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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Wearing the MS Mask

"Multiple Sclerosis."

What did you think when you first heard those words from the mouth of your Physician? Did pictures flash through your mind, of disability, decline, and dependence? What powerful words they are. They carry with them so many terrifying thoughts, feelings, and images.

With the diagnosis comes a mask, of sorts.

This mask is one that we immediately begin to wear on day one of diagnosis. This is our "MS mask," the one that we wear to depict our disease. This is almost the equivalent of a crown being placed on the head of a new leader, except our mask isn't a positive one. It comes with fear, powerlessness, inability, and weakness. This mask tells the world that we are MS patients, we are no longer "normal," no longer "healthy," and we no longer fit in.

This mask is a public one; and it is worn at all times. No matter how hard we pull and tug on it, it won't budge. This mask is a permanent one. It can never be removed, never hidden, never forgotten. Forever.

On our good days, we try to hide it. We push it from our minds, we carry on with our normal activities, and we pretend it doesn't exist. However, when we least expect it, we remember...
It is still there. It always will be.

How do we carry on and continue like this? How do we develop new relationships, meet the love of our lives, get married, have children, maintain a career and friendships, buy homes, and celebrate holidays all while wearing this mask? Won't it stop us from living our lives? Won't it prevent us from doing all of the wonderful things that people long to do during life?

The answer is, no.

This mask, though it's presence is permanent, has no power to control your life. This diagnosis, though it is incurable, has no ability to prevent you from achieving the goals you have set for yourself. "Normal" is irrelevant. It is meaningless. You do not have to be "normal" in order to live a wonderful, fulfilling life. What is normal, anyway?

"Normal" is a concept that does not truly exist. No life is exactly the same, and every single life is fraught with various difficulties; yours just happens to be illness. This illness has no power over your life unless you give your power away. Though your physical body may be weakened at times, your mind is still your own, and you have ultimate control over that, no matter what.

Whenever you start to feel that you are somehow inferior, that your life is somehow less valuable than anyone else's, or that you are not living up to some "social standard", remember that no life is perfectly happy. To be human is to experience the full range emotion, and that full range is what gives us the ability to learn. Can there really be happiness without a little sadness mixed in? There is no light without occasional darkness, and it is the contrast that gives us the experience of happiness. We would not value happiness unless we experienced sadness now and then. Your life is just as important, just as valuable, and and just as "normal" as anyone's. Try to remember that you have every opportunity in front of you, and your reaction to the events you experience is always within your control. Happiness can be yours, should you choose to find it.

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