“You look so good!” What is it about that phrase that makes those of us with MS cringe? Visit any MS related website or blog and you'll find this among the top complaints. It has had a place at the top of my own list.
It is meant to be and is, in every sense of the word, a compliment and I take it as such more often than not, with a smile and a thank you. Why would anyone object to being told that they look good? It is because we feel like impostors. We can't we possibly look good when we feel so bad.
Last week a nurse, upon hearing that I have MS, told me that I look so good. So far so good. “Thank you”, I said. Then she followed up by saying, “It's really great that MS isn't effecting you much.” And there it is. That is the statement which gets our dander up. We feel it is implied even when it remains unspoken. I felt compelled to explain that just last week I was hobbling around on a cane, in a much different state. I wanted to tell her more but restrained myself.
Why is it so important to us that others know of our struggle? Why do we feel it is in some way an insult to be complimented on our seemingly healthy appearance? I wonder if we're being overly sensitive. Do we really and truly want to discourage the kind words? Just how big is that chip on our shoulder?
We know the inner battle just below the surface, beyond what others can see. We work so hard to achieve that “you look so good” status yet we feel resentful when we achieve it. It wouldn't be right at such a moment to explain the many indignities and obstacles we face every day. It wouldn't be right to take kind words and turn them around. Yet that phrase ignites that very desire within us.
I decided to take some time to carefully consider this puzzle. I wondered if I might say the same thing to someone who is ill with a major illness or disability and came to realize that it is entirely possible. I would not mean it as an indication that they are not truly ill or to diminish their experiences. It would simply mean, “Hey, you look good!”
In the future I'm going to take that phrase to mean that I have a superpower...able to take on MS and look good doing it! I will allow myself to politely explain in further detail when the situation calls for it, but I will not allow misplaced anger to rent space in my brain. It is not necessary that everyone know the details of my struggle. I can save that for those closest to me and for you, my MS friends.
Take a look in the mirror -- knowing what you do about your daily reality, you do look pretty good, don't you?
Published On: December 23, 2007