Yesterday, while on my Irish retreat, I visited Belvedere Castle. It has ‘one of Ireland’s greatest follies’ – the jealously wall. The faux medieval wall, which I’m pictured with above, was erected in the 18th century by Robert Rochfort to block out the view from his country home to his brother’s bigger house. This roguish Lord, who locked his wife up for 30 years on spurious charges of infidelity, got me thinking about jealously in general and in relation to my MG.
Jealousy in large, uncontrollable quantities is destructive – it breaks down relationships and reasserts feelings of low self worth. It can literally make you put up walls to block out others. In small doses, it can also be healthy for relationships – making you grateful for what you have – but keeping it in balance is difficult.
Elaine put an interesting spin on Lord Rochfort’s wall – she said it was a defeatist decision. If he felt that strongly about it, he could have tried to compete with his brother or found things that were better about his house. He really should have stopped thinking about his brother’s luck and instead appreciated his own. As you’ll see from the picture below, he had a view most people would be more than content with.
Appreciating what you’ve got
As a competitive, ambitious person, jealousy is something I’m very familiar with. I’ve spent parts of my life being filled by it and those times were deeply unhappy for me. I could not see what I was lucky to have, nor could I develop my own strengths, because I was too busy focussing on what I lacked that others had.
I only found the answer to keeping my jealousy under control when I learned how to focus on my strengths, challenge negative voices in my head and distance myself from negative voices around me.
Jealously and MG
When I got diagnosed with MG, I felt myself full of green envy once more. I was suddenly faced with a different future and I wanted my old one back. I was full of anger towards those who were unburdened by hospital visits, erratic symptoms and constant doubt about what tomorrow might bring.
I didn’t blame anyone else for having this, it was my own fault, and that made the jealousy even worse. As a destructive force, it feeds on your own most negative thoughts and, at that stage, I was full of them.
What am I jealous of:
- people who can completely switch off and not worry about when to take their medication or when their next blood tests are due.
- people who don’t have to take free healthcare into consideration when thinking about relocating.
- people who can go travelling without checking whether the country has a yellow fever warning and without getting special travel insurance.
- people who can go out partying and not be completely floored the next day.
- people who don’t have to worry about passing their faulty genes on to their children.
- people who can predict that if they look after themselves they’ll be and look healthy.
Get over it
So how did I get the jealousy under control the second time around? Once I was over the initial shock, I looked at what in my life had changed. There is more time spent in medical environments, and I had to take medication everyday, but I’m still able to do most of the things I could before.
Once my voice and squint eye symptoms were under control, I no longer felt as self conscious. And even when I did, my good friend Anna told me the symptoms disappeared for her within seconds of being with me.
I began concentrating on what I wanted and wanted to be, but this time I had more focus. I felt more in the moment and grateful of what I had.
Keeping jealousy at bay is an ongoing process and, if I start to feel negative towards myself, I can feel it creeping back in. However, having MG has helped me focus on what really matters – making every day count and being grateful for everything I am lucky to have.