I remember in psychology classes being taught during therapy one of the ways to tell where issues lay in a personal relationship is to look for resistance points. For example, if a couple both agree, “Yes we fight, and we both hate it” then the therapist hasn’t really gotten to a point where work is needed. I doubt either in the couple needed somebody else to tell them they fight too often, much less pay somebody else a lot of money for the “revelation.” The real money is earned with the follow up questions of why, what parts are hated, and how do you fight, is it unfair, etc. The resistance theory basically says the point where one or both parties want to stop answering is right where the attention needs to be focused. It’s in those gaps of resistance where the most can be learned.
While I thought about this topic this week, I came across an old blog post by a man with MS asking a question which immediately made me uncomfortable both for trying to come up with an answer to the question, and the follow up of how would my wife answer?
The question was “Imagine there is a one time shot which will get rid of all MS symptoms and return you to your pre MS state. Now, would you take it if it meant you would die in your sleep in x years? What is the smallest number x could be and still have you take the shot?”
I read through the blog and a lot of the posts from others explaining their rational for their choices. Mostly it comes down to a question of for what they are living. Back when I was first diagnosed, I made a bucket list of things I want to do before I die, but the truth is few of them are reasons to go on living. When I look at my life, my answers are pretty close to many of those who posted to the blog. I keep living enjoying those whom I love now with an eye for the future. I hope to see like my kids growing up, learning and becoming independently good people making a difference with others in their lives. I live to grow old with my wife trying to share a life of ups and downs, turbulences and jubilations.
However, I also look back at everything MS has taken from me. I know my energy for “just doing” is less. I miss feeling like I have an entire life time to accomplish my goals and wishes, and golly gee, a life time is a long time. My memory, once suspect, now has holes the size of China. I miss regular tactile sensations. I miss the sense of relative invulnerability which comes from never facing illness (I know those who have visited sickville will probably understand the visceral feeling of vulnerability in a way those from wellville only think they understand, but it’s true on both levels). I miss the joy of soccer, of being competitive at a high level in any physical activity. I miss being part of a team with easily defined goals even if some games the goals are simply in too short supply. I look at all of these things and realize many of the things I’ve lost are the results of changed thoughts based not on symptoms but experiences, and nothing in this exercise says my memories will leave me. Just as I am about to turn down the shot, I start to look at the progression of MS in my life over the past 5 years.
I start thinking of the increase in pain, stumbling, and cognitive issues and all of this make me wonder if I am coming from the wrong direction. Maybe there isn’t so much wrong now as to make me chose to shorten my life to be free of MS, but the second part is no new symptoms for as long as I live. Suddenly 20 or 30 years seems a long time again. Maybe I would take the shot after all.
Knowing my wife also has to live with me for this time as MS ticks away doing its duly representative wasting disease duties, I wonder whether she misses the old me enough to assign a time of me free of MS for which she would trade. As uncomfortable as the original question makes me, this one down right scares me because it goes right to the questions of “how diminished do others see me, especially those with whom I am close? Also how much of a burden am I now and do they think I will be in the future?” Hearing an answer to this question even asked differently, terrifies. No matter the answer, I would hear it as an answer to my scary questions. I fear an echo of my own sublimated self doubts.
I look at the end of this thought process as informative because even with out asking the questions, it leads me to at least acknowledge what it is I fear. I can go through the logic above to come to an answer for me. I had to ask myself why I can’t just pass these questions on to my wife. I have met my resistance point. Why? I don’t want her to answer, to set a value on what I bring to the table, both for good and for bad.