We are each on our own journey and through these journeys, interact with others, potentially becoming a part of their journey as they become a part of ours. This week I attended a conference on brain injury and employment. There are similarities between brain injury and MS, so people with MS are starting to come to these. I was on a panel talking of my experiences working. I saw some great presentations, met some great people, and saw friends I hadn't seen in awhile. And I learned.
When I talked about the need to consider what to disclose and what not in employment, one guy said he didn't have the energy to filter things like that. I hadn't thought of that - it takes energy and time - it also takes time and energy to develop trust.
The first presenter said that the first thing often asked of people is what they do for a living. Wow. Really? Often I'm first asked why I'm using the wheelchair. And if I do work, people have said "well, I guess you need something to do." They don't know me very well. :) We should all really start with names.
I heard a lot of talk about "the new me." People view themselves as different than before their injury. It's a time for adjustment. I suppose with MS it's a constant adjustment to a new person. Not really a new person - just a person who needs to adapt to something new. And this is not an easy process. I suppose we each go through it every day and then at points it hits us - this is not the way things used to be. This is not the way things were supposed to be. This was not supposed to happen. In most cases, people want the old "me" back.
The circle. A presenter drew a circle. We, the audience, put things that go along with poverty in the circle. It was obvious some were saying things from the standpoint of being middle class. It was obvious some people were there, or had been there - in poverty. When one thing goes wrong in the circle, there's a cascade and everything tumbles. "Do you sometimes feel like you are in that circle?" I do, perhaps in a different way. Everything crumbles.
And then we were lifted. Don't think about what you cannot do. What CAN you do? I said to focus on what you can do, and as much as possible, put the other stuff in the back of your mind. Some miracle stories - one woman was never supposed to talk - she talked. Others never supposed to walk - they walk. Brain injury, like MS, is unpredictable.
There was a strong sense of faith there. Numerous people said they could not manage without faith. It is something many people share.
I'm so thankful for this experience. It was fatiguing, but it was a place to go where I could feel me. No one used the word handicapped. Many people laughed and smiled.
We were community, if only for one day.
Thanks be to God.