For many, they would see that a person is either an optimist or a pessimist but in true fashion, I even complicate these descriptions when I self diagnose. I see myself as optimistically pessimistic! What is my rationale? I enter sweepstakes and buy lotto thinking I have as much a chance to win as anyone else – Optimist. But I know deep down I my chances to win are very slim – Pessimist. But the more choice word I guess should be – Realist. Living with Multiple Sclerosis also feeds this concept. I know I have good days – optimist, I also know that the price of realizing the good days is experiencing the bad ones – pessimist, but I know I have to make the best of THIS day – realist.
Because of my M.S. and spending so much time fatigued and stuck in the bed, I began entering online sweepstakes. I have won a few nice items: an Apple iPad, a $300 Best Buy Gift card, a $100 Overstock.com Gift card, several iTunes gift cards and a dozen or so smaller prizes. But as you see, I have not won a big cash prize, a car, TV, or trip; but I continue entering the sweeps. I enter the sweeps just to have something to do and on bad days I sometimes do not even enter one. I win something sometimes – optimist, I do not win enough for the amount I of time I spend entering sweeps – pessimist, I have SOMETHING to do to pass some time – realist.
My M.S. is like this also, when I have a good day, I tend to do too much and overexert myself. The good day, I get to have SOME fun – optimist, the bad days I may be in great pain and stuck in bed – pessimist, when I AM stuck in bed I can remember the good days – realist. A common saying in the M.S. community is, “I have M.S. but M.S. doesn’t have me” – optimistic. Reality, there are days that my M.S. does have me – pessimistic. Few people know truly how my M.S. complicates my life. I try only to let people see the optimistic side, the healthy side of my life I do get to enjoy. Since I do tend to project the image as someone healthy, I miss out on truly helping others understand the impact M.S. has on my life.
Staying in Medellin, Colombia as much as I do not only helps with my M.S., it also helps me mentally! Medellin is known as “The City of Eternal Spring”. The milder climate does help in that I do have fewer relapses and often when I do have a relapse, it may not be as severe. This is a big plus! The biggest benefit is that I am able to live independently! Living totally on my disability income in the U.S. is impossible for me, but here in Medellin, I can afford to have my own apartment and feed myself. There is little money left for other things, but the advantage of feeling independent out-weighs the disadvantages. The downside of this independent life means I also have to sacrifice seeing my family because the M.S. limits my traveling and the money for flying is also VERY limiting.
Friends usually see me as complicated and difficult. They do not realize what I have to do in order to “feel” like meeting for a dinner or beer – it takes careful planning for me! I once wrote how I feel like Sid the Sloth from the Ice Age movies (https://thomasajohnston.com/2011/03/05/trapped-in-an-ice-age/). I feel most of my friends simply tolerate me, but like Sid’s herd, my friends do down deep care about me. I use the expression “Colombian time” in Medellin because Colombians just do not seem too concerned about schedules, appointments and timing. This complicates my being part of a herd in Colombia because even when I explain how I NEED to keep schedules because of my health issues, the relaxed attitude of Colombians is more important to them than my schedule. I rest, I medicate based on being somewhere at a certain time and then they see me as inflexible when they say we have changed the plans or times and just think I have the ability to adapt that easily. Like Sid… I am sometimes abandoned.
Then again, I find it easy to thin my herd or “clean out the friend closet” sometimes! Some people make it easy! As I am sure I make it easy for some to reclassify me as a former friend. I have become a self imposed hermit and actually find I enjoy being alone. Limiting my time with friends helps me keep friends! lol I am very happy for the few friends I do have in my herd – Optimist. I do wish making new friends was not so difficult for me – Pessimist. This desire drives me to improve myself and educate even friends of how M.S. keeps me Optimistically Pessimistic or just a realist?