Denial or Respect?

Cleopatra - "Queen of Denial"!!
Cleopatra - "Queen of Denial"!

I’ve recently come to the conclusion – or admission – that I need to back off of work a bit.  I was hired 2 years ago to do marketing for 3 physical therapy clinics.  I’m now handling 8 clinics – and the geographic spread is VERY LARGE!  I remember when I was first diagnosed, my neurologist was glad I was a stay-at-home mom and not working.  He wanted me to be as stress free as possible.  So – a year later, I got a full time job.  That’s just the way I am.  I don’t like to be told that I can’t – or shouldn’t – do something.  I have to try it for myself – test out the theory and see if it really applies to me or not.  I did well, as far as anyone else knew, for quite awhile.  The addition of more and more clinics and more and more responsibility and more and more things to remember and more and more and more and more just got to be too much.  My stress level has been way up and so has my blood pressure.  And as we all know, MS is a very jealous disease.  If your body is busy dealing with one thing, like high blood pressure, MS gets jealous and wants the attention.  So – MS responds – and reacts – and rears it’s ugly head.

I have such a wonderful primary care doc.  He recognized what was happening awhile ago – but sat patiently waiting for me to come to this conclusion.  As it turns out, friends, family – even colleagues – were recognizing it.  I was the one who couldn’t see the writing on the wall.  Stubborn?  I guess so.  In denial?  Absolutely.  It’s worked so well for me these past 4 years.  I don’t want it to affect me, so therefore I won’t let it.  I’ll ignore it.  I won’t pay it “no nevermind.”  But MS will not go quietly into the night.  The jealous one awakens to find you not paying attention to it.  So – okay, it’s gotten my attention, thank you very much.  I got it.  I’ll go part time – or leave if I can’t go part time at my wonderful company.  I’ve felt so uneasy about making this decision.  As I said, denial has worked beautifully for me until very recently.  I believed that if I gave the MS any room in my life, it would grow to fill up any space I gave it.  I just acted like it didn’t exist.  I’m like Cleopatra – Queen of Denial!  Having to give this damn disease a piece of something that means so much to me – my time, my job – feels like failure.  It feels like I’m giving up or giving in.  A friend of mine made a great point, however.  She said I wasn’t giving in or giving up, I was giving the MS the respect that it demands – and deserves – but that I have refused to give it all this time.  And she’s right.  Denial doesn’t mean it’s not there.  Respect means maybe I can do more later and for longer.   It’s a subtle somewhat semantic distinction, but one that resonates with me and helps to ease me into this next phase of my life with my jealous partner.

So what do you think?  Respect or denial?  What’s your choice?  Is there a place for denial or is that just running away from the inevitable?  Is distraction a viable therapy?  Does attention feed the beast?  Let me know what you think and what your experience has been.  Leave me some comments and let’s share our thoughts and philosophies and help others along this path.  Thanks in advance.

4 thoughts on “Denial or Respect?”

  1. Powerfully written. Leading yourself is where most people go wrong in life. Part of leading well is balance. Sounds like MS demands a different perspective on what it means to be balanced. I appreciate your heart, attitude, and drive. That will carry you far.

  2. Not MS. I have a chronic autoimmune disease called nephrotic syndrome, which has been with me since age 10. Almost 15 years in remission now, after 3 mos of a nasty chemo drug. I have had to learn to respect and OWN my disease. It’s my body, my disease. But I have to respect my body’s boundaries, and not push those boundaries, b/c if I do, then the sleeping beast might wake. There are plenty of things I can do, some I can’t. Too much mental or physical stress. An unhealthy diet. Anything that might stimulate the immune system. I can’t stay up all night and party, and I can’t climb a mountain. But I can stay active. My disease is a little like yours in that way. Sadly, 15 years in remission does not mean cure–my doc says it could flare up again at any time. So I have to be careful and aware of when my body says I need to rest. I focus on what I can do, and I don’t worry about what I can’t.

  3. I was in denial for a long time. It worked. But then as my disease progressed and walking AND working AND driving were no longer options I was forced to give MS the respect it earned!

  4. I don’t have MS, but do have an autoimmune disease and have many friends who also have chronic illnesses. It’s a delicate dance to balance, and a not so subtle reminder of the things that are truly important in life. I hope you find the strength to embrace your foe and work with it remembering all the time that although it may require a great deal of time and attention you will still be the master of your life. Be well. :o)

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