Let me start off by saying that I am beyond thankful for the love and support of my friends and family. I am also grateful for the advice and prayers that I get from complete strangers. Watching my husband live his life with MS has been one of the hardest things I have ever experienced.
Think about everything you did today...even the stuff you didn't want to do....you did it because it made you happy or someone you love happy or helped you buy something or save for something that will someday make you happy. Picture the happy. You can see it, you can hear it, but imagine being locked behind a glass wall. You know what it feels like to work a full day at a job you love or even a job you hate. You know how it feels to play tag in the hot sun with your kids, to sweep your wife off her feet, to wrestle with your brothers, but suddenly a glass wall separates you from everything you ever loved doing. All you have are memories, memories that have become too painful to remember because you honestly are not sure if you will ever be able to replace them with new ones. Living with MS or a similiar disease, is like living inside a glass house...with no door.
Two of the hardest things for a family suffering with MS actually come from people with the best of intentions. The first one comes in the form of a question "how are you doing?". It is asked with pure sincerity, and the driving force behind it is a desire to remind someone that you care about them. Despite the good intentions, for someone who has varying degrees of lows and only a few highs it feels like someone knocks the wind out of you. I often feel speechless, because with MS...nothing is clear cut....there are no easy answers.
The other thing that is really hard to hear is "I understand". People say it because they want to make you feel connected to them. They are trying to help you see that you are not alone. Or they say it because their heart is breaking for you and they just don't know what else to say. While I know that it is meant to be comforting, sometimes it strikes a painful nerve. When you are on a hard path....when you feel alone in a battle....hearing someone say they understand...when you clearly know they do not, can make you feel worse, even when you know it is said with the best of intentions.
Instead of saying "I understand" let's admit to ourselves that we have no idea what it is like to walk in anyone else's shoes. Even if their lives, their struggles, their pain seems similar, the bottom line is it isn't the same. It is OK to offer support and care to someone going through something we know nothing about, because one thing we all have in common is our humanity. While every situation is different....we all feel pain, sadness, regret....we all hold hope in our hearts. Next time you have someone struggling, offer your hand to help them up...take the time to listen to them...and do not be afraid to hug them and say "I don't understand", but I am here for you anyways.