When I was first diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis I began the process of telling others about my news. In telling some people such as family members, my words were raw and unguarded. My first emotion was predominantly a feeling of rage and this came through loud and clear to a few trustworthy recipients. In what could have been a classic biblical scene, I pointed my finger at God and cursed both God and his decision to give me this disease. I did my cursing on the phone with one of my close relatives. Upon hearing my angry rant, she calmly retorted with, "There is no one to blame because there is no God." It was then readily apparent to me that telling others about my illness would provide a mirror into other's belief systems.
It has been my personal experience that when you tell people that you have a chronic illness you sometimes get more information about the other person than you give about yourself. The fact that you have a disease can be this springboard for others to reveal their deeply rooted beliefs and values. If it were not for my call to inform my relative that I had just gotten my diagnosis of MS, and her subsequent response, I would have never known that she was an atheist. It just never came up in conversation.
After I had time to gain more of an acceptance of my Multiple Sclerosis, I began to come up with my own personal coping philosophy. There came a time when I pretty much decided that this was meant to be. My conclusion came after much reflection and pondering which will be the topic of a future post. I don't have the audacity to think that anyone will agree with my belief. On the surface perhaps it sounds trite or too simplistic. I began to believe that my disease was just all part and parcel of this particular life path that I am on. I would ultimately suffer with MS but I felt in my gut that I would also be given the tools with which to deal with all of this. More so this experience would deepen my ability to give back to others by having to face such a challenge head on. Armed with my newfound philosophy, I told one of my on-line friends about my diagnosis.
My friend had her own trials and tribulations in life. She had lost the love of her life to cancer over a decade ago. She never truly got over her grief. I told her of my illness one day. I also talked about how I feel that somehow there is meaning and purpose in this experience. The mirror for her revealed deep despair and anger. She could not believe that I would say such a thing. She demanded to know what possible meaning there could have been for her husband to experience such pain and misery. My personal philosophy was like salt in her wounds. My friend was essentially asking the age old question as to why we suffer. I could not answer except to validate her emotions. She had every right to feel outrage. But likewise, I had every right to hold onto my coping philosophy.
Then there was the acquaintance who began to tell me the story of how he has a friend who is a paraplegic. He went ton to say, "When I am feeling bad about my life, I think about her and I feel better about what I am going through." He then added, "Perhaps you can now do this for others." I immediately recoiled from his words. His mirror illuminated his personal definition of gratitude. I interpreted what he was saying as that we only feel better about our own plight by comparing our lives to those "less fortunate." In no way, shape or form, do I want to ever be someone's reason for feeling glad that they aren't me. This is a philosophy which I have never understood. We are all on our own separate journeys and there are no comparisons. We all have our individual blessings and challenges in life. When we make such comparisons we are, in essence, judging someone's life as having less merit or worth because of circumstance. There are miserable people who seem to have everything in life including their health and there are some very happy people who find joy despite their very difficult challenges. Everything in life is relative.
When we speak about having Multiple Sclerosis to others, it can be a real learning experience. You get to learn about how others view not only illness but about the other person's core beliefs about such things as religion, philosophy, and life in general. It is not only a mirror of other's beliefs but also a mirror into our own. What we value and what we believe will be illuminated during such discussions. As a result will we feel more validated in our core truths or will we begin again, the never ending process of self examination and reflection?
What about you? Have you discovered this mirror of values and beliefs when you have talked about your disease with others? What revelations or conclusions have you come to as a result? Tell us your story.
Published On: October 08, 2008