Wednesday, February 6, 2013

My Lame Elevator Shame

Hey there, MS blog world! I'm still here, my recent absent due to the swirl of busy I call my life. This late-night post is once again fueled by stimulants and explores one of my many neurotic quirks.

I tend to worry too much about what other people think. Just in general, and in many particular areas of my life. I do cognitively accept the tenet
What other people think of me is none of my business!
but taking it beyond that mental, rational level is another thing entirely. In terms of how this relates to my MS, I work hard to "look so good" in public, even though I hate hearing that phrase constantly from the people who do know about my health. I mean that I work hard to appear "normal" - to simply be another young professional, a fun friend and colleague and relative, and just generally someone who has it together. My mom sometimes questions why I can't let this guard down more around the people that do know about my health issues and who would certainly love and accept me even if I let some of my challenges show a bit more. I'm not sure why I can't, but it is something I struggle to do.

When my symptoms in the past were very much visible and there was nothing I could do mask them, I hated feeling like people might have thought I was drunk or super clumsy or something else outside of the image I like to portray. The way I felt was almost ashamed, even though of course I cognitively know that feeling isn't an accurate or appropriate one.

Now that most of the time my struggles are primarily invisible or at least easy enough to minimize in appearance, I find that I still feel this quasi-shame in certain situations. A big one - both back in the days of very visible symptoms as well as now - is taking the elevator. For some reason, I've long had it in my mind that anytime I'm only going up only one floor and the staircase is right there, the elevator just isn't an option. Three floors or more, sure, no problem. Two floors, on the edge, depends on various factors. But one? Stairs for sure, unless I've got a ton of stuff with me or something like that! It's not that I now or ever have ever in the past judged others for taking the elevator, but I somehow have a perception that others would certainly judge me in the same way I judge myself.

When I could barely walk - the days when I absolutely should have given in and used the cane - I would usually (but ridiculously on my part not always!) give in and take the elevator in the building I had to ascend and descend floors in on a daily basis. But as I would be standing there waiting for the doors to open (always seeming to take forever!) I had an intense feeling of shame or embarrassment or fear of judgement, hoping desperately that as few people as possible would see me. The really comical thing is that I was truly opening myself for legitimate judgement those times when I stubbornly took the stairs when I could barely walk. The process of literally lifting and dragging my one right foot up each step was ridiculous and if seen would surely make anyone question why on earth I chose to take the stairs!

Fast forward to now. My office is on the 2nd floor of the building where I teach and I frequently need to go up and down between the two floors. I almost always take the stairs when I make this trip, because I technically can without issue at this point, but also because of this bizarre lingering issue I have with elevator shame. However, I have come to the point where anytime I am carrying something - or when entering or exiting the building at the beginning and end of the day when I have a heavy bag strapped to my back, a heavy-enough purse in one hand, and a heavy rolling laptop briefcase thingy pulled behind me - I do take the elevator. (This sadly took me several difficult stair trips to come to the decision, which shouldn't be surprising if you've read any of the above rambling about my neurotic tendencies!) I do it because it is a physically taxing trip on an already very physically taxing day (which only makes issues of fatigue and pain worse over the course of the day) as well as the balance issues exacerbated by carrying heavy and awkward things. But as I stand there waiting forever for those doors to open, I still feel that old shame-like feeling and I find myself hoping that no colleagues or students walk by and see me there. And when they do, and we smile and say hello as I stand there and they head up the stairs, I feel a horrible, almost burning, crushing sense of someone finding out some great embarrassing secret. Isn't that ridiculous!! Again, I cognitively KNOW this is ridiculous, but I still FEEL like this so very often. How can I banish this lame shame? Any tips?

source: saracmd


Traci said...

I don't think anyone would blame you for having said "neurotic tendencies," even if they don't understand it!

Very well written and something that I'm proud of you for putting out there, both for your own sake and for anyone who reads it! We all have to remember that we don't know what anyone else is going through and not sharing with the world, and also, that our own worries about what other people are thinking are completely unjustified! Most people are too busy thinking about how THEY appear to others, or about their own worries, to even notice what much else.

Much love to one of the strongest people I know!

ps. LOVE the new photo and image-link to TDQ!

Gwen said...

Great post, and I agree about the new picture! I want to say it might help to think about how you wouldn't judge someone in your position, but that seems a cognitive solution that might not get at the source of your feelings, even though ideally it would. I do agree with Traci that most people are too busy worrying about their own appearance to give much thought to what others are doing. I hope somehow your feelings of shame can lessen over time. Sometimes solutions come to us when we least expect them.