Loneliness, Being Alone, and MS

One of the MultipleSclerosis.net contributors, Cathy Chester, recently published an article about MS and the feelings of loneliness—and how they are different from just feeling alone.  Cathy’s words really resonated with our community members, and we received a lot of amazing feedback about how other people deal with feelings of loneliness and MS. Here’s what they had to say:

Enlisting the Support of Animal Companions

“My constant companions, my dogs, the best friends you could have. I am glad I have my dogs, they are far more loyal than any human being I’ve met in decades”

“I’m thinking of getting another dog. I had dogs all my life, I don’t have any dogs now, and I think they will be able to benefit me. Hopefully, this will add to curing my loneliness”

“I work, read, watch TV and spend time with my dog. He is almost 10 and he is the reason I fight for what I do have”

“The only thing that really helps is my dog. He’s older, so not as active. He gives me the strength to continue in this world. He makes the days better. I don’t go many places without him”

“I don’t mind being alone at home, in my own space with my cat”

So many of you talked about leaning on a furry companion when you’re feeling down.  Pets can provide many benefits when living with a chronic condition, so long as you consider the means required to take on a full-time furry friend!

Finding Hobbies that Soothe the Soul

“I keep my mind occupied with my hobbies. I love TV and movies. I love reading for hours and hours at a time”

“I can still see enough to read my kindle, I have TV, and although not a fan of daytime TV, I have lots of DVDs. It could be worse, I know. So you just keep plugging along as best as possible”

“I can relate, some days are rough, but I try to sew a little every morning, which was something I enjoyed when I was young”

“Playing games on my tablet keeps my mind occupied most of the time”

While not all of our favorite hobbies are possible all of the time, many of you reported finding new hobbies or amending old ones to fit your new lifestyle.  TV, puzzles, sewing, low-impact exercises like yoga or stretching, or even just watching funny YouTube videos can provide a distraction and pick-me-up when you need it the most.

Adjusting Your Outlook

“I truly believe that God expects me to do something that might help others cope. We did not have a support group, so I started one in my area and I am very active in our MS Walk each year”

“I do what my body allows me. I used to be very active, now I take my happiness from what I can do. I have a lot of naps now. I don’t stress over things, it’s no good for me”

“I still try to push myself to do everything I can as often as I can. I have found that a lot of times when I sit and plan out every step involved in going out, which we have to do within reason, I can become overwhelmed and staying home seems safer. However, if I take proper precautions and don’t overthink it, most of the time I end up feeling so much better that I went. It takes a lot of effort, but usually pays off”

While we can often feel like MS is an insurmountable journey, there are many of you who have shared small mental shifts that have led you to positive outcomes.  A full mindset revolution may not always be possible, or even beneficial all the time, but sometimes, slowly embracing change, even when everything seems bleak, could be a step in a new, and positive, direction.

No matter how you combat your loneliness, just remember, you are not alone.  Our community is always here for suggestions, or even just an ear to listen when you need. Please continue to share your experiences with MS-related loneliness with us, we love hearing from you!

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MS and Loneliness

“If you see me out or even in pictures, there’s usually a great big smile on my face.  To say that I suffer from loneliness doesn’t seem to make sense.  There are so many times though, where I sit and think to myself that I’m alone, that no one really understands me.”

This was just one of the many powerful quotations our contributor, Devin, recently wrote in his article The Loneliness of MS.

Even if well-meaning people say they understand how multiple sclerosis is impacting your life, it’s unlikely they do. And after reading this article, our community shared an outpouring of comments expressing their similar experiences.

Below are some of the thoughts our community shared:

I can’t get out and do things with others.

  • “The part I find most difficult isn’t actually being alone but the lonely feeling you get because you can’t do the things you once did with family and friends.”
  • “Fatigue alienates me more from friends than my obvious disability. Once you say no once or twice, invitations stop coming.”
  • “I feel especially lonely talking about events. I have an event in November. My thoughts are consumed with if I’ll be up to it.”
  • “Lost a lot of friends because of MS related issues, and I cannot go out and see those I do have often because of MS issues”
  • “My friends are into a lot of summer events, but there are so many unknowns…I don’t know how hot and sunny it will be, I don’t know if there will be enough chairs for everyone…will there be easily accessible toilets…I really don’t want to ruin anyone’s day. So better stay home.”

I feel different from everyone—sometimes even those with MS!

  • “People just don’t get it. I don’t feel ‘normal’ and it can get really lonely.
  • “A friend introduced me to a friend of hers who was dx 20 years ago, so she can give me advice when I had just been diagnosed. I realized how we were not at all in the same place. It was nice to know she was out there, but I still felt alone in my experience.”
  • “I suppose that’s why support groups are usually divided in at least 2 separate groups: DX less than 2 years ago, and all the others. I think either group could really overwhelm, and possibly upset, the other group.”
  • “I feel very lonely. Even though I am not physically alone, I am still alone.”
  • “My family tries so hard, but every time they accommodate me, I just feel different, and I feel alone.”

It’s not all loneliness, though: some of you offered solutions for easing those feelings:

  • “I have made the choice to look at my MS disability changes in my life that everyone I know is going to face the same challenges as we all age, I am just ahead of the curve.”
  • “Having a dog does help some. For me any way.”
  • “Online communities make a huge difference. It’s not a perfect solution, but I often feel closer to my online friends than my other friends”

While it does not fix this impactful issue, many in our community took solace in the fact that they were not alone in feeling alone. Sharing your feelings and experiences with others online can be helpful. How about you?

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The Invisibility of MS

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Living with MS can be a daily challenge, even if other people can’t physically see the struggle. The invisibility of MS symptoms can be one of the hardest and most frustrating aspects of living with this condition, so when we shared some of the data about this subject from our most recent MS in America survey, many members of our MS community told us about their thoughts and experiences. Here is what they had to say:

The top issue faced, especially now that it’s summer? Trouble with the heat and the way it impacts your body:

  • My activity is restricted by the heat. Especially today when the temperature will be in the 90’s.
  • I would rate the intolerance to humidity at the top.
  • My speech gets slurry and my balance is off. I get accused of being drunk.
  • The heat makes my head swim and consequently, my balance gets really bad.
  • I have been feeling more and more fatigue due to my body temperature going from freezing to hot. Each time that occurs, I have less energy, less motivation to do something.
  • Summers are the hardest for me!!! The last two weeks have been increased fatigue, less energy, pain, and brain fog! Most people love summer! I used to, but now it’s the time I struggle the most.
  • Severe fatigue & the heat in Alabama are really bothering me!

Fatigue: it’s a huge (and invisible) concern for many:

  • Fatigue especially. It’s like the first trimester [of pregnancy] fatigue times 100!
  • I have fatigue every single day. It’s hard for my husband to understand that it’s every day. I have maybe 5 times a year that I feel like a normal person.
  • Yep, and the lack of sleep because of spasms equals more fatigue.
  • It’s hard for others to understand how you can be so tired doing everyday things. After doing a load of laundry, going grocery shopping and making dinner I am exhausted!

And some other symptoms that can’t be seen but definitely make life more challenging:

  • Don’t forget the bladder and bowel problems.
  • It’s the periodic blindness that sucks for me.
  • And the headaches are brutal.
  • Mood swings are really challenging..
  • The tingling symptoms scare me. I’ve had a couple of really bad relapses and I’m always afraid I won’t feel my body again.
  • Pain needs to be one for me – it’s about 99%.
  • My issues seem to be centered around fatigue, weakness, blurry vision and weird cognitive stuff like memory issues or not being able to think of words, or using the wrong word.
  • My wife, family and friends will never truly understand what it is like to have headaches and other symptoms on a frequent occurrence and why and how it affects my mood, energy levels and potential plans in a day.

Do these responses ring true for you? What invisible symptoms do you struggle with?

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What You Wish They Knew About Your MS

Many people have heard the words “multiple sclerosis” before, and probably know it’s a chronic condition, but so many do not know what it really means to have MS. We asked our community at MultipleSclerosis.net “What’s one thing you wish more people understood about MS” and the responses were phenomenal. Below you’ll read real experiences from people just like you that start to paint a picture of what MS is really like. These are the things people should be aware of; this is how we spread true MS awareness!

I’m Not Drunk!

  • My memory is not always good! My husband and children understand and are patient, but people who don’t know look at you like you are drunk or high
  • She’s not drunk. She doesn’t even drink. It’s the MS that makes her off balance sometimes
  • I am not drunk, I am not dumb, I am not lazy – I have MS
  • Don’t tell me I seem drunk when I trip – It’s not funny

I Miss My Active Lifestyle, Too

  • If only others understood how we miss our active life before MS. It’s bad enough that we often feel like a burden, being treated as one is pretty much the worst feeling
  • Sometimes I feel depressed not being able to do what I used to be able to do – others just don’t get it
  • People always knew me as being active, and now they never see me. I just wish they would come by sometimes. All I need is to know someone out there cares

When I Say I’m Tired, I’m Tired

  • When I say that I have to go home early because I am tired, I am really tired. It´s not because I am lazy, it´s not because I am bored or boring, it’s because I am tired!!
  • When I say I’m tired, I’m not being lazy. And when I say my body hurts, Aspirin will not help
  • I wish they understood that my tired is not like their tired, and my pain is not like their pain
  • Just because I look healthy does not mean I am and when I say I am tired and need to sit down, it’s not a joke! 

Every Day, Every Minute, Is Different

  • I wish they understood that every moment is different. I can be good one minute and not the next
  • I wish people understood that my mind and body change every moment of every day
  • One minute I could be fine, but then next I’m not. I put on a brave face, but don’t assume I’m “fine”
  • Don’t ask me how I am if you don’t really want to know

How about you? Do you ever feel misunderstood? What do you wish more people understood about life with MS? Share this article and your own stories and experiences to spread the word about what it really means to live with multiple sclerosis!

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MS Mood Swings

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You can only blame lack of sleep for so much before you start asking “Why is my mood so inconsistent!”  Turns out, it’s not just fatigue – it’s actually a common symptom of MS! As with many invisible symptoms that can occur with MS, mood swings can have a profound effect on relationships and emotional health as a whole.

Our phenomenal contributor, Devin, described this frustrating symptom perfectly in his recent article “Invisible Symptoms of MS: Mood Swings” and the community rallied behind him sharing their own stories and support.

It became clear that this is not uncommon, and while difficult to manage, having the support of other people with MS can make all the difference. Here are just some of the comments our community members shared:

Sometimes, even I can’t figure out why I’m upset

  • I never thought my mood swings could be MS- related. Sometimes I can’t explain to myself why I’m reacting as I am.
  • Since my diagnosis, I cry at every chick flick and even the Budweiser Clydesdale commercials! I can’t seem to get my emotions together sometimes
  • There are times I know I’m picking a fight with my husband about something stupid, but I don’t even know why I’m upset!

I just thought I was crazy!

  • I always thought it was just who I am. An emotional roller coaster with frequent break downs.
  • The problem is most people don’t know about this symptom, so I get more depressed because I feel like people think I’m losing your mind.
  • I always know when my meds aren’t working because I start to feel like I’m going crazy – then I have a lot of people to apologize to
  • I just thought I had gone crazy: I didn’t think it could be a MS symptom. It puts my mind at ease to know I’m not alone.
  • I thought I was just a raving lunatic!

Knowing why is one thing; managing these swings is another!

  • It feels normal in the moment; not until after that I look back and realize just how moody I was being. I know it’s the MS, but I don’t know how to control it
  • I definitely get moody, but what can you do? I just live with it and try to stay strong! Laughter is key.
  • I can feel it coming on – as soon as I start to feel practically homicidal I isolate myself in my room and wait it out.
  • Knowing my MS was the cause of my mood swings was a relief, but finding ways to conquer them is the next challenge.

How about you? Have mood swings impacted your life? Have you found any good approaches for managing these? Feel free to share with the community – you are not alone!

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MSAA and MultipleSclerosis.net Partner for a Live AMA

MSAA recently partnered with MultipleSclerosis.net to co-host a live Facebook “Ask Me Anything”. For one fast-paced hour on March 22nd, everyone from the multiple sclerosis community was invited to ask questions about living with MS and have their questions answered by MSAA Client Services Specialists and MultipleSclerosis.net staff and patient advocates.

Read more about this AMA and find out what topics were discussed at MultipleSclerosis.net.

AMA March 22 2016

A special thanks to our friends at MultipleSclerosis.net for allowing MSAA to be a part of this special MS Awareness Month event and for helping improve lives today for the entire MS community!

 

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MS and Making Plans: Community Thoughts

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There is a lot about MS that is difficult for “healthy” people to understand, and one of the most frustrating things is that it can be really difficult to make plans in advance. You just never know how you are going to feel the following day, or even the following hour. One of the amazing contributors at MultipleSclerosis.net, Matt Allen G, wrote a wonderful article about his frustrations with being unable to make plans with friends in advance, and then some people not understanding why those plans may have to change at the last minute. Matt’s words really resonated with our community, and so many other people shared their thoughts and experiences with us. Here’s what our community had to say:

It’s emotionally draining

  • My head tells me I can do it but my body won’t let me. For me this is the worst. I look around during my house and there is such that needs done but I just can’t. Depressing.
  • I get so sad and discouraged when I see people posting pictures of everywhere they go and the fun they have…and I do well to get to the store once in a while.
  • This is one of the hardest parts of staying in the family dynamic.

MS Doesn’t Care

  • MS doesn’t care if your children need you to drive them here, there, and everywhere. MS doesn’t care if you got all dressed up and now you need a nap. I have gotten all dressed for church and then as my husband is backing up the van I ask him to stop as I need to go back in the house. Then I take a nap, fully dressed, too tired to undress.
  • I have an international trip coming up, and the anxiety alone is killing me, but I figure you only live once. If I let this disease deter me from making plans and living my life as best I can while I still can I’ll always regret it. Tomorrow is not promised to anyone. You never know when there’ll be a “next time”.
  • I never know when I am going to feel better; 10 minutes good, then it’s downhill.

Tips

  • I always get trip insurance and have used it. It takes the pressure off. Make sure it covers pre- existing conditions as most don’t. I think it is Travel Guard. You have to purchase it within 2 weeks of booking a flight or trip. Really truly despise this part of living with the monster.
  • My experience has been to make plans with the people who understand that I will do what I can. I go, do what I can and find happiness that I did what I could and had an experience that I will remember.
  • I stopped making plans because I never know how I’ll feel. One day at a time.
  • Fatigue and meltdowns make it so difficult to do things around the house. I’ve learned to do things as I can because pushing to finish anything isn’t possible for me.

No one understands

  • This sums up my life perfectly. I HATE the unpredictability of this disease. Especially when “I look so good!” but my body’s numb. Or I can’t lift my leg. People just don’t understand what its like. No matter how much they try to empathize they’ll NEVER understand it. Like the phrase goes, “no one Gets MS Until they GET it”.
  • This is something I wish all my family and friends understood.
  • No one understands what MS is doing to you… You have to listen to your body. You will lose people because they just don’t understand… Keep positive and Never ever give up!!
  • I wish my grown children would understand this.

I won’t let MS run my life

  • It never stops me. I’m going to Thailand, jumped out of a plane, to work I drive a modified car, and I play wheelchair basketball for my local team.
  • One day at a time is all you can do.
  • It’s not about having a good day. It’s about having a good minute!

What about you? Do you struggle with planning? Do you find that friends and family don’t understand?

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The Invisibility of Disability

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Communicating the full impact of MS to friends and family is a daunting, and often frustrating, task. Looking fine and being fine are two very, very different things.  This concept rang especially true for our phenomenal contributor, Matt, so he wrote an amazing article titled “Please, Tell Me Again How I’m NOT Disabled”

Our community completely agreed and responded with abundant feedback. Here are just some of the frustrating experiences encountered by our MS community:

No, you don’t “understand”

  • I get easily frustrated when a close friend or a direct family member would say they understood, and then get mad or angry when I’m having a relapse.
  • I’m in the painful process of a relapse and my family doesn’t understand the facts of any of this. Especially the fact that NO ONE is more frustrated than I am.
  • If you don’t understand, at least be human and try. That’s all we ask.
  • Sometimes I want to scream, “Stop telling me you understand when you have no idea!” 

I might look fine, but I’m not

  • I look normal but feel destroyed inside.
  • When people tell me I look fine I just respond with “that’s because I don’t wear my brain and spinal cord on the outside.”
  • Had to “talk” to my relatives to tell them that just because you look normal doesnt mean you feel normal.
  • I just hate the “you look good” comment. What should I look like?

I’m not lazy!

  • When your support system doesn’t ‘get it’ and accuses you of laziness, it is infuriating. I hate not being understood.
  • I tell myself how pathetic and lazy I am. I don’t need to hear it from everyone else.
  • I can’t live up to your expectations. I can’t even live up to mine, and it’s so frustrating.
  • It’s amazing to me that people with MS have to fight so hard to “prove” just how disabling it can be

How about you? How has your experience been communicating to friends and family about your MS?

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A Short Fuse with MS – Community Feedback

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Tick, tick, tick…boom! That’s the sound of explosive “word vomit,” the result of a broken brain filter, the final moments of a shortening fuse. Many MS-ers have experienced this 0-60 build of anger in situations that would normally cause little concern. So, our fabulous contributor, Lisa Emrich, decided to do a little digging and see if this shortening fuse was actually linked to MS. Her article was a hit! While the research data may not be clear-cut, the community’s reaction certainly was:

This is so me!

  • THIS IS ME!!! I have a very short fuse and very little “filter” on what I say when I “blow.” I don’t mean to act like that and it upsets me when I lose it, but I can’t seem to stop it either.
  • This is me, too. I’m a really nice, caring person but…with a really short fuse. I also tend to speak without thinking, which has gotten me in trouble.
  • I’m the same way! And I don’t mean to be. I have never been like this before and when I say “it’s the MS” I get the “yeah, right” look from some people.

It’s worse when I multitask.

  • I find that when there is too much going on around me I cant keep up, and it is so aggravating!
  • If I’m doing just one thing and then end up having to multitask AND answer questions or listen to someone talk, I break down.
  • My fuse goes when there are multiple people/activities demanding my attention. I’ve discovered that I can only focus on one thing at one time. When that one thing is taken care of, then I can usually move to the next thing.

Sometimes I just want to scream “Shut up!”

  • As soon as it starts I try to tell people to stop and hush for a bit, but they don’t understand, or they roll their eyes, or they keep talking,. Then they comment on how they AREN’T talking. My point is, there is never silence, and sometimes, I need silence.
  • The fact that people in the office feel the need to yell because they don’t seem to have inside voices just makes it that much worse.
  • Some people just know how to push the hell out of my buttons!!!

My poor family gets the brunt of it.

  • The only way for me to deal with it is to declare to my three teens “I’m way off my A game today, so please bear with me.”
  • I am so frustrated, and it is ruining my relationships with people, especially my poor child!
  • I’ve found that too many demands for my attention at one time creates a very unlovable person—my family puts up with a lot.
  • I hate it. It requires, love, patience, and understanding from the spouse!

I’m not me; this isn’t who I am.

  • I have done a complete 180 since my diagnosis in 99. I used to have a REALLY long fuse, but I’ve started snapping more and becoming more passive-aggressive.
  • I don’t even know who I am anymore!? It’s so hard.
  • I can blow up in a second if things aren’t the way they’re suppose to be, and that’s not me!
  • I never had this issue before. Now I tell people that “my bitch switch has a hair trigger.”

Does this sound familiar? Have you experienced an inexplicably short temper? Share your experience with us!

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Community Thoughts on Missing the Way Things Were

For people living with multiple sclerosis, it’s easy to dream of the life we had prior to being afflicted with this condition. So much of our everyday lives is shaped by MS, we often find ourselves missing the way things were. One of the amazing contributors at MultipleSclerosis.net, Marc Stecker (also known as the Wheelchair Kamikaze), wrote a poignant piece on missing his former self, called “I Miss Me”. We shared his article on our Facebook page and received a tremendous amount of feedback from our community about what it’s like to miss the “old you”. Here is what some of our community members had to say:

I’ve said the same thing to others!

  • Funny, I said that to my neurologist shortly after I was diagnosed last year.
  • I just said something similar to my sweetie the other day…that I would like to have my life back. I feel as though it’s been taken from me.

I thought I was the only one!

  • And I just thought it was me.
  • I really miss me!!!!!! I didn’t know there were others who felt this!
  • I despise that I “miss me” BUT am relieved that I’m not the only one “Missing”.
  • I always have moments of missing the old me. Glad it’s not only me thinking this way.
  • I say this so much, but when I try to put things on my page or try and explain how hurts, even my family ignores it. I was glad to see this and know I’m not alone. I say to myself every day I miss me.

I Miss Me too!

  • I miss me a lot!!
  • What a well-written blog which perfectly describes the life so many of us live. Or should I say have lived. I am amongst the very elderly whose future time on this earth will be very short. You too, will adjust constantly to your new normal.
  • I mourn and miss the old me. I can’t believe who I’ve become; however it’s a new challenge and who knows what I can be and what new experiences lie ahead that I would never have had. Stay positive guys.
  • I shared with a friend recently, “I miss me, who I used to be.” Her reply… “No, now that person is still down in there somewhere.” I’m exasperated. People really don’t know!!!
  • I just want the old me back!
  • Wow! This is the first time a tag line has smacked me in the face! Even though I’ve been very lucky, as I pondered this “I Miss Me,” I suddenly felt very sad. I do miss me. Even though I haven’t been “obviously” affected by MS, there are so many hidden things, the fatigue, weakness, ability to think quickly, balance, and stamina, that yes, I am not the “me” I once was. I do miss ME. Thank you for a great article.
  • What I miss about the old me is being able to do ANYTHING I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it!! Now, I have to accept the help of others, where I was the one always volunteering my abilities to those in need.
  • ‪I do miss most of the old me!!!! But I have welcomed most of the new me, with very few regrets.
  • I was missing for 15 years. I felt myself slowly slipping away, more and more the last 5 years though. It’s awful.
  • I understand just how you feel. I miss dancing a lot! Stay strong
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  • I miss myself so much! I just want to be able to be normal again and go to a ball game and climb up the bleachers and just walk around the yard without tripping in a hole and fix a meal or brownies without getting exhausted!
  • I miss me! I miss being able to bounce out of bed, being able to run, to dance to skip/hop/jump whatever! . I miss the reality of being able to chase my dreams. I miss me.
  • I have to believe that everyone misses the earlier version of himself or herself as they age, too.
  • Thank you for sharing. I say this a lot. I miss what I used to be able to do and can’t. I don’t even know who “me” is anymore. My identity was through my work and my child and all the things I could do for others and now I often wonder, “who am I?”
  • I am beginning to hate the new me!!!
  • I get so depressed if I start to think about original me.
  • I miss me like crazy!!!!! I say that to myself EVERYDAY
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  • I want to run, even though I was not a runner!
  • I read his blog, it’s so insightful. My every move is fraught with thought. I miss the “me” that was.
  • Great article! It’s depressing to think about what MS stole from me but I know there are others who have it worse than I do and I try to stay positive. Keep writing it helps to know I am not alone.
  • I want me back, but I don’t see that happening.
  • Just learning to accept there is a new me but so hard to let go of the old me.
  • Things that seemed so simple are now a struggle. Thanks MS–NOT!
  • I miss being me. Feeling like I can do anything. I miss having a job, and making money.
  • Wow, this is so powerful! I miss me and have been missing me for 16 years now! I don’t know how many times I say I want my OLD life back!

What about you? Do you miss a previous version of yourself? Please share with us in the comments!

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