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Timothy L. Vollmer, MD
Department of Neurology
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Co-Director of the RMMSC at Anschutz Medical Center

Medical Director-Rocky Mountain MS Center
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Multiple Sclerosis Institute
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Timothy L. Vollmer M.D.
Department of Neurology
University of Colorado Health Sciences Center
Co-Director of the RMMSC at Anschutz Medical Center
Medical Director-Rocky Mountain MS Center

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Overcoming Feelings of Self-Doubt Brought on by Chronic Illness

I believe myself to be a person with great self confidence. It was a long journey to arrive at this destination, but once I arrived I knew I was here. I realize that chronic illness doesn’t only affect us physically, it manifests in other ways, too. There are psychological, mental and emotional aspects to illness. Congenital heart disease taught me that long ago. MS continues to remind me.

I was talking to my dear friend. She had posted some photos of me and I did not like any of them. I thought they were taken too close and they were unflattering. I asked her to remove them and she did. She and I proceeded to have a discussion regarding this issue. She told me how she felt I am too hard on myself. She said that I cannot see myself the way others see me. She then suggested I write about this subject figuring there are many people who may have these same feelings and bouts of insecurity.

I assured my friend that my current state of mind is temporary and I will get through this valley. I told her I had been in this same place — feeling inadequate — throughout my life. A young person transitioning into adulthood is a difficult process. It is additionally arduous when an illness is present. I often felt as if I was “damaged.” I felt different and lacked the maturity to embrace my differences as attributes. I was not capable at that time to walk in the knowledge that I had been set apart. It took me years to comprehend this stage in my life. It required a lot of tears, heartache, introspection and most important, self-acceptance. I thought I had conquered that covetous enemy.

But here it comes again.

I realize that MS has compromised me in ways that I can now admit. In truth, regardless of what we appear to be on the outside, if we are not feeling well internally it can be detrimental to our psyche. I strive to care for myself, on all levels, and although I may appear “picture perfect,” at times I am struggling. I am struggling to see my glass as half full instead of half empty. I am struggling to get through this challenging period. I am struggling to remain optimistic when it is easy to succumb to pessimism.

I am more than grateful for the medications that are available for many of us to take. However, the side effects that sometimes accompany them are jarring. I cannot deny the aches, pain, fatigue and occasional nausea. I cannot deny the days when I know I need to exercise, but cannot because I am so incredibly tired. I cannot deny the occasional fluctuation in weight, in which some may notice and will mention, while others may observe and remain silent. The disease itself, in addition to the medications used to treat it, can wreak havoc on our minds and bodies at times. This is reality.

For the past few days, I have been on a spiritual pilgrimage. The intent of my journey was to revisit the messages I feed my mind and to discern what is really important. I had to confront these “demons” in order to annihilate them once again. In essence, I have discovered that physical attributes and appearances are minuscule in the meaning of life itself. I recognize that health is of ultimate importance and I acknowledge that I can aspire to do my best to help myself when and where possible. I realize that just as I am my own biggest critic, I am obliged to be my number one fan. I am aware that I must remain vigilant with my self-image knowing that love and beauty are not equated with what I appear to be on the outside. Love is all that I am within.

My message for this column is simple, yet it can be a challenging endeavor. I am heartening you to accept and love yourself at all times. I am reminding you that you are beautiful inside and out, and in the words of my dear friend “Don’t be so hard on yourself.” We are fighting courageously and that speaks volumes. When feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt arise, remember that you are enough and this, too, shall pass.

Who am I? I am an MS Warrior, A Heart Survivor and a person who is beautifully and wonderfully made. I am more than meets the eye. You are, too.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” — James Baldwin.

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by MULTIPLESCLEROSISNEWSTODAY
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length

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