I’ve had the distinct annoyance of a disease named Multiple Sclerosis for a while now. It goes everywhere I do and royally bothers me. It may slightly behave some days, but other days it stomps around on my nerves like a determined but bratty 2 yr. old. Literally. When it “pitches a fit”, as we Southerners so often say, I seem to cave into its demands as a tired parent, spoiling a loud mouthed, hollering kid. MS isn’t wanting cookies or another book. It’s wanting the “Twizzler” like wrappings around my nerve cells. It’s wanting to toy with my speech, my walking and my ability to think straight. In this toddler mode, it can quickly go from docile to disaster and embarrass the crap out of me. It gets my attention and the unwanted attention of others. I believe the Oompa Loompas in Willy Wonka’s little factory summed up misbehavior well in their songs, but sadly, I can’t “doo pa de doo”, permanently send MS into a boiler, garbage dump or tear it into a thousand pieces.
When people ask me what it is like to have MS it’s hard to know exactly what to say. First, I have to think of who is asking, if I can remember their name at the moment. Then I must sort through my lesioned ladened brain, if I can think of the words. Because, I must be aware of my audience as I have to come up with movie rating replies from “G”, “PG”, “PG-13″ (which, I’ve never understood that one) to “R”. (I do understand that one very well, unfortunately.)
The best way to describe MS is it is a BRAT. An unnerving, (pardon the pun), volatile and unpredictable BRAT. I was raised in the South where manners are as paramount as big hair and fried food. MS doesn’t have any manners. It greedily chews my nerves with its greedy mouth open. It interrupts me while I’m trying to talk by making me forget my words or say something stupid. It hurts my feelings by making me numb and clumsy. It’s a pain in the butt. My butt. One day, there will be a cure and it will move out of my life. For now, there are only pacifiers; meditations, medications and therapies to help curtail some of the tantrums.
My kids went through the “terrible 2s”. One at 2yrs., the other at 3yrs. Thankfully, many lessons in manners and corners full of time-outs, they got over it and grew up. Even when they were fit pitchin’, stomping, hollering or embarrassingly fascinated with bathroom humor, I still loved them. My children are precious gifts to me. Guess what? As eye-rolling as MS can be, I consider it a gift to me as well. WHAT? You heard me. I choose to see it and use it as a gift. If I didn’t have MS, I would have missed out on a lot of life because before MS, I was always “go go go”and hardly still enough to absorb life. I would not have had the honor of meeting and making some of the greatest new friends. I would not have the good feeling of being able to encourage and support them. And, I may not have had the courage nor time to find me and what makes me, well, me. Would I have been writing? Wow. Probably, but not to the extent I can now and I know certainly not with the insight I have into life and the perspective I have been given about what matters. No, I don’t “love” MS. But, I’ve learned from it. I’ve grown because of it. I’m grateful. Annoyed a lot, but grateful nonetheless.
MS is a brat. I can be, too. So can you. Everything and everyone has the tendency to be frustrating and bratty. Instruction manuals are frustrating. Rude drivers are brats. It’s how we choose to be, even with a disease attached to your name, nerves, muscles or organs, is what matters. Choose to see gifts in unexpected ways. And, always, be kind.