Depression, the killer of lost souls. Have you ever felt so lost, so alone in a crowded room that you begin to question the reasons. The reason we are here, the reason we feel so deeply, the reason people see the world in so many different ways. Why am I here, why do I live while others die, why I am dealing with this damn disease? The answer is very simple and not very popular: why not? As for the reason . . . who said reason was a part of living. Reasons are the excuses we give ourselves so we can do what we want while still feeling sanctimonious. Don’t kid yourself. Mankind is a predator. We take what we want and make excuses, laws, beliefs to accommodate the moment. The questions of faith would best be left to saints and madmen, madwomen, mad people, oh whatever! Each one of us has moments of madness and saintliness. The trick is knowing the difference.
I was recently asked how I deal with depression. Why is it always assumed that we must be depressed if things aren’t perfect? Just because I am dealing with a disease that has robbed me of the ability to walk, for which there is no cure, that limits my independence, why must I be depressed? Hum-mm. When you put it that way, maybe I should be. But I’m not. Oh don’t get me wrong, I do have days when I feel really crummy, when I am a wee bit depressed but I am not dealing with DEPRESSION. I have enough to deal with why would I complicate it with depression? Having MS has taught me tolerance, it has taught me patience (still a work in progress) and it has taught me to ‘deal with it and move on’. Every single person has something, some hurdle they have to contend with – fear of heights, fear of flying, allergies, migraines, the list goes on. Mine is perhaps more frightening, more high profile. But my personal hurdle is no more difficult than another person’s. Because whatever you are dealing with is always worse when it is yours.
I was a child of the 60s. I wasn’t a youth, or young adult. I was a toddler, an ankle biter, a little kid. In those days children were allowed to be children. I ran outside, I licked rocks, I ate grass and hay and yes probably dirt. That’s what kids did. I used to get up in the morning, have breakfast that my mother had made and go outside. Often she would pack me a lunch and I would be gone until dinnertime. She didn’t always know where I was but she always knew that I was safe. If the truth were to be told often I wasn’t. I used to play in a local gravel pit as well as on a busy train track. Then there was the swamp with quicksand I used to play in. I was having a ball! And I survived it.
Nowadays I see parents taking their children to school and picking them up afterward. I see schools that have banned foods because of allergies. I see signs everywhere that ask people to refrain from wearing perfume because of allergies. These are very serious issues. I don’t ever recall anyone being allergic to peanuts as a child, or perfume, or well anything. Now I have to wonder if this is a new phenomenon? Have we so restricted our children from being exposed to anything that we have done them a huge disservice? I rarely ever see children outside playing on the grass, in the dirt. Instead they are inside attached to a computer or some computer game. They don’t get to experience the great outdoors, the fresh air, the sun. We also are so concerned about germs and viruses that we use antibacterial soap on everything. Now we have superbugs that are stronger than our soaps. Surely you know the story of Frankenstein, a monster created out of someone’s arrogance? Well take a look in the mirror because that’s what we are doing!
We are raising children to be afraid of everything and we are creating super bugs that validate that fear. Does that not sound like the height of hubris? Perhaps if we had left well enough alone and let our kids eat a little dirt we wouldn’t be in the predicament that we are now. It does make you wonder.
Have you ever walked into a crowded room and felt as if no one was aware of you? It is almost as if you are invisible. Well that happens to me with some regularity although it is usually at a busy street intersection with many, many cars whizzing by. Am I a wee bit nervous? Yes. Now to state a few pertinent facts. The intersection in question has a ‘walk’ symbol that is very clear to both drivers and pedestrians. The roadway is not visually blocked in any way. Physically I stand about 5’5”, sitting in a wheelchair I am sure I am more than 4’ high. While my particular wheelchair is not the largest on the market it is still quite substantial. And yet, I have been narrowly missed by cars far too many times. Why? One theory (my own in fact) is that I have joined the ranks of the Invisible People. Who are these transparent travelers, these wraithlike wanderers? Basically they are anyone who works or moves in virtual anonymity. They are there but we don’t see or acknowledge them. It happens a hundred times a day. People lead busy lives, they don’t have the time or the energy to see or respond to the dozens if not hundreds of people they come into contact with. There is the guy who took your ticket on the subway, the kid who gave you your coffee and bagel, the cleaning staff at your office, the list is endless. Some people make the effort to acknowledge these people, but most do not. That is sad. Every single person you come into contact with in your busy life is a man or a woman that is important. The woman who brings your mail promptly every day, the guy who keeps your streets clean, the individual who changes the burnt out bulb in your local street light. These people are around, sometimes in our sight lines, sometimes not, but they are there. The next time you see someone watering the plants on the boulevard, say hi! Maybe it will become a trend and we will finally really see each other. Maybe next time they will see me in the intersection.
We may not be able to control it but how we deal with it affects our character. When we were children it was immaterial. As youths it was something that would never end. As adults we never seem to find enough of it. As seniors, it is moving far too quickly. We used to look back on it in terms of seconds or minutes. Then it became days, weeks or even years. Now it is decades in the multiples. Where has it gone?
Time passes, time flies, time waits for no man, a stitch in time…..lots of sayings, no control. And I think if there’s one thing that we really do want to control, it is time.
Maybe, just maybe we can control it, or rather the perception of it. We need to learn how to relish what time we have. When we were children we wanted to stay up just a little bit later. We wanted to stay outside just a little bit longer. We hungered for the day when we were old enough to do things on our own. We couldn’t wait for time to pass! As adolescents we couldn’t wait until we were old enough to go out and have a drink, legally. We wanted to drive a car and have a boyfriend but we weren’t old enough. We wanted time to pass in a hurry. As adults we wish we could make time stand still. I need just little more time to finish that article. Another five minutes before I have to get out of bed. And before you know it we reach senior status and time once again stands still and at the same time it races to the finish line. I have seen seniors sitting with nothing to do. Their days seem to go on endlessly as they wait. Then there are the seniors that don’t spend their time waiting, they use their time! There are bus trips to take, paintings to paint, parties to attend! They wring every last second out of the time they have to get the most enjoyment possible! A lesson everyone could benefit from.
Life is a journey, hopefully one full of joy and accomplishment. One of my favourite sayings is “we are here for a good time, not a long time”. Of course we can always hope it is a ‘good, long time’!
Time changes us. Sometimes the change is positive, sometimes it is not. I am not the same person I was 10 years ago. I believe I’m a better person, that I have grown positively. And I believe that in another 10 years I will be an even better person. But there have been changes that were not always positive. My hair is more blonde than red. My clothes fit a little differently than when I was 16. It’s a trade-off. I still have my winning smile and my wicked sense of humour! So while I am a different person than I was at 25, I am still me. Today I would not want to be the person I was at 15. In the world of magic I would like to be the person I am today with the body I had at 19, hair colour I had at nine and the health I had at 16. Life was good. Life is good. Life will be good.
I have been looking at alternative treatments for MS and have discovered there are thousands of them. Literally. From Aunt Maisie’s peach poultice to dried bat guano, and more than a few noxious treatments in between. It is difficult to be sure what to do. Doctors all have a favourite treatment that has been successful for their particular patients but we are all so very different. Each individual reacts differently, has different preferences and different needs. Some of those medicinal treatments have done wonders for some people and not others. Why? Because we are all different. I can’t take the medicines because I react badly to them. Do I give up? Nhat! I have tried some of the herbal remedies etc., etc., etc. I think I will just keep looking, evaluating and occasionally trying different things. It’s an adventure. As long as I can keep on the positive side of this disease it’s ok. And yes there is a positive side. I have a better understanding of people with disabilities in particular and individuals in general. Mostly people are good. They are frightened, unsure, and even angry but they do mean well. Honestly. Of course there will always be a schmuck or two in the crowd. It’s amazing how wheeling over a toe or two can bring them down to earth. Did I say that out loud? I would never . . . Definitely some advantages.
Breathing. Silly to think that we may not really know how to breathe. I mean we actually do it a trillion times a day. I’m exaggerating. Maybe only a couple of billion times a day. I read an article that said we (modern Homo sapiens) have become shallow breathers. Rarely do we inhale deeply, expanding our chests to their maximums. I don’t think I would enjoy inhaling deeply on a busy downtown street. If the carbon monoxide didn’t get you the miasma associated with a couple of million people would. Whew. But it is true. While no one wants to expand his or her chest on a busy street, we can and should do it privately. When you inhale deeply your chest expands, your shoulders go back, and your entire body stretches. It is a great feeling. It may take a while to get the hang of it but try doing it a couple of times a day to start. I guarantee that when you get the hang of it you will want more. Maybe a trend will start. People will hold Chest Expanding Seminars where together women can expand their chests and men can . . . well maybe not. But do try it. It doesn’t cost anything, isn’t taxable and is legal. Now that is a subversive thought don’t you think?