Monday, February 25, 2013

It’s exhausting being a secret agent

I remember sitting at piano lessons when I was a kid, announcing, “I want to be a CIA agent” right before kicking into a Bach Minuet. My piano teacher said, “Oh Christie. That’s all very dangerous!” At the time I was watching a lot of James Bond movies with my dad and I believed this would be a great way to make a living when I got older. I could save the world while leaping in the air, hanging out of spiffy gadget filled cars driving at high velocity speeds and swinging out of tall buildings capturing all the bad guys.

Well, turns out I did grow up to be a secret agent. It is not nearly as exciting as I dreamed about and it is utterly exhausting.

Allow me to explain.

By day I am a number cruncher for a major retailer and, by night, I am someone who lives with MS. I am not completely out at the office with my diagnosis and the only ones I’ve told include my boss and two trusted colleagues. Yet the espionage work has really started getting to me. The discrete phone calls, rendezvous in the middle of the day and disguising my disabilities. I even took a phone call in my car the other day, to chat it up with an MS buddy. My car has tinted windows so I was able to stay undercover, if even for fifteen minutes. It seems that I am constantly managing The Secret, to ensure my office mates do not find out about my health status.

At what point should I blow my cover?
I believe that I haven’t blown my cover yet. Here’s another great example of some stellar spy work. Last month I encountered a colleague in the hallway while trying to quietly leave the office for one of my monthly Friday afternoon Tysabri appointments. I am pretty sure I was wearing the standard issued dark sunglasses. Okay, okay. I realize that this is not very discreet, navigating through a cubicle filled office space while wearing sunglasses but even spies make mistakes. As we passed each other, my colleague said to me, “Lucky.” Success! I tricked him into thinking I was leaving the office for the day, for some fun filled weekend activity like snow boarding in the mountains or driving out to Vegas or camping by the ocean or jetting off to San Francisco. Little did he know I was on my way to the hospital to sit in an infusion chair for two hours while the big T flowed through my veins.

To the best of my knowledge, my MS remains an in tact secret and no one at the office knows. An incredible feat since I was diagnosed over two years ago! This means that I am either doing an amazing job blending in and the government should seriously consider hiring me for some spy work or I am playing a dangerous game with my psyche.

And, like all good secret agents, I must not panic.

Difficult, I know, especially when you get vertigo and double vision during a business meeting. This happened one afternoon, during a meeting with about ten analysts and statisticians. I told myself, as I began seeing about twenty calculators spin around the conference room, “Just blend in, like any good spy, while they talk about their findings and insights and pray that they do not ask you any direct questions.” And I did. I just sat there, calmly, and listened to everyone, nodding my head once in a while in agreement as I waited for the spinning to stop. “Whew!” It finally did pass, twenty calculators reduced to ten, and I managed not to attract any attention.

You can see why I am started to get tired of all this, right? I often come home to utter exhaustion, plop on the couch and just chill. I am convinced that this under cover work is the culprit of my fatigue. It is often on said couch that I ask myself, “At what point do I just blow my cover, let “them” catch me and relax about who I am? I am a number crunching photographer who loves riding her bicycle really, really fast and happens to live with MS?”

I am sure I am not the only one who struggles with being a secret agent. How about you? Are you out at work with your MS diagnosis? Any good stories you want to share? I would love to hear from you.

Hope you’re well and feeling okay.

Agent C.

P.S. And, if you are a co-worker of mine, reading these words, do swing by my cubicle one day. We need to talk.

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