Good old resentment or why I’ve been feeling so aggressive lately

118Resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die, so says the quote that has been attributed to several different authors. And it’s true. Resentment holds you in its grip, doesn’t let go, and slowly eats you up inside. If you think of an autoimmune disease like ms, in which the immune system eats away at the myelin sheath, it becomes quite literal. Dr Gabor Maté writes on his When The Body Says No that if you can choose between guilt and resentment, choose guilt every time. I’ve been trying to adopt that strategy but every once in a while resentment surfaces before I even have time to notice what’s going on.

I’ve always been very independent and autonomous. That’s a personality trait of which I am, for most of the time, very proud. But because of that people don’t usually see me as someone who may need help, who may need to be cared for. And there were moments in my life when I certainly wish things hadn’t been so lonely, despite the fact that I could take care of everything on my own. So when someone in her thirties asks me to purchase something online for her because she doesn’t even know how to use a credit card on a website (you just put in the numbers, stupid), I feel like screaming. Scream because I don’t understand how someone doesn’t even try to do something incredibly simple for herself before asking for help, scream because I don’t understand how someone can get by exclusively through manipulating people into doing things for them – and, yes, scream because I rarely remember having people offering to help, even in much complicated situations (aww, look at all the resentment right there). Damn. I don’t remember who told me or where I read that ms was a blessing in the sense that I now have a perfectly valuable reason to say no to people and don’t let them take advantage of me. “My brain is all foggy today, I don’t remember how to do it, but I’m sure you can manage, little princess.”

The other day I had dinner with a friend. I was reading a book while waiting for him and when he arrived he asked me what I was reading. I told him it was about anxiety and depression in the context of ms (I will write about the book soon) and also mentioned some curious things I’d learned from it. He then proceeded to make fun of the book (“what a light summer read”) and changed the subject as I tried to tell him how relevant it was for me. Now I know some people use scorn as a means to disguise the fact they don’t know much about a given subject. Oldest trick in the book. And they even go as far as to say that it’s not important (if they never heard of it, of course it’s not, because the world obviously revolves around them). Some people even feel threatened by the idea that other people may know more than them, especially, god forbid, if that person is a woman and they’re men. But news flash! It’s my health, you moron, of course I know more about it than you! Why not ask some questions about why it is important for me and engage in a dialogue that can actually add meaning to both our lives? Wishful thinking. I can’t believe someone who’s known me for 15 years doesn’t let me connect and chooses instead to push me away with scorn. I can’t believe I’ve become alien to even those who have known me longer.

Seriously, I’ve cut off people from my life because of their absolute disregard for my health. On and on again I used to tell a friend of mine that no, I didn’t want to have dinner during the week, because that would make going to work the next day extra hard for me. Besides I had classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays and I wanted my mind to be clear and sharp, which wouldn’t happen if I’d slept less hours the night before. And no, Fridays I’m usually so tired I just crash. He couldn’t make arrangements on weekends so he kept pushing me to make an exception. But no. One day I just told him I was really busy and that I would call him when I had the time. I never called. It was it. I just wish I didn’t consider, time and again, to do the same with other people.

Maybe I’m overreacting and I will laugh about this soon. Maybe I just wrote the last sentence because I’m second-guessing myself and not having any consideration for my own feelings. Maybe I became overly sensitive since the diagnosis. I wish there was an instructions manual but there isn’t. Right now I’m just angry and lonely and scared. But mostly angry.

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Are you gonna kill me in my sleep?

Mental illness runs in the family. My grandmother had schizophrenia and so did one of my uncles. I have another uncle who is an alcoholic and has also been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. My older uncle has suffered from depression and my mother is chronically depressed, one of the reasons being she was the one who took care of all the people mentioned, while no one really took care of her. She remembers quite nasty stuff from her early years, including being kicked out of the house by my grandmother, who failed to recognize her and called her all kinds of names for everyone to hear, and picking up my bipolar uncle from jail whenever alcohol and mania got him into trouble. As for my schizophrenic uncle, he died young and he’s kind of the taboo in the family. When he was called to go to war in Africa in the 1960s, everyone begged my grandfather, who held a relatively high position in the military, to manipulate things in order to have him doing some clerk work instead of going to the battle front, because they knew he was mentally ill. But no, my grandfather’s sons had to be real men and fight the war. That obviously didn’t turn out very well. My uncle came back in a catatonic state and died shortly after. My grandfather passed away at 88 and all those years he lived he was never forgiven by my mother and surviving uncles.

As for the new generation… well, let’s say I take after the neurotic side of the family, and my sister takes after the psychotic one. We’ve been estranged for more than a decade now, ever since she snapped/lost it/whatever and held a knife against my chest when I was 20 (she was 24). My parents pretended nothing happened because… well, just because, and I decided I didn’t want someone like her near me. Two years later, on an occasion we were both with my mother, my mother said something about me, and my sister yelled she wanted to see me dead (words that my brain was kind enough to remind me of when my neurologist uttered the words “multiple sclerosis” – and before I knew no one dies of multiple sclerosis, but still).

I understand, I’m the bad guy. I was born and a couple of months later my grandmother passed away and two years later my parents got divorced. For my sister’s 5-year-old brain, not only did I take from her all the protagonism, but I also drove daddy away. So I was bad news and someone to hate for as long as she lives. You can imagine therefore how I’ve been feeling about her wanting to take me on summer holidays with her.

Now, don’t be fooled. She isn’t trying to make things up. She has been dumped by her boyfriend (you can imagine she is a difficult person to live with), so she’s feeling lonely and doesn’t know what to do with her free time. She has been calling and e-mailing me, asking me if I know where I want to stay, and my anxiety levels have been soaring. Not only I’m the kind of person who finds it hard to say no to people, but she can also be very persuasive and manipulative (which she got from my father’s side of the family).

But really, the only thing I can think of is whether she’s actually planning to kill me in my sleep.

Good news, bad news and some existential thoughts (or not)

So… it’s been a little while. I went away for a week on vacation and when I came back it’s like all hell broke loose, more or less.
The good news is that the ultrasound revealed that my cyst keeps getting smaller as a result of the medication I’m taking. The doctor also examined me and he said he couldn’t even feel it anymore. The pain I sometimes get in my lower abdomen is apparently not related to my endometriosis, so it still remains to be diagnosed, but overall good news.
The bad news… After a week completely free of ms symptoms, as soon as I got back I started feeling intense fatigue again. I woke up on Monday and my right arm was numb and I was so tired my legs hurt and felt heavy, as if I had cement blocks attached to them. Throughout the day I noticed my left hand was always stiff.
These symptoms eventually subsided as the week went on, except for the fatigue and the feeling my legs were heavy. I kept spreading peppermint gel on them to make it better and it helped a little.
Now what am I to make of this? We know that stress exacerbates ms symptoms, but I think it goes a little beyond that. How we feel psychologically also messes us physically. Because the truth is I feel stranded in my everyday life, being kept in an office/cage from 9 to 5, being given responsibilities I don’t have the skills to deal with and wasn’t taught how to. And in the end of the week, life seems to make little sense. I don’t see ways out, I don’t see any meaning. I look for meanings and fulfillment in other places, but by the time I get home from work I’m usually so tired I can’t even write a few words on Twitter, let alone do anything else.
The other day I was on a Facebook group for people with ms and someone was telling she got her disability retirement at 31, which is how old I am now. Besides the fact that I don’t think anyone would give me retirement just because I feel tired all the time, it doesn’t even cross my mind throwing in the towel at such a young age. I don’t think I should give up because I don’t even think the problem is the disease itself but the external factors that are contributing to it. If I were given more flexibility in terms of working hours and the opportunity to work from home I believe my symptoms would generally improve. But unfortunately the company where I work is still operating in the past century, and given the economic crisis my country is struggling with, the prospects of finding another job look dim. I should be glad that I have a job and that my medication is still made available, though I know in other countries there are already new and more sophisticated options. So in the meantime I’ll just keep on dragging those cement blocks and hope everything will be fine.