When I Get Sick, I Tend to Blame MS First. Here's Why.

It’s easy to blame MS for the many broken bits that drift freely within my anatomical lagoon. So easy in fact that I have reached back in time to my eleven-year-old self in 1968 to MS-‘splain the reason why I couldn’t steady the handlebars on my bike while riding in a straight line, and couldn’t keep up with a pack of bikers as we pedaled to a nearby park.

Being the runt

Back then I chalked it up to being the smallest kid with the shortest legs. A simple case of being the runt of the litter, I didn’t stand much of a chance at keeping up without using superhuman strength and endurance. Living in the wild cruelly eliminates runts by making them easy pickings for predators to grab up as a tasty snack. But I lived in a sleepy suburb in Northwest Ohio where parents and neighbors look out for the more vulnerable little ones. Here on the lonesome blacktopped road, however, watching the bikers ahead of me move farther into the distance, I was more on my own — so I abandoned the outing and turned my bike unsteadily towards home.

When I biked alone, which I mostly did, I didn’t notice these kinds of things. There was no compare-and-contrast, it was just me in my own world. But activities involving other people brought out not only my competitiveness, it pushed me into a faster, more dangerous world that scared me. It sucks to be competitive and not able to compete. I settled for running relay races with our family dog, Winnie. She outran me, too, but that was okay. I loved the little pooch. She was hilarious the way she’d run around me in circles every time I called her, pretending to run straight to me and then fake me out by making a sharp left and running past me instead until I collapsed on the lawn, laughing until I was breathless. No matter how many times I chased after her I could never catch her. Back then I thought we were playing. Now I like to think she was exercising me to get strong enough for what was to come.

Myelin-chomping Pac-Man

Becoming a pianist and flutist was no laughing matter, however. I’ve always had a lazy tongue and my fingering was a bit awkward. Nowadays I can easily MS-‘splain it as an early sign of nerve damage in my head, neck, and later on, my whole left side. But, is it? Isn’t it also possible that my talent and technical skills were limited? If I’m not careful, I’ll blame all my shortcomings, flaws and failures on the myelin-chomping Pac-Man tunneling around my brain and spinal cord. See what I did there? I took a 1980s dot-eating computer game image and turned it into a villain.

This is how monsters are created. In the beginning they are eccentric loners that remain inconspicuous until a group of bullies decide to scapegoat them. It’s human to so want everything in this world to make sense. When we experience hardship it has to be somebody’s fault. Tragedy and pain seem somehow evil, unnatural. Undoubtedly, some dark force has consciously engineered it.

Blaming MS first

I know it must sound like I think multiple sclerosis is getting a bad rap it doesn’t deserve. But, gosh, it happened again quite recently. I was feeling poorly in the same ways that made me take a steroid treatment for a relapse seven years ago, so I almost convinced myself that I’m in a relapse again. My neurologist made me get bloodwork and a urinalysis, and what do you know, I have a UTI. Infections can mimic MS symptoms. I know this and yet I’ve trained my mind to blame MS first.

Multiple sclerosis doesn’t care. It doesn’t take on a victim mentality no matter how many of us scapegoat it unjustifiably. And since it doesn’t have feelings, I don’t feel so bad crapping on it every chance I get.

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