I’ve been thinking about a whole range of people I’ve met over the last few years; people who’ve had strokes in their 40’s, people who have faced tremendous adversity and of course, people with MS.
Taking MS for example, as I kind of know a bit more about that than other illnesses. I’m not talking about newly-diagnosed people – I was an absolute train wreck for over two years (and some would say I still am, but in moderation) – but people who have had time to adjust to MS and all it entails.
You know them – ‘Ah, no, couldn’t possibly do that, MS, you know?’ or ‘would love to, but can’t, MS’. Or even, ‘what do you know, my MS is sooooo much worse than yours’. I’m not talking about people who have a drastic decline in health. I’m talking about the majority of us who live with MS.
Of course, the image surrounding MS doesn’t help. When people – including medical professionals – recoil when you explain your diagnosis (MS being up there with the scariest of the scariest illnesses), it can be all too easy to slip into the role of wearing MS as a badge of suffering and an excuse for not partaking in ordinary life any more. Of course, of course, life has changed beyond all recognition. But. I have met people who have taken this mantle very early on and displayed it for all to see, to the detriment of everything else. In short, it becomes their raison d’etre: I can’t do it, I have MS.
I have experienced the flip-side to this myself, many times – I can be praised for how marvellous I am to take a Masters, considering. Or continue to work, considering. However, I also know that my job-seeking days are almost behind me. I can breeze through the first interview then come to a halt at the second. You have to come clean. CV in the bin. Yes, that’s my MS excuse, but I sought other avenues and bugged friends until one of them, my long-suffering, now-ex-best-friend took a chance on me.
When MS obliterates your life and smashes it to smithereens, nod politely at the people who look at you with doleful eyes, thanking the heavens it’s not them. Do something extraordinary. If people expect nothing from you, surprise them. You have a blank page, ready to write on it anything you want.
If you decide to take up that long-forgotten hobby, do it. If you want to launch your own micro-business from your kitchen table, start a bee-keeping course, learn to make candles, do it. Not only will you achieve something new, people will congratulate you. A win-win situation, and liberating?
For the record, I know a good few MS publications are full of people doing stuff waaaay beyond the ordinary. I will not, for the record, take up skydiving. The nearest I got was Nevada where I clung to the pilot as my friend threw himself out of a plane (which had no doors). And I won’t be trekking around Nepal any time soon. With my legs?
What I mean is, MS is a wonderful excuse, and it cuts both ways. It is an excuse to duck out of life and host an endless pity-party with like-minded individuals, OR it can be a gateway to an amazing new way to live.
Get me. Last time I saw my tutor for a portfolio one-to-one, we were talking about the possibility of progressing to a PhD. Lol. I mean, really? I have MS, don’tcha know?