing something stupid, like driving a car when you see more than two lanes on a single lane road.
Do you have a similar story? Post it below. Sometimes we need to hear from each other so that we can realize that we are not alone.
22 Oct 2017 - Tips for the Diagnosed