“An identity would seem to be arrived at by the way in which the person faces and uses his experience.” ~ James Baldwin

image source: http://brandipal.tumblr.com/

Can a chronic illness like MS affect your identity? You betcha! You see, personal identity (our sense of self) tends not to be an unchanging concrete thing. It tends more to be a dynamic concept that  fluctuates with life experience.

Our sense of self includes anything such as life/professional roles, personal attributes, behaviors, and aspects that we consider most important about ourselves. The aspects that contribute to our self identities can be things like occupation, hobbies, athletic ability, family relationships, marital status, disabilities and health…among many others.

My own identity can be shaken at times by the twists and turns of my health due to multiple sclerosis and seizures. And often, the symbol of that comes in the form of a button…a remote button I wear around my neck so that if I fall or drop due to a seizure, emergency personnel will be called and sent directly to me, even if I am unconscious. I have a love/hate relationship with that button. It is because of the button that I can be alone and maintain my independence. It is because of my health condition that I need the button – so when my health is at a lower ebb, and I have to wear and count on that button – it becomes a symbol of my dependence and a perception of freedoms lost.

In the last few weeks, as a result of the overwhelmingly busy schedule I have been keeping with workload, travel, wedding, moving, packing, unpacking, and so on… I have ended up dealing with a deeper MS exacerbation physically than I have in a while. My muscles are weaker than normal, exacerbating my spinal injury, triggering more weakness, and so on. As a result, in order to ensure my safety, it has been important for me to wear my button “just in case”. This “just in case” part is primarily because we don’t know if a seizure will be triggered or not. I end up feeling “less than” because I need to slow down. I know – it is not logical…but it happens sometimes. (That’s where a good support system helps!)

That’s where identity comes in, because when you can’t do what you are normally accustomed to do, it can affect your sense of self. Sometimes we can feel a sense of guilt for being unable to participate at a certain level. Or we can feel isolated. It is imperative to remember, at that time, that we are not just one thing (i.e. wht we do, or how we do it, or…). We need to ensure that we don’t allow what we can’t do in one moment to impact our sense of identity in any moment. And it can be easier said than done, depending on our own personal sense of self.

Every new adjustment is a crisis in self-esteem. ~ Eric Hoffer

Now where did I leave that darned button?

Namaste

Carolyne

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