Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Preserving My Identity

Colors 10 minutes before sunrise. Rocher Percé...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I've been asked how it is that I maintain my identity – how it is I keep MS from defining who I am.

To a large extent, I don't.

Earlier in my disease progression, MS was a minor player in my life. It was an afterthought, an asterisk, a postscript. It rendered my identity a bit more interesting than it otherwise would've been, but that was all.

As the disease began to have a profound effect on my daily activities such as walking and using my hands, it became more and more difficult to keep MS from shaping my personal identity. So I didn't fight it. I embraced it.

I am a husband with MS, a friend with MS, a brother and a father with MS. I am a blogger with MS. Note that MS doesn't supplant my identity; it enriches it. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that having MS is a good thing. It absolutely sucks. But embracing the fact that I have MS doesn't.

Granted, for some people with MS it may be important to keep the disease out of your public identity, often for reasons having to do with career preservation. I get that. The only advice I have for you, if you need any, is this. Be passionate about what you do. But when MS needs a chunk of your time- whether for doctors’ appointments or naps- give it what it demands, then return to your primary interests without apology or guilt. I did that for quite a few years, and I think I was largely successful.

I'm not only a guy with MS. For brief periods of time I’m able to put the disease out of my mind. The best distractions are television and movies, books, conversations, or any task requiring concentration (even though my ability to concentrate is diminished). Sleep? I’d say my dreams are a mishmash of walking Mitch and wheelchair Mitch, often switching back and forth indiscriminately.

I'd like to think that people I'm interacting with, at least for brief periods of time, can also forget about the disease. But to imagine that it's ever far removed from who I am would be an act of denial.

Please consider the notion that accepting these changes to your identity does not represent failure or defeat. It may simply be the best way to deal with a new reality.

I'm now that guy with MS, and being identified as such is not a bad thing. It's just a thing.
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  1. Wow. Thanks for this. It always amazes me how fellow MS bloggers can send me the perfect message at the perfect time. Thank you...

  2. So totally hear you, Mitch and I agree that for me, including what you have is never far from me and does not define me and by embracing it this entity it is simply with I give it a hug
    and let it come..not afraid of it anymore:)

  3. TamDe,

    I'm glad I a could help!


    Let it come...

  4. Its not so much that it defines me that is my struggle. Its that because of MS I have lost my connection to my peer group. I don't work anymore and many of my friendships have slipped away. I look healthier than I have in years- but I am limited by MS in almost everything I do. So I feel like I straddle the crack between the world of the well and the world of chronic disease. That makes me feel very alone at times.

    Nice post Mitch.