What do you see when you look in the mirror?
Sometimes I wonder how everybody views themselves and not just themselves but people with disabilities, illnesses, whether they are visible or invisible. I always thought of myself as a kind and compassionate person that didn’t have any prejudices. But turns out a lot of us walk this earth, thinking that we don’t but some where deep down within ourselves we do. I am going to talk for a small bit about invisible disabilities and how being diagnosed with MS and living with this condition has changed my outlook on the world of disabilities. As I’ve said, I have never thought that I had any prejudices, but the thing is I did. I have been around people with disabilities when I was a child, but these other children I would have spent time with would have had a physical disability. So in my mind as a child and perhaps teenager, I would have seen a disability as being physical and visible. Rewind, to a few years ago, I would have been that person, if I saw someone else parking in a disabled parking space and saw them getting out and walking, I would have thought to myself “ how dare they park there, they are clearly not disabled”. But that was my ignorance to the fact that millions of people suffer from invisible disabilities. Being diagnosed and living with MS has really opened my eyes and maybe I have learned the hard way that people make assumptions and judge others on a daily basis. I know that people have judged me, because I look completely fine on the outside. So in the past when I have been seconds away from wetting myself and I’d run to the closest disabled toilet, I would see those eyes on me and yes people have said horrible things to me or rolled their eyes and muttered nasty things under their breath. Back then, this would have upset me but now it doesn’t because I realised these people who do that, are only looking at the visible and perhaps have no incline what it would be like to live with an invisible illness. At the end of the day, I have only used the disabled toilets in public when I have been in desperate need. I don’t think that these people who are judging are thinking to themselves, what it would be like to be a 20 something year old that can’t hold in their pee or imagine the embarrassment of having an accident in public.
Moving on to how we view ourselves or how we view people with disabilities. I often think of those motivational speakers or the scene from the movie, ‘Cool Runnings’ when the character Junior is asked what he sees when he looks in the mirror. The things is, I think when most people find out that someone they know or love is sick or diagnosed with an incurable disease, people tend to feel sorry for them. I know I have done this in the past and it is probably a natural thing to feel because we are all human beings and hate the thought of someone we love suffering or being in pain. In the past I have looked at myself and felt sad that maybe I am not the same as I was a few years ago. I feared that I would lose friends and people around me because maybe I don’t have the same spark or energy that I used to. This would make me sad, when I looked at myself and got angry because my legs were too heavy and I’d remember a time when I was full of life and able to do things spontaneously, where now I feel I have to reserve energy if I know I have an event or day out coming up. I guess what I am trying to say it is okay to have those days where you feel angry or sad because your body is not co-operating with you. As I always say, anytime I experience a negative, I always experience the opposite side of the spectrum too.
So yes I have days when I look at myself and perhaps feel sorry for myself or angry at my body or perhaps my brain for not communicating sufficiently to my body. Even down to the little things that we all take for granted because the ability to walk, talk, hold things, stand, eat, they are all really a gift. So on the other end of things, I have a lot to be thankful for. Now, most of the time when I look at myself in the mirror, what do I see? I see strength, courage and determination. I see how strong I am and how strong I have been. The strength to live everyday with a chronic illness and get up out of bed and to face the day. MS is so unpredictable and I do things that I can everyday because I might not be giving that luxury tomorrow. I am forever grateful for the things that I can do and this makes me want to live my life to the fullest. I know this sounds cheesy but I am now a live in the moment kinda gal. I also see determination when I look at myself because here I am with a smile on my face and try as much not to complain because I really do think, I could have it much worse. I am a very positive person and that’s not saying that I can’t feel down or depressed because sometimes I do but I look at myself and I can see where my determination has taken me. I sometimes think that maybe when something happens in your life whether it’s a diagnosis or something else, it can put you in fight or flight mode. For me, I feel like I have taken MS by my two hands and I will fight it every step of the way, as much as I can. I will not let it take my dreams and hopes away from me. I know deep down I will always have fears about the what if’s and all that goes with MS, but I also am very determined to get where I want to be in life and I know I will succeed, even if that might mean finding loopholes. I think anyone in this life can do what they want or dream to do as long as they believe in themselves and are determined.
So maybe the next time if you see someone with an illness or disability, instead of seeing the visible or perhaps what they have lost or pitying them. Maybe look at how strong they are to live each day with hope and how far they have come and after all they have been through they are happy in life with hopes and dreams like everyone else in the world. After all having a disability or illness doesn’t define people. I guess it can be hard to understand completely what someone is going through unless you are in their shoes. There are so many young children, teenagers and adults out there fighting different illnesses to live everyday, there are young adults being diagnosed every day with a debilitating and progressive disease like MS and so many other conditions. To be honest, it doesn’t matter to me how many likes I get on Facebook or Instagram, what I really care about is hoping that I can help even one person by my blog posts. If I can help or inspire one person, that means more to me than all the likes in the world. So if someone who is newly diagnosed is reading this, or with any other life long disease etc, please know that your diagnosis doesn’t define you. When you look in the mirror, there are hundreds of reasons that you are more than your illness, you can achieve what you want in life and never ever stop believing in yourself or your dreams because If I can chase my dreams in life, then anyone can.