Tag Archives: guilt

Honestly? MS, Again and Again and Again

Just when I think I’m doing a pretty decent job of faking it with MS, I discover that no matter how hard I try, it will always make its presence known.

When I say ‘faking it’, I don’t mean denying I have this illness, it just means that I try to hide stuff from the people who mean the most to me.

Yesterday, this hit home in an unexpected way; I had been at work and once back home, I put the fan on to cool down the house.

When The Teenager came home, he found me semi-relaxed, reading a book and being blasted by a formidable Arctic chill. So what followed was surprising:

‘You ok?’

‘I’m great! Fab fan! You ok?’

‘God, it’s depressing.’

Hmm, did he mean something had happened when he was out? Or was it the state of the world? Politics? No.

‘I just feel so sad that you have to sit in front of that thing to feel ok. It’s depressing.’

I tried to explain it was all good, I felt fine, I was just dealing with a symptom.

‘Still crap.’

I understand where he’s coming from – he’s had a fair old journey as the child of a single parent with MS which hit right when he started high school. He knows my MS foibles inside-out, but no matter how much he’s witnessed over the years, I’ve never relied on him as I wanted him to blossom and grow despite MS. The same wish I have for myself, I guess.

Of course, he will always have this hanging over him, as I am his main parent. He reads too much on the internet and stores it up until it explodes in fear and anxiety. I will always provide a safe harbour for him to come back to when he needs to.

I guess I am the Great Pretender. I refuse most offers of help, I push myself to the point of exhaustion and in some ways, I gain a lot of satisfaction by doing that and stuff the consequences. Yet within myself, I have somewhat calibrated MS to suit me; I go to work when I’m at my best MS-wise, I catch up on paperwork when I know I can engage my brain, I write randomly, whenever I can and I now accept that when I can’t, I can’t. No matter how frustrating.

When that happens, I’m stuck on the sofa, or in bed. Lying flat in a cool bed sometimes brings more relief than any meds. I realise my life has shrunk, but in a bizarre way it’s also grown. Without MS, I could still be in a dead-end job with a dead-end partner, cycling through life with no real care or direction. Life has been honed down towards what is most important, and that’s been a huge learning curve. I’ve discarded all thoughts of what I should be doing, could be doing, ought to be doing. I now choose.

So yes, MS happened. It’s not the best, it never will be, but I will try for as long as I can to continue to be the best parent I can, above everything. If I could only reassure The Teenager more, I would be happy forever.

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Banish That Guilt

guiltEvery New Year, we’re bombarded with articles telling us how to ‘eat guilt-free’ and ‘enjoy low-fat treats without the guilt’. This comes straight after the very same publications have told us to hang the guilt, it’s Christmas.

Guilt. It’s a strange old thing. I’ve been reading through all the emails I’ve had over the last year from my blog and the one theme that comes through very strongly is guilt.

You guys have shared with me your most challenging stories, the hell of limboland, the shock of diagnosis and your fears for your families and future.

And in addition, there are often the words, ‘I feel so guilty – my MS isn’t as bad as other people’s.’ Or, ‘do I have a right to feel so devastated when I’m still relatively healthy? It makes me feel guilty.’

I feel the same. My MS was pretty bad initially but my relapses have stopped since Alemtuzumab treatment (how long for, who knows?). I felt a huge sense of guilt – it still hasn’t been approved by NICE, so I was simply in the right hospital with the right neurologist at the right time. Most of us who would benefit from this treatment don’t have access to it. At one point I thought seriously about closing the blog as I didn’t feel I now had the right to talk about MS as ‘it wasn’t as bad as other people’s’.

Let’s backtrack though. How should we deal with this guilt? Refuse all disease modifying drugs so we can truly experience MS at it’s worst? Or if our symptoms are mild, should we ignore the fact we are still living with a degenerative, incurable illness and therefore deny ourselves access to support? No. MS is not a competition (although there are people out there who think it is ).

MS is individual and our life circumstances are unique to us. MS affects us all in different ways, physically, mentally, socially. Guilt, on the whole, is an unnecessary emotion. It brings nothing positive and holds us back from moving on.

This year, I am going to banish that guilt. Instead of feeling guilty, I am going to channel my energy into campaigning and raising the profile of MS. In 2012 when I started this blog, people from 31 countries had read it. In 2013 it was 108 countries. This blog might just be a drop in the ocean, but in my own little way I hope I can make a difference.

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The Red-Eyed Monster

the red-eyed monsterIf jealousy has green eyes, guilt most definitely has red, judging by the amount of tears I cried on Tuesday night.

The day started innocuously enough. I schlepped to work, planned dinner for later, joked around with the boss. Then blam, thwack.  Whole-body weakness, a brain stuffed with cotton wool and a need to get home pronto.

The boss let me go early and back home blind panic set in. I couldn’t cook dinner. I could barely stand and when I did, I was pin-balling off the walls, so I called my mum for help. She rushed down, but The Teenager was adamant that he didn’t want to sleep overnight at her house (no Sky Sports News).

She stayed for a while instead, giving the cat some chewy treats, cheering us up, admiring The Teenager’s new Nirvana poster and giving me a bit of space to panic some more.

All I wanted to do was go to bed, and not just for a nap. During the day, I sleep when I have to and The Teenager is either out or at school, but the evenings are different. And therein lies the problem and source of my overwhelming guilt. I’m a single parent (violins at the ready) and The Teenager is an only child. It just wouldn’t be fair to abandon him at 6 or 7pm. I know he’s 14, but I grew up with ill parents (my dad and my stepfather) and am keenly aware of the fears this gave me as a child.

So what did I do? MS left me no choice. I crawled into bed at 7pm, crying my eyes out, leaving The Teenager downstairs with his homework and remote control.

Ten hours later I woke up, guilt flooding back. Until I looked at all the tweets I’d been sent while I’d been sleeping. Lovely, supportive tweets from all around the world. I wasn’t going through this alone. So, I stumbled out of bed, woke The Teenager for his paper round and we had a little chat as he struggled to get his waterproof trousers on.

After patting me on the head and telling me he was fine, he launched into a goal-by-goal account of a football match he’d watched with the cat. Then he bashfully admitted he’d read my Twitter feed last night and felt comforted by all the messages of support, and he too felt less alone.

Just before he left for school, he said I was more than welcome to go to sleep early again, he’d just chat to my Twitter friends. Um….

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Guilty As Charged

gulty as chargedSomething lovely happened yesterday that also broke my heart into tiny pieces.

The Teenager had arranged to go out biking with his friends in the morning. That was great – he’s an outdoorsy kid and I’d much rather he was out than stuck in his bedroom in front of the computer screen. He phoned me early afternoon to tell me excitedly he’d been invited to the beach by some of his friends and their parents.

When I got home, he was in the middle of packing his swimming costume, a towel and some money, bouncing around, beaming from ear to ear. I waved him off, sat at the kitchen table and cried.

Why? MS. Extreme heat intolerance means I will never be able to take him to the beach in the summer. I can’t take him anywhere in this weather. Add constant fatigue on top and I’m a pretty useless parent now. I’m only glad we did a lot together when he was younger, before MS reared it’s ugly head.

I’m trying to stay positive. The flipside to my new working hours is that I am always at home after school. He might only want to say a few words/grunts before raiding the fridge, but I listen. I know all the dramas going on at school, I know what homework he needs to hand in and he knows I’m always there for him.

Finding a new way of parenting with MS has been one of the hardest challenges and one we are still working out together. Gone are the days we jumped in the car on a whim and headed off. Everything is meticulously planned now, with one eye on the weather forecast and energy levels.

Years ago I was told that when you give birth to a child, you also give birth to a lifetime of guilt. What you feed your child, which toys you buy, which school you send them to – all are guilt-laden. Throw in a hefty dose of MS and the guilt skyrockets. I’m failing as an active parent. I can only hope that when he looks back as an adult, my son will not remember the times I didn’t take him to the beach, but will instead feel secure in the knowledge that he was always, always the centre of my world.

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Going on a Long Guilt Trip

Still no let up from the crushing MS symptoms. Still don’t want to say ‘relapse’ out loud. Worst thing is though, all the guilt has come flooding back.

The Teenager has been incredible since this whole MS thing started, and has started telling his friends, ‘my mum’s got what Jack Osbourne’s got’. The height of cool.

But he crumbles sometimes, unexpectedly, and it’s the saddest thing to witness. One day I told him off for not brushing his teeth. Five minutes later I hear loud crying from upstairs. I find him frantically scrubbing his teeth, taking huge, gut-wrenching sobs. ‘I hate MS, I hate what it’s doing. I hate you having it’. My heart broke into tiny pieces.

I try my hardest to hide symptoms from him. I sleep before he gets home, stuffing the duvet down the back of the couch. I have also trained myself to cat-nap and be instantly awake the minute he comes back from school. I write down key points about his school day so I don’t forget them, such as maths test, horrible PE teacher, German homework. I use Touche Eclat under my eyes so I look more awake and his rugby kit is always, always clean and ready. It’s a matter of pride.

But the guilt is relentless. I should be doing more with him. I should take him to town after school one day for a surprise and buy him a new pair of Vans. I should plan interesting day trips. We used to love baking together (thank you, The Great British Bake Off!), but we haven’t done that in a while. I haven’t the energy to clean the kitchen afterwards. The Swedish chef from The Muppets has nothing on my son.

So, I cut corners. I pass off M&S food as my own, leaving the chopping board out as ‘proof’ of my hard work. I spring money for pizzas (cool mum!) to save cooking, I buy more treats than usual and make sure his Lynx supply is fully stocked. I allow lots of sleepovers, so I know he’s having fun, but it gives me much-needed space too.  I make sure I am there for him, as much as I can be.

I hate what MS is doing to our little family. If I can just hold everything together, we will be fine. And maybe I won’t need to have Dominos on speed dial…

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