As a child, we never had to witness something to believe it – Santa Claus, The Tooth Fairy, The Easter Bunny – we never saw them, yet we believed because we had no reason to doubt. I wonder what changes as we get older – what leads us to doubt people and their stories? Is it our own past experiences of lies and deceit that shape us as we get older? Probably – but that doesn’t give us the right or the excuse to act as a ‘Doubting Thomas’ towards every individual and experience we encounter.
If neurologists and researchers adopted a ‘Doubting Thomas’ approach, then Multiple Sclerosis would be nothing more than a visible illness primarily affecting mobility. It’s multitude of associated invisible symptoms would be considered imaginative. And yet, despite research and awareness on MS and it’s invisible symptoms, those of us living with the illness quite often find ourselves on the receiving end of doubt and disbelief.
“But you look great Ciara!” - Thanks. Decided to wear a dress today – Pennys!
“But you look great Ciara!” – Thanks. Am really surprised I look okay actually – didn’t sleep last night – the spasms in my lower limbs kept me awake. That’s why I decided to wear a dress – I physically didn’t have the energy to pull my trousers up this morning and close the button.
“But you look great Ciara!” – Thanks. It took so much energy to shower this morning. I had to shave my legs and the sensation is horrendous – shaving on an area of numbness and pins and needles is awful.
“But you look great Ciara!” – Thanks. I didn’t look or feel great for the last two days. Fatigue really got a hold of me this week. I had no energy, drained, exhausted - was a massive effort to even make a cup of tea.
“But you look great Ciara!” - Thanks. I let the cup of tea fall out of my hand yesterday – the cup weighed so much, it felt like a brick in my hand and when the tea spilt I didn’t really feel it – sensations can be altered in my body.
“But you look great Ciara!” – Thanks. Before I sat into the car today I had to plan my fluid intake and my journey factoring in toilet stops along the way – I experience urinary symptoms of urgency and frequency and it really bothers me sometimes.
“But you look great Ciara!” – Thanks. Some days the worry and anxiety of living with a chronic illness and what the future may hold really gets me down – I cry sometimes and that’s okay.
“But you look great Ciara!” – Thanks. I really enjoy exercising and going to the gym but sometimes it’s a struggle – my body overheats and I experience double vision and dizziness.
“But you look great Ciara!” – I’m sorry, what were we talking about? I find it hard to concentrate at times – I call it the ‘Cog Fog’.
“But you look great Ciara!” - – But I feel like crap. On the outside, I present well – I made an extra effort this morning to try and not let what’s going on inside get me down.
“But you look great!” – the phrase that hurts the most when you’re and just putting on a brave front and feeling anything but great. I love a compliment as much as anyone but it’s how we phrase it. How about we build people’s confidence while at the same time acknowledging those struggles we can’t see?
“You look great but… how are you really feeling today?”
Be kind and be slow to judge. Everyone is fighting a battle you can’t see and if you never ask, you won’t ever be able to try and understand.