I’ve been gradually losing confidence since (at least) my thirties - i.e. well before diagnosis in my mid-forties, so I think this has been a gathering cloud for quite some time.
In my twenties, I was flying to the U.S - by myself - to represent my company at international symposiums (symposia?) involving customers and rivals. I was on the fast-track management scheme.
Somehow - I think I’m only belatedly realising why - I never fulfilled my potential. Instead of getting more confident with experience, I seemed to be getting less so. I gradually got to the point of feeling I didn’t really even have a proper job anymore, and was just picking up the dross they couldn’t find anybody else to do. In my thirties and forties, this woman who had once worked on the international stage, and was being approached by universities to ask if she would share research we’d been doing, was feeling intimidated about visiting our own offices in London or Birmingham (I’m in Bristol).
And all through this, I didn’t realise I was ill. I did have vague feelings of being “not as competent”, and certainly of being assigned work that was far less challenging than things I’d been doing as a new recruit, at 23! I didn’t have a pay rise or promotion for years, instead of getting one (or both) most years. There was a nagging feeling of: “Something’s gone wrong - I used to be better than this.”
Only when the underperforming, and, in many cases, deliberate avoidance of challenge, had become chronic did I eventually seek medical help, and was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. That was still some years before the MS diagnosis.
I will never know for sure whether I was genuinely clinically depressed, or whether what my doctor and I had assumed to be depression-induced lethargy was, in fact, unrecognised MS fatigue. I still find it very difficult to tell the difference between depression and fatigue, as I don’t know if I avoid things because I’m depressed, or because they’re genuinely so much more demanding now, that it’s a barrier in itself. Instead of thinking how interesting or enjoyable something will be, or the sense of achievement I will get, I tend to think only about how stressed or knackered I will feel! But I think that is a REAL issue, and not just me making excuses! Basically, something has to be really good before it outweighs how stressed and knackered I know I’m going to get, and not many things tip the scales in the right direction.
It is a dilemma, isn’t it? I remember when we (my doctor and I) were still calling it “depression”, and friends made “helpful” suggestions, like: “Why don’t you have a holiday?”, or: “Why don’t you move house?”
Ideas like that felt, and still feel, like: “Why don’t you just climb Everest?”
I’ve managed ONE foreign holiday and a brief UK break in five years. Though admittedly, finances are an issue now, too, since I lost my job (the one that didn’t really exist) in 2012. So I don’t know whether to feel sad or relieved that I never really feel up to doing anything anyway. It certainly saves me a fortune, but it’s not ideal, for all that.