Thanks, Stephanie Walker
Updated: Aug 13
Recently I discovered that it’s okay for me not to be okay with this disease. [Whaaaat? Is she having one of those exacerbations? I'm confused] I have spent years trying to be okay with MS. But now, I can stop wasting valuable time to trying overcome something that is so, well, me. I’ve been around for a good number of years and I am ready to announce it: This is me.
I am the one who need to accept this. I've stopped worrying about you accepting it. It's my turn.
I have MS. I don't have cavities. I'll never be able to keep a manicure for more than 3 days. I can't stand using gloves when I garden. I don't feel needles. I prefer the house be around 65 degrees. I am going to involuntarily kick you in the face if you tickle me. I will find a song to match the last three words of your sentence. I am a horrible cook, but I make a mean lasagna. I will lose my shit (sorry, mom) if I see a wet towel on the floor. I don't mind doing dishes but I hate doing laundry. Fall is my favorite season and hiking is our family sport. I hate to exercise but I love my kickboxing classes. I am not capricious, but I am fantastical. I like to use fun words. I forget things. Lots of things. Lots and lots.
This is me and I will never change. MS or not.
But then I was thinking about life before diagnosis recently and I wondered if this is actually true: Is this me because of MS or despite MS?
I concluded that it came down to two things: adaptation and I don't fucking remember (sorry, mom). And attribution. You know: blame. And time. So, a few things. And acceptance. And perseverance. So, just those things.
Did MS make me?
I had accepted my Bridget-isms as, [ahem] "unique qualities" before I was diagnosed. I am weird. I own it. So really, nothing was ever going to change. I didn't need to change anything about my life after diagnosis because I'd already adapted to life with MS and didn't know I was doing just that. And you knew me this whole time, with MS, but without that label.
Speaking of labels, did you ever notice that calling your 25 year-old pair of jeans “vintage” changes how people see them? They are now worth $150 even though they are the exact same pair of jeans you put on yesterday.
When I got the official diagnosis on that November 5th evening, I looked in the mirror and saw the exact same face I have seen the day before. So why did I have to remind everyone else I was the same Bridget as I was November 4th? The MS label didn't change a thing (though, now I could blame it for so many things). And then I realized: I don't think I did have to remind anyone else. Just Bridget in the mirror. Bridget in the mirror with wrinkles.
So, really, nothing's changed since November 4th. I'm still the same girl.
I still can’t quote lines from Family Ties or Growing Pains because we didn't get that channel growing up. My mother still made me wear orange polyester bell bottom pants in 1981 (just when Stephanie Walker started wearing high waist denim jeans, by the way. Thanks, Mom). I still wasn't in the Jazz choir. I still never tried planking on a swan boat in Boston Public Garden. And, let's be honest here, we know this is still not my natural hair color, but I like to change up the color with the seasons. Like I do with my wine.
This is me. MS or not.
There have been many posts from fellow MS-ers lately who are coming to grips with their life with MS and having that same internal argument about whether their current sitch is normal or MSal (new word. You're welcome). Would my life be what is if not for this chronic disease? Would I be pushing myself to be better without it? Would I be constantly trying to prove myself if I didn't have something to overcome? Would I have known more about moduli spaces of Abelian differentials? Could I have had an 8-octave vocal range?
The answer sucks: Yes. MS makes me who I am and I would be the same without it.
Except the math part.
MS or not, I'm a worrier. A liberal. I'm anti-itinerary during vacation. I constantly question if I'm a good Mom. I leave the party early, but I have a good time. I drink a glass of red even though it'll make me symptomatic. None of the things about me would be different, just done with more gracefulness and less fatigue.
One particular post comes from one of my favorite bloggers, Ardra Shephard from Tripping on Air. "Part of the language around illness and disease is that you have to be a warrior...who am I fighting with?" Drink to that, Sister.
Yes, I am me because of my MS. Yes, MS defines a lot of me. I am an artist, and sometimes my cog fog will give me some interesting results. I am a writer and now I have something more to say. I am a mom and so every day has to count for them. I am a friend and so I say yes because I cannot let MSal interfere with being there or joining in. I like wine. (I have nothing else there).
So, despite MS, I am me. The same me as I was becoming in 1st grade with orange polyester pants. Today, I will put on my high-waist denim jeans because, Stephanie Walker. And thank you, 2019, for bringing them back into style.
Shit, I can't get any money for them now.