Thursday, May 16, 2013

the mental challenge: by mike

I worry about writing on this topic.  Simply because my intention is to solicit your thoughts, ideas, and experiences through the medium of this blog, rather than pontificate about myself and my particular situation.  Therefore, as I write this please consider your personal situation and circumstance and be ready to share or respond - or at the very least commiserate with a like-minded soul!

Multiple Sclerosis.  That is my personal El Guapo. 

Your personal El Guapo may be something entirely different, but there may be some commonalities running through our individual experiences and challenges.  

With everything that comes with this disease and its distinctively unique signature, there is one overriding challenge that I can’t seem to successfully navigate.  To employ a horrible pun, it may be the most crippling portion of my disease.  

I’ve always been a big believer in ‘mind over matter’ - or at least my own version of mind over matter.  I’ve always been pretty good at dealing with pain and discomfort.  Physical challenges were opportunities I relished.  Athletic competition and pushing one’s body to new heights was always something I enjoyed.  I have finished a soccer game after damaging the ligaments in my knee.  I injured my back making a diving catch in a intramural flag football game and finished the game (I couldn’t walk for a week after that night).  I have finished a soccer game after knocking heads with another player, cutting my head open, and being knocked out.  No pain, no gain!  I take pride in having mastered my mind over matter mantra.

So when I was diagnosed with MS, I thought to myself.  I can handle this.  I can handle the pain, the fatigue, the loss of equilibrium and balance.  I’ll even handle the loss of mobility.  I take it as a personal challenge to walk miles around Disneyland with my children and forcing my legs to take one more dragging step.  And then one more.  And then one more.  Well, as time has passed, my condition has progressed and I am now relegated to a motorized chair at Disneyland.  I can’t play soccer in the backyard with my boys without threat of serious peril! (I fall easily and cannot brace myself because I don’t know how I am falling!)

What I was unprepared for was the mental challenges that have come with this disease.  As a man, I take my responsibilities to provide for my family seriously.  I take my commitment to my wife to be equal partners in raising our children seriously.  I take my desire to serve others and lift the hands that hang down (Hebrews 12:12) seriously.  To fail at the most basic of commitments, the most important commitments, is unacceptable to me.  And I am fighting to find some sort of understanding.  Some sort of balance.  My expectations don’t match my physical ability (not to mention my mobility!).  

I am struggling to find a mentally comfortable balance between my responsibilities and my limitations.  How does one make a transition from things that were and always have been unacceptable to accepting that you are limited in critical functions/areas?  

How to accept the unacceptable?  
I have not found a ‘How-To’ guide for these mental challenges.

How do you accept limits without limiting your worth?

It makes me angry that I cannot clean the kitchen without completely wiping myself out.  I rely on my oldest son to take care of so many tasks and chores that I should be doing and that’s not fair to him. And I could go on. But that’s not the point.  The point is simply how is it possible to find peace?  

To feel comfortable with a contribution that is so significantly limited?

I have deep and abiding faith in God.  I know that this is temporary and confined to this life.  This area is not where my concern lies whatsoever.

However, as my own harshest critic, it is hard to sit on the sidelines of life and feel worthy.  It’s difficult to stand by and watch others carry disproportionate loads because you are unable.  Feelings and thoughts of worthlessness, shame, and embarrassment invade my mind.

This is a work in progress.  Mentally, I am trying to get my arms around this challenge.

What insight do you have?  What wisdom might you share?


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