We often use the phrase “self-conscious” to describe someone who’s very aware of what other people think. A teenager in her first high heels, for example. She’s walking awkwardly, heels clacking, and looking around to see who’s noticing, thinking of what her friends (or that boy) might think, or wondering who sees her as she walks down the hall. She’s self-conscious, right? (I know, because I was her.)
Since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in December, I’ve become self-conscious in a much more literal way. At all times, day and night, I’m acutely, almost excruciatingly, aware of my own body. I’m overly conscious of myself.
Every ache, every tight muscle, every missed step: now subject to careful review. Is that a tingle, or did I just sit in one position for too long? Does my leg hurt because I’m out of shape, or because I have MS? Am I tired because I’ve been chasing my son around the yard all day, or because I have MS?
And then when I have a real, recognizable symptom, I obsess even more. What does it mean? Will it pass or is it permanent? What will be the next logical step in my progression? (As if there’s any logic in any of this.)
Frankly, I’m getting on my own nerves. I don’t want to be spending all my time thinking about myself. I definitely don’t want to spend all my time thinking about this disease. I have a progressive form of MS, so if I start down this road now, it’s liable to take over my whole life. Which is precisely what I’m trying to avoid.
I’m committed to doing as much as I can to stay healthy and live the way I want to: meds, diet, exercise. Whatever it takes. But I’m hoping that as the months (and years) unfold, I’ll learn to somehow quiet the myriad voices clamoring in my head about multiple sclerosis and just live.
It’s in my brain obviously, but I’d like a little bit less of it in my head.