Coping with Toxic People in Your Life

Toxic people are completely exhausting and harmful to be around. Not only this, but they can also have a negative impact on your health.  Dealing with such individuals on a daily basis is unfavorable for anyone’s health, but it can be even more damaging if you are battling a chronic condition like MS.  As most of our community members realize, living with MS can make life difficult and can require a great amount support from those around you. When one’s support system becomes anything but supportive, it can have a damaging impact on your well-being.  We at MultipleSclerosis.net recently posted an article about the presence of toxic people in life and how to deal with them, and received an overwhelming community response. We had such a large response, that we wanted to capture some of those experiences, advice, and stories and share them with you!

Identifying toxic people and their behavior is important

There may be individuals that shrug off your condition as unimportant or unreal. They can’t even begin to understand what you are going through. These types of people can be dismissive and compare whatever you are going through to their situation. Identifying and avoiding these people (if possible!) is key.

“I have one person very close to me that just doesn’t get it, actually refuses to believe that I have MS.”

“Dealing with this is not fun; my so called friends don’t like to talk about it or hear about what I am going through.”

“I can’t work and my ‘friends’ call me lazy.”

“I hate it when my family members say, ‘You don’t look sick.’”

“My Mom tells me when I’m having a bad day to, ‘just stop thinking about it…If you don’t think about it, it will just go away.’”

“Comment made to me by an insensitive friend ‘Everyone has their burden’…..”

“I get it all the time, I mention I am tired … they are just as tired.  I mention my forgetfulness; they are just as bad. I mention my pain and theirs is worse.” 

“I hate when people say, ‘I get tired, too.’”

Toxic people don’t take the time to understand

Toxic people make you feel like a burden, and are generally unsupportive. These negative feelings are expressed not only verbally, but with actions as well.  These types of people don’t take the time to learn or understand what you are going through. If possible, it can be an incredibly healthy decision to avoid these individuals who don’t take the time to learn about what you’re going through, or who make you feel like you are too much effort to be around.

My Mom met a woman with MS and said ‘she seemed ok and active…You need to be more like that.’”

“It’s so not worth saying anything to anyone because they just don’t care enough to learn about MS.”

“Somebody told me once to ‘pull myself together.’”

“They just don’t get it or even try to get it!

“My husband has MS. His adult children refuse to see or understand how disabling his MS is. It is very frustrating”

We all know someone that is potentially toxic, and they can bring you down and affect your health and well-being.  How we learn to live with these people is up to us.  If at all possible, try to surround yourself with positive, supportive people who are better for your health and well-being. These individuals can make any day seem brighter and remind you that you are not alone in this. If you’re still searching for individuals like this in your life, or just want to expand on the network you have, our community is always open to new members, stories, tips, and ideas! We’re always here for you!

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Relationships are…

Dear No One,

Relationships are tough. I mean, I know I’m stating the absolute obvious to you when I say that, but just hear me out. We too often think of relationships in terms of just those we date or are romantically attached to. But relationships are more than that. We have relationships with our family members, our friends – hey even total strangers we strike up a conversation with on a train platform. And they all can be taxing and draining, hard to navigate and at times annoying. They can be stressful and expensive and not just in terms of money but in emotional investment and mental space. If I’m being honest, people can be the worst. I mean really, look around and you’ll find plenty of examples of reasons why we should not like people. Just look at what they do to each other and you aren’t immune if you know someone. People can hurt the people we know just as much if not more than the people we don’t. You see what I mean, relationships… they’re totally insane!

But then things happen like the other day when it was raining and I stopped at a light and I was annoyed by the day and by the rain and by just everything and I caught out of the passenger window a woman walk up to someone on a bus stop and offer for them to share their umbrella. Just out of the blue walked and stood near them and the person, startled by the sudden end to rain pouring onto their head looked up and then over and with a look of bewilderment cracked a nervous smile and tilted their head. And the woman smiled and the light turned green.  Or when I went for a hike not far from my house yesterday evening and saw a dad picking his teary kid up off the unsteady hiking path. Just lift them up into his arms and as sure as the grass is green and the river moving told them that everything was going to be alright, they just took a little stumble. Things sometimes happen like the police officer who is called to a house to investigate a possible concern and ends up comforting a little boy who’s all alone or a teacher who has struggled to get a new student to be respectful and listen, gets an email from a foster mom saying thank you and that she’s seen a big difference at home even if there hasn’t been a big difference in class.

Relationships are tough. They’re messy and difficult. They’re taxing and at times confusing. They take a lot of energy and effort and thought. You spend time worrying if what you said was too much or too little, if you are being too intrusive or too standoffish. You rack your brain with what if they don’t understand or don’t laugh or don’t come back. And all of those are possibilities that we face and can leave little pieces of us chipped off. But being in relationships also make us richer, fuller and more colorful. They make us smile and laugh and become more caring. They make us understand and see things differently and open up. They’re tough, don’t get me wrong, but they’re also worth it. They’re worth saying Hi to the person you meet at the airport and worth smiling and asking how they are doing of the cashier at the grocery store. They’re worth reaching out to people we’ve been thinking about and worth letting those in who we’d otherwise keep at arms length. They’re worth replying to the community post someone started about feeling alone and worth getting into even if it doesn’t end the way you’d hoped. Relationships are worth it and I guess since they are…maybe people aren’t so bad after all.

Affectionately,

Me

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Sleep? What’s That?

By Penelope Conway

At the end of an exhausting day yesterday, I collapsed into my bed and tried to sleep. You know, that thing where you curl up, close your eyes, snore and drool? Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for me last night. I spent the entire time wide awake through the yawns. A full night of sleep for me is more like a trip to a baseball game on a sold-out night than a trip to a relaxing spa.

Game night goes something like this…

You find your seat and settle in for the game with your team shirt on, a foam finger in one hand and a bag of peanuts in the other. “Play ball”…the game has begun, but since you are in the third seat on your row, everyone has to step over you to get to their seat. Your toes get stepped on by the first person coming by, you get smacked in the head with the next lady’s purse, and elbowed by the person after her.

You endure constant commotion and movement as people carry drinks and food up and down the row. One person even spills part of their drink on you. Then, just as the game is getting good, the person next to you starts talking so loud that you can’t even hear your own thoughts anymore.

You are stuck listening to everything about their job and the problems they are having with their boss…things you didn’t need to know, but now do…and in the process, you miss the epic play of the night. You were there the night a world record was set, but have to watch the replay to find out what really happened. You simply wanted to enjoy the game but it seems like there’s more going on in the stands than on the field.

That about sums up a night of sleep for me with MS: pain, dizziness, breathing difficulties, tossing and turning, muscle spasms, trips to the bathroom, and an overactive brain that won’t shut up. A night of sleep…I wish! Meds do help and for that I’m thankful.

When a friend tries to rationalize or downplay my fatigue, it can hurt. Many times it seems like the more I try to explain how tired my tired is, the more they try to fit it into their little perception box. Understandably so, they aren’t the ones living with it, but sometimes I just wish I could give them a taste of what my fatigue actually feels like. Maybe then they would get it.

I appreciate when a friend asks me to do something, but then is ok if I end up declining their invite because my body is simply too exhausted to function, even if it ends up being a last minute change.

Lately those times happen more times than I like. Sometimes just the thought of having to get myself dressed and looking presentable wears me out. If it’s not messy hair, sweat pants and t-shirt doable, it’s a lot of work.

Those that love me enough to give me the option to choose and then are okay if my decision is different than what they want or planned for, those are some of the most amazing people on the planet. No one should ever have to spend time defending how they feel and why.

The world is buzzing by at a hyper speed and it tries its best to force us to keep up with the pace it sets, but MS has given me a slower pace that requires pit stops and naps. Most of the buzzing about that the world wants us to do isn’t really important anyway.

I choose to hold onto the things that really matter in life like great friends, savory coffee and naps. Yes, naps are my new favorite.

*Penelope Conway was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in November 2011. She is the author and founder of Positive Living with MS (http://positivelivingwithms.com/) where she uses humor and her own life experiences with MS to help others navigate this unpredictable journey. She believes that staying positive and holding onto hope is the key to waking up each morning with the strength to get through the day.

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I’ll Be There for You…

Relationships are pretty often thought of strictly in the context of romantic attachments. Especially this time of year as we emphasize love and romance, couples, and all that comes along with it. But there are other relationships we sometimes forget to emphasize. Friends, family, co-workers, support group members, or neighbors. All of these, too, are relationships. It’s difficult in a world where things move a mile a minute and there is so much vying for our attention to remember to think of these other relationships and place some emphasis on them as well. Not just when the stores turn to red and pink and the costs of flowers rise to somewhat ridiculous levels.

While romantic relationships are important and make up a good portion of our understanding of relationships, support and encouragement for many often comes from those they are not romantically linked to. Friends who are there for us when we need a shoulder to cry on or a hand up when we are weak. Support group members who share their own story and listen to ours as we all try to live our lives as best we can and make the most out of all we have. Neighbors or co-workers who help us pass the time during work or who we bond with over community concerns and celebrations. These relationships, just as important as romantic ones, help shape both who we are as well as those around us and are strong bonds during trying and uncertain times. This month in addition to celebrating and relishing any romantic relationship we may be in and acknowledging the importance of this in our lives, let us take some time to also thank and celebrate the other relationships in our lives with people we love… just not in that way. Remind your friends and family what they mean to you or show appreciation and gratitude to your co-workers or support group members. It may not be the stuff of Hallmark movies but I’m sure they’ll really appreciate it that you took the time.

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I Love Me

Valentine’s Day is only days away. While it may sometimes seem to be a bit over-commercialized, it has its merits. Valentine’s Day is a holiday that allows us to show those we truly care about how much we love and appreciate them. However, it can also be a difficult day to face if you aren’t in a place where you are okay with yourself.

So, here are some things to think about to help you take care of yourself.

• Put yourself first. This doesn’t mean you should be selfish and be “All about me all of the time”. It means you can’t help others if you don’t take care of yourself first. You need to be in a positive frame of mind and feeling good about yourself to have the best impact on your loved ones.

• Cut yourself some slack. Don’t be so hard on yourself. We’re all humans; we all make mistakes. You can dwell on the negatives for a little bit in order to try to learn from your mistakes. But, make sure you also dwell on the positives because I’m sure you’re making positive strides as well.

• Friendship is a two way street. Your friendship is a gift and you get to choose to whom you give it. If someone doesn’t appreciate it, then they don’t get to continue receiving your wonderful gift. If they do appreciate it, then they will return your gift in kind.

• You have a right to your feelings and your opinions. You shouldn’t let others make you feel bad because your feelings on a certain matter don’t match theirs. If you aren’t up for doing something every now and then, don’t be afraid to say “no”. Just try to do it in a way that doesn’t hurt other people’s feelings and they will be more understanding.

• No one can make you feel bad. Your emotions are yours. Things happen, to put it in a PG-rated way. You control your reaction to things or people. If you don’t let them affect you, they won’t affect you.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

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You’re My Person…

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So in our day to day we sometimes overlook things that are important to us. It’s not done on purpose or due to an act of spite; it’s realistic that things get pushed to the side when we have so many other things going on. In a world such as ours with life going a mile a minute, how can things not go unnoticed? But when you do have time to talk, to listen, and be with someone else, who brings out the best of who you are? Who’s your person? Who is that being you turn to when you need someone to confide in? What is it about this person that makes you feel so comforted in communicating with them?

Every individual is different; thank goodness for that! It’s a person’s quirks, attributes, and strengths that attract us to them in the first place. We like when someone is different from us so they can offer new perspectives on things, but we also like when we share the same interests and personality traits that make the relationship flow so well. We tend to look for connections that will hopefully bring out the best in us – someone to complement our traits and allow the best part of us to shine through. We confide in others when we need to vent, discuss things out loud, and find validation for what we’re going through. It’s comforting to know that someone else is there when we need to reach out.

Your go-to person may be a family member, friend, significant other, or someone else – the relationship title doesn’t make a difference. It’s the communication and bond you share that matters. Family members may drive you crazy at times, but sometimes they’re the ones you’re closest to, without even realizing it. If you are still looking for your ‘person,’ that one who you can confide in and turn to in times of need, take another look; they may already be a part of your life…..

Who’s your person?

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Who’s in your circle?

After attending a retreat this week for helping professionals, there were a lot of things put into perspective for me. One being that we all need to make time for is self-care in our routines, to maintain a balance between things we must do and things we should be doing for ourselves on a daily basis. But another poignant moment at the retreat posed the question: “Who do you want to bring into your circle?” The circle symbolizes your safe space, the area you’re surrounded by that accompanies you through your day to day. It represents your thoughts and hopes and also your vulnerabilities. So the question that was posed of whom you’d want to enter this space with you or who you’ve already accepted into this space was profound. It’s not often that we are able to take the time to consciously think of those we’re surrounded by and why it is we’ve chosen them to be a part of our lives. Being able to reflect on this was moving.

We go through life at times with certain blinders on. We rush through daily activities and sometimes forget that we’re part of a bigger world, full of other people experiencing similar types of thoughts and feelings, though each unique and different in their own way. Our circles intersect with others, and though we may not realize it, some of us have already chosen whom or what we’d like as part of our circle. They are the family and friends we surround ourselves with, those we let in when we need to connect and feel validated. They are the places we like to visit, the things we enjoy doing most. It can really be anything or anyone; it’s up to you who enters the circle, because after all, it is yours.

Who’s in your circle?

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Intimacy- It’s Not Just About the Physical Relationship

Often when one thinks about intimacy, they think of sex. Intimacy is a process that can involve sex, but does not necessarily have to. Intimacy is defined as “a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group” (www.dictionary.com). 

There are various forms in which an intimate relationship can occur. One form of intimacy is intellectual intimacy where two people “exchange thoughts, share ideas and enjoy similarities and differences between their opinions.” If they can do this in an open and comfortable way, then they can become quite intimate in an intellectual way. This relationship can occur with a close co-worker or neighbor, in an on-line forum, or with a pen-pal. 

A second form of intimacy is experiential intimacy. With this type of intimacy, individuals would get together to “actively involve themselves with each other.” This can differ from a friendship in that the individuals do not exchange thoughts or feelings. They are just involved in mutual activities. This relationship could occur in an aerobics class, or at a religious center, for example.    

A third form of intimacy is emotional intimacy, where two individuals can “comfortably share their feelings with each other or when they empathize with the feelings of the other person, really try to understand and try to be aware of the other person’s emotional side.” This relationship typically occurs between partners, family members, or close friends. Emotional intimacy may also occur in support groups, where individuals connect on an emotional level because they share similar experiences. 

Every intimate relationship does not have to include all the different aspects or types of intimacy that have been mentioned. Many intimate relationships can exist in any one of the forms mentioned, or any combination of those forms.

This Valentine’s day, be aware of yourself and your emotional needs. Start with the form of intimacy where you feel most comfortable, and reach out to someone close to you. You do not need to be in a physical relationship in order to experience intimacy. 

References:

https://www.counseling.ufl.edu/cwc/types-of-intimacy.aspx

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Intimacy

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