My shrink, my beloved Cheryl, has been gently trying to help me accomplish the enormous task of changing my thinking.
I mean, this isn’t a new idea. She’s been trying to get me to master this task related to life in general for years. YEARS, people (like more than a decade). She is dedicated to my mental health and I think she sees me as the great challenge of her long and illustrious career.
But now that I have MS, she has turned up the gas on the “changing my thinking” goal.
You see, it’s her belief that my thinking has a direct affect on how I not only manage my MS but also on how I experience it – meaning, if I think shitty thoughts I’m more than likely going to feel shitty. While it is my customary protocol to argue with her for at least three sessions before I give in to any of her sage advice, this time I am giving in a bit more readily. Don’t tell her! But I think it might make some sense.
Today, for example, it’s Monday. I usually begin my week worried about all of the things I might not be able to do as well as I would like because of this damnable condition. The thing is, I have a job. I have a job I love that probably contributes more to my life than just my paycheck (which is appreciated and kind of critical to my existence, don’t get it twisted).
My job is something I’m good at. It’s what you might call a natural talent. I’ve never had to worry that I’m not suited for my job. It’s always been the one thing I take for granted. This particular job, the one I have had for the past 13 years is that rare unicorn that results when the planets align and you somehow find yourself at the apex of your career and you also happen to be in exactly the right place. I almost have no idea how it happened because there were many times in the last couple of years where I doubted if I’d even have a job at this time. Somehow it all worked out. It worked out wonderfully. And I am truly grateful.
My MS gets in the way sometimes, though, as you might expect. It’s mostly the fatigue that messes with me on a fundamental level. My job requires me to not only be here but to also be HERE. I need to be present and engaged. That’s sometimes hard to do when you’re wondering if you’re going to make it past lunchtime. My job also requires me to be in charge. I need to be able to run a room. Make people listen. Help people get on board. Help them see why what I’m saying is true and something they should pay my company lots of money to do. I have never worried about this before. Again, it’s always just come with the package! Like opening my eyes and seeing in the morning, this was something I took for granted.
What if I couldn’t do this anymore? What if me at 60% or even less wasn’t enough to get it done? What if I couldn’t make it happen anymore? I know this sounds silly. But when you’re questioning your ability to get out of bed and walk to your car, it’s not so silly. It’s real as hell and it freaking haunts you.
I have to be able to get from here to there and still be able to do my job. I have to be able to walk and talk at the same time. I have to travel! It just comes with the territory. I have to be able to be presentable in a meeting (i.e. showered? My standards have admittedly changed but clean is generally good). I have to be able to do all of these things on demand, not when I feel like I can, but when they need to happen usually on someone else’s schedule.
Then you start to panic. This disease isn’t cheap, folks. I have friends who are struggling with financial woes on top of the MS-woes and I honestly don’t know how they do it. I work for a company that provides me with fantastic benefits – both medical and practical. The simple truth is, this disease gets in the way of me doing my job as easily as I always have but at the very same time I wouldn’t be able to function while having this disease without this job…do you see the irony?
So here’s where the changed thinking comes in.
I’ve started to realize that I actually am able to do this job and have this disease. It might take some extra planning, some magical medication and some understanding on the part of my team, my clients and my company but the truth is, I can still do this job and I can still kick this job’s ass. I’ve had some good things happen lately that make this fact irrefutable in my mind, finally.
So today, instead of having Monday dread, I am focusing on changing my thinking. I’m thinking about how focused and clear I am (thanks Provigil). I’m thinking about how my shoes are comfy and flat but also kind of cool (thanks John Fluevog). I’m thinking about how excited I am to get started on something brand new and exciting that will let me do what I’m really good at doing (thanks a TON new client for picking us!). I’m thinking about how I will manage the inevitable increase in travel and how I will deal with the travel-related-cat-pee-incidents because I just will (thanks…self deception and blind optimism?).
None of this is easy. I am still falling apart inside and out. But this whole “changing your thinking” thing? Cheryl might be on to something. Do NOT tell her I said that.