Am I supposed to feel better when someone looks at me with sad eyes, grasps my hand and tells me, ‘oh, you’re so brave, I just know you can fight this thing.’
Perhaps the media is partly to blame, when every third-rate ‘celebrity’ who is diagnosed with anything is featured in trashy magazines claiming they will fight back, not let it beat them, blah, blah, blah. Ironically, they usually end their not-so-exclusive interview with a coy plea for privacy.
How exactly am I supposed to fight back against MS? It isn’t going to go away. Oh sure, I could pay thousands for quack cures, immerse myself in healing waters, start meditating, follow a Beat MS Diet, howl at the moon. And yes, I probably would feel slightly better, just as anyone without MS would also feel slightly better following a strict, healthy regime. Isn’t it better for us to adapt to our new lives with MS rather than fighting the unfightable? It’s not about giving in to it, it’s about getting on with it.
There is a creeping sense of a hidden agenda embedded within this call to fight back. Anyone with an illness must resist being ‘different’ at all costs. We must strive to regain our ‘normality’, that which is acceptable to mainstream society. We must fight back against anything that marks us as being outside the socially acceptable norm and if we appear not to be fighting back, then we’re obviously not trying hard enough. How often do we hear, ‘Oh, she fought a brave battle’ or ‘she just gave up the fight.’
This kind of pressure only makes life with MS more difficult than it already is. The only thing I’m fighting back against is the discrimination that comes with having MS. Being sacked from work because of it. Struggling to find a new job because of it. The constant blank, disbelieving faces when I try and fail to describe overwhelming fatigue and the reality of living with a mostly invisible illness.
In the meantime, I’m sticking with Jack Osbourne’s philosophy – Adapt and Overcome. Interestingly, it’s his family who talk about fighting back, not him. Anyone who wants to make me feel guilty for not fighting back hard enough, stumble for a week in my shoes, then come and talk to me.