But You Look Fine...
If you’re reading this, and you have Multiple Sclerosis, you have probably heard this phrase before, or heard something along the lines of, “But you look fine/normal…” So how are we supposed to respond whenever someone says something like this to us? To me, it’s annoying and sometimes rude… it just depends on who said it for me. I think this was at the top of my list on my article, “MS & Things You Should NOT Say.”
Some people have said this to me, who are a part of the MS Community, like other MS organizations, other people with MS… so I don’t take it badly, when the person who is saying it does so and is knowledgeable about MS. They are meaning it as a compliment. Sort of like, you seem to be looking very good despite your MS. Now lets face it... MS doesn’t always make people “look good”. Whatever that definition might be. I’ve even been known to quote Beyoncé and have replied with, “I woke up like this...” Because the person who is educated about MS, know that this isn’t true.
I don’t care what commercials say, what celebrities portray… the majority of us don’t wake up ‘flawless’. I can straighten my hair the night before and wake up and it’s a mess…
Would they be saying that if they saw me on a day that I wasn’t expecting to be noticed while I was out… maybe I was in my PJ’s, no make-up, etc. Would I look good then? I’ve come to the realization that has also been said to me, in the way that I carry myself. That I’m not letting the MS keep me down, I’m not just ‘laying down’ and letting MS take things away from me.
But then there are the people who say it that mean well, but don’t know how what they are saying is coming off. I usually make a joke about it. Replying with something like, “ Yeah, well you don’t know how long it took me to ‘look’ like this.” Or “Yeah, I didn’t want to scare anyone, so I only go out in public when I have enough energy to be presentable.” So even though I’m making a joke about it, they can realize that I don’t always look the way I do that day. Am I going to go out in public unless I absolutely have to if my leg is dragging? Most likely, I won’t because if one symptom is flared up, then most likely other symptoms are as well, like fatigue, etc.
Now when it comes to the people that are saying, “But you look fine to me”, well those people get my sarcasm mostly. It just depends on what ‘mood’ or how much tolerance I have at that time for peoples lack of common sense.
I’ve responded with things like, “Maybe you should educate yourself about MS before you give me any commentary.” If the person in question, again a rude person, tried to give me advice about my medical condition… I ask them where they got their degree from, or to show me the study done in clinical trials about the ‘so-called’ technique or this ‘miracle diet’ I should try. I think one of the funniest (to me) responses I’ve given was, “Well you don’t look stupid… looks can be deceiving.” I think I actually have that on a shirt!
So I think how I would react to the statement would be based off of who said it. Good things about living in the south (Texas) is that I can tell someone that is being snarky, “Bless Your Heart” and they know to not talk anymore on the subject. Now how would they know that? It sounds like I was being polite to them… well, from where I’m from… “Bless Your Heart” is telling them to shut up but in a politically correct manner I guess.
There are times where I just ignore the person flat out, if they are being rude and make a comment. Because we all know that stress isn’t good for our MS, and we deal with enough of it on a day-to-day basis, why make it worse? But as most of you might know, I’m not really good at having a filter... even though I know that I don’t need to instigate anything further… sometimes my inner-child prevails and says to me, “Well he or she started it.”
Piece of advice... If you don’t like hearing any kind of comments in regards to “you looking fine” then let that person know in a nice way, how that can be taken in a negative manner to those of us with an invisible illness. Again, do this if you know that the person saying it meant no harm, and genuinely cares and was trying to be nice. If they were acting like, what I like to call a “Real House Wife”, then just go back to the 90’s saying, “Talk to the hand” lol
The bottom line is, there is no ‘one way’ for all of us to deal with the comments made in regards to how we “look”… it depends on not just the person who said it, but also our own circumstances. Sometimes you might need to bite your tongue, you can still go off on them in your head, right?
I honestly wish there was enough awareness about the affects of Multiple Sclerosis, where we didn’t even have to think about how to respond to certain comments made. Are these things said to someone (negatively) who is known to be battling a well-known disease? The answer is most likely no…. We need to have more awareness about Multiple Sclerosis in general. Do you know how annoying it is to have to explain WHAT Multiple Sclerosis is time and time again? Forget I asked, you probably DO know.
Does your employer provide workplace accommodations due to your MS?