I've had it up to here with... "I'm not drunk, I have MS"
People within the MS community are rightly quick to point out when others say or do things to offend us – I’m thinking about the frequent lists of Things Not to Say to Someone With MS.
But I often think that some of the things which WE (people with MS) say and use in our everyday dealings aren’t exactly helpful.
Firstly, in this series of posts I’m in no way out to cause offence – as has been noted before, I’m an old hippy and I’m not trying to tell people how they should be managing their own condition. And I’m certainly not perfect, and I'm not trying to pretend that I have all the answers.
But we should definitely be considerate in all our dealings with those around us.
And like it or not, we are each of us an actual real-life representation of living with MS.
We need to be the best Person With MS we can be in order to advocate for our condition and to get people to care. And we should all think about how the way we are can reflect on all people with MS.
Think of the following as a provocation or an op-ed piece.
1 – I’m not drunk, I have MS
(not the UK-based website specifically, just the phrase itself)
On a nit-picking level, by linking being drunk (a temporary, mostly pleasant experience) with MS (deeply unpleasant at times, no cure at present) aren’t we belittling ourselves and the condition we deal with on a daily basis?
Some people could see this slogan and think that, if being drunk and having MS are so easily confused and interchangeable – even on the most basic level – well, what's the big deal?
I’m not denying that this has a certain cathartic power – but when you spit it at a work colleague / family member / random stranger, what does it achieve? Did it make you feel better for a few seconds?
Here’s the thing: a couple of hours later, that person in the street you shouted at? They still don’t have MS, and now they don’t care about people who do.
My frustrations with this phrase came to a head recently when the UK MS Society started using it as a major campaign slogan, putting it on beer glasses and T-Shirts which are being sold through their Christmas catalogue.
I get that this kind of thing might spark a conversation which might allow you to educate someone.
But it's not as if a t-shirt is going to alter the perception of someone who makes a silly comment when we're staggering down the street – that level of education is somewhat bigger than a bottle opener.
And I don’t really buy the theory that people will be more inclined to engage with someone if they appear to have a sense of humour. The laugh this catchphrase provides is snarky and not-a-little passive aggressive and might be seen as outright confrontational.
I know my close family members / friends / work colleagues wouldn’t be laughing if I turned up wearing a hilarious MS-themed T-shirt. They’re on my side so it’s not as if they are going to forget.
Aside from people writing articles like this one, what are the things which you’ve seen in the MS community which you don’t approve of?
Do you live with any comorbidities aside from MS?