"I'm a pain in the ass, I think"

Patient Expert

"I've had such a hard time acknowledging I even have a disease.  I'm a pain in the ass I think.  I think of you all the time. You have 100x the issues and you seemed to have so much more grace and patience."

That statement is an excerpt from the email of a very dear old friend. She shared some of the happiest times of my life, and supported me during the very worst time of my life. We've drifted apart since I moved hundreds of miles away, but the bond of friendship is a strong one, no matter how infrequently we speak.

When I read those words, my eyes welled up with tears, for so many reasons. She's a strong woman. I don't think she realizes this, but she has long been an inspiration in my life. She was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I can't bear for her to think that I am the strong one and she is not. If I do have a certain grace about my MS, it hasn't always been so.

My Dear Friend,

Miles already separated us when I received the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. We emailed back and forth a few times, and on a visit there, you saw me using a ** cane**, but you didn't get to witness the process of acceptance. You didn't see me during my dazed and confused state.

I didn't publicly acknowledge my MS in the beginning. Aside from the people who already knew of my quest for a diagnosis, I could not say the words, "I have MS" when people inquired about my health. It took time.

Although nobody told me so, I was probably a big pain in the ass, too. The constant emergence of new symptoms and powerful emotions forced me into a self-centered state for a while. It's only natural. The trick is not to stay there.

I can't confirm that I have 100 times the issues you have. We haven't shared many details of our physical challenges, or the drastic changes we have had to make in our lives. I suspect 100 times is stretching it. From what I understand, fibromyalgia is no walk in the park.

I haven't always had grace and patience; it emerged slowly over several years. These days, that's the image I present to people because I've made peace with the enemy. MS is not going to go away, so I learned how to live with it, around it, and through it. Not because I'm such a great person, but because I simply don't have another choice.

You've got a lot on your plate right now, so cut yourself some slack. It's okay to be a pain in the ass for a while.

And keep this in mind... through someone else's eyes, you may appear to be the very picture of grace and patience.