Growing up in a spiritual family, I can remember hearing the words “we are not going to claim it.” These were words of comfort, hope, and support when a catastrophic event was impending. The dictum was to pray, believe in what you pray for, and to “not claim” whatever was going on.
This week’s column intends to explain what I believe is the difference between claiming a thing and accepting the reality of what is.
Over the holiday weekend, I spent some time with my family, which is always a blessing. A roundtable discussion led me to write this column. We were discussing different ailments and symptoms, and I disclosed my current symptoms, feelings, and concerns regarding my multiple sclerosis. I divulged how my short term memory continues to elude me at times. I explained my concerns regarding my present reality, and the implications for the future with MS.
My loved one told me to stop claiming what is happening or what may happen in the future. Each time I hear these words, their effect on me waivers between comforting and troublesome. Let me explain.
I know there is no intention to insult me. Most people are uncomfortable talking about illness. There was a time when I would have avoided further discussion. I realize now that it is not my responsibility to make anyone feel comfortable talking about the disease that I live with. I realize I don’t have to hide my pain and reality to make others feel better. However, I do recognize the emotional toll an illness can have on my loved ones.
“Don’t claim it.” What exactly am I not supposed to claim? My MS diagnosis that has been confirmed by esteemed medical professionals? Should I not claim the results of the tests that substantiate that diagnosis? What about the lesions on my brain and cervical spine? Should I ignore empirical evidence that’s resulted from years of observation?
Please know that I am not writing this column with an air of contention or a condescending tone. I want to explain that it is counterproductive for me not to claim an illness that I have been diagnosed with. It is here. In black ink, verified by my blood, sweat, tears, nerves, tissues, and fluids. Failing to state my reality is synonymous with failing to accept all of me. The antithesis of acceptance is denial, and I cannot exist in that space.
I can stand in my authenticity because I have accepted my multiple sclerosis diagnosis. I can’t fight a battle without identifying the threat. I don’t know my mission if I am uncertain of my condition. Claiming any disease is difficult, yet it is necessary.
There is power in accepting a diagnosis. Firstly, acceptance allows our minds and spirits to take in our diagnosis. Secondly, it empowers us to address our illnesses on our terms, in our time. Thirdly, it helps us to become informed about our disease, and learn to advocate for ourselves. The fourth reason is that we can then share our knowledge and become advocates for others. Lastly, we accept all that we are.
In closing, I know that when someone says “don’t claim it,” they are encouraging me to think positively. I truly appreciate the sentiment and support behind the words, yet I believe that accepting the reality of my disease does not diminish my optimism. I remain a spiritual and intrepid individual.
In accepting my MS and all that accompanies it, I have hope that I can overcome the disease. I continue to live with passion and compassion. My disease has been named, and I know what I am up against. Now, in claiming it, I say that it will not win.
“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” –James Baldwin.
You are invited to subscribe to my website, www.teresawrightjohnson.com
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.