Last night, my husband said that I haven’t been myself in years, and that I’m only recently starting to get back to myself.
The idea that I somehow stopped being me is flabbergasting to me. The truth of what’s gone on is that I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and then had a seizure disorder descend upon me, and I have been struggling, for the past 5 years, to eke out any sort of solid ground so that I could regain confidence in my ability to do the things I want to do in life. I’ve only recently been able to do this because I’ve had 3 months without seizures.
I don’t think that anyone who hasn’t gone through the literally world-shaking event that is “having seizures” can understand how they knock confidence out of you… how the absolute lack of control in the situation, and the never-knowing-when-they’re-coming can make you afraid to try things that you normally wouldn’t take issue with. Things like taking showers or cooking. I’ve only recently (as in within the last month or two) regained the ability to shower whenever I want to and cook whenever I feel like it, without a strangling fear that I was going to end up badly hurting myself.
But I find myself currently afraid to study law and get back on track with my life where it was when things got all cocked up. I’m afraid that if I manage to work temp jobs and save up the $4000 I need to take a Barbri class and to sign up for the IL bar exam, that I will be putting myself back in the same stressful situation that existed when my seizures began. I’m actually quite seriously afraid of causing myself to have seizures again by increasing my stress levels.
And then there’s the bigger question that keeps looming in my mind… “Will being a lawyer even make me happy?” And to tell the truth, I don’t know that it will. Part of me feels like being dealt the hand of “MS + Seizure Disorder” was some kind of cosmic “Get Out Of Jail Free” card that might have saved me from a life of pedantic stress-filled misery.
The thing that Adam keeps emphasizing to me is that he just wants me to be happy. It’s the same thing my parents want for me too, and honestly, it’s what I would like for myself as well, but I can’t, for the life of me, figure out how. I’ve been depressed over my physical condition, working through emotional bullshit from past abuse, and frustrated by the limitations of my condition for so long now, that I don’t even remember what makes me genuinely happy.
That’s not to say that there aren’t good/happy moments in my life right now. I know I derive a lot of pleasure from listening to and singing to music and cooking and eating good food. I am enjoying exercise/physical activity, even though I’m not a fan of the sore muscles that come with it. Heck, I post “3 great things about yesterday” almost every day on FB as an exercise in remembering the good… but it doesn’t put me more in touch with the answer to the question, “What do you want to do?” and I think that answering that question is really important.
This weekend, we went to a party for friends, and I must have been asked 5 times, “So what do you do?” And answering, “Well, I’m a housewife, but I sometimes do freelance web and graphic design, and I have my JD and I’m looking for jobs” made me deeply sullen. It made me want to avoid social situations altogether because I felt like I had the worst answer to that question ever. It felt like basically, my answer was, “I’m a loser.” And the truth is, I feel that way right now, even though I know that I’ve handled my life in the best way anyone in my situation could.
When I try to answer the question of, “Well, what would you like your answer to that question to be?” I draw a blank. Well, that’s not entirely true. There are a few answers, but they all feel stupid or impossible — and I know that’s likely just negative thinking. The truth of the matter is that I don’t actually know how possible it would be to work for a record label or radio station in Chicago, or why the phrase “I’m a stay-at-home-mom” has any more merit than “I’m a housewife.” but it feels like it’s a world apart. It’s as though including “raising a child” as a part of your daily routine somehow makes that daily routine more valid as opposed to simply more stressful.
Last night, Adam suggested that I use the word “housewife” with the same vitriol that some people use the word “nigger.” I think he’s right. Even though I do a lot of work around here, I have a hard time giving myself any kudos for it. I just feel like it’s all the stuff that’s expected of a wife, or like it’s all stuff I should do as an adult anyway… but then I think about Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs), and am reminded of three types of them:
- Mental Filter – Only paying attention to certain types of evidence: blocking out the good and noticing failures but not seeing your own successes
- Disqualifying the Positive -Discounting the good things that have happened or that you have done for whatever reason
- Using “Should” and “Must” statements – Critical words like “should”, “must”, or “ought” can make us feel guilty or like we have already failed.
I can’t help but be honest with myself and recognize that these 3 things are in full effect here.
If I were being at all fair to myself, I would be awfully proud of the change that has occurred in myself in the last 2 months. When Adam comes home from work, the place is clean and pleasant to be in, every day. I’m no longer taking 2-3 hour naps that he has to come wake me up from when he gets home because I cannot face life. I am no longer constantly wrestling with the urge to kill myself or harm myself. I don’t cry to him on the phone when he calls me from work every day. I don’t have days where I ask him to stay home from work because I can’t handle another day alone anymore. I don’t try to convince him to divorce me because I’m sure that I’m no good. Instead, I show him, every day, how much he means to me by doing good things and by telling him how much I appreciate him.
And truthfully, that’s big time progress.
I guess I’m just impatient to be “all better,” if that’s even possible. It’s no longer enough for me to just be okay, now that I am okay. I want to be awesome because I remember that I actually am pretty awesome sometimes… and being any less than that feels like failure.
I want to be proud of myself. Adam already tells me that he’s proud to call me his wife. I want to feel like I deserve it. I wonder what I have got to do to earn my own respect. Maybe my therapist can help me answer that question tomorrow.