What Does My MS Have to do With That?

In the time since I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) I have always worried that I would one day be discriminated against because of my MS. I don’t mean it was any sort of fear or anxiety, it was just something that I didn’t want to deal with that I knew I eventually would have to, so maybe “worry” is too strong a word? Anyway, that time came and went when I was working a retail job about 4-5 years ago, and though it was a big deal to me at the time (a deal that escalated to human resources in the form of a formal complaint followed by a meeting in the HR office), I now, all this time later, can’t even really remember exactly what it was all about. Water under the bridge, what’s done is done; I am not typically the kind of person to hold a grudge.

Why I don't blame MS for everything

But since then, I have seemed to develop a concern regarding anyone being able to blame my MS for me not being able to do something that I actually can because I still try to take personal responsibility for the things that I know I should. “Don’t blame my MS, this was a mistake that I personally made, and one that I would have made even if I didn’t have MS. Part of being human is making mistakes and learning from them, blaming my MS for everything deprives me of the ability to try to learn and better myself.” That’s just how I think.

An online debate

Well, the other day something interesting happened. On Facebook, I made the mistake of engaging in a conversation of the political type and for some unexplainable reason, I actually thought that I could express a difference in opinion and spark a constructive conversation… Well since when has the internet not been a place for meaningful conversations and instead a place for exchanging angry insults?.. That was sarcasm if you didn’t catch it. As you could imagine this did not work out as I had hoped it would, and I was quickly ganged up on by everyone for not agreeing with them. No big deal, I should have known better, this is the internet, but here is where it got interesting. You see, when I engage in any sort of “debate” about anything (whether it’s politics, philosophy, or simply solving a problem regarding the best way to complete a task) I always try to look at it from a “logical” point of view: problem-solving. At the same time, I have always been interested in seeing how someone else views a problem and what they think the best solution is.

Trying to understand others

For me, this discussion was not about who was right and who was wrong, I just wanted to try to understand how others thought. I just wanted to talk. If everyone agreed with me, the world would be a very boring place. But as this conversation went on, I kept poking holes in their argument to see if they would modify their opinion based on new evidence or not, and finally this person was backed into a corner. Now, keep in mind that so far MS and anything having to do with MS had never been mentioned because, well, it had nothing to do with anything. At this point, one person tried to make their point again, and before I could respond, someone who I thought was a friend, said to them, “Don’t waste your time, Matt has MS and is bitter and angry at the world, he is angry about his limitations and disagreeing with you is his way of coping”.

Where did that come from?

“Lol, what???” Where did that come from? I am not angry at the world because I have MS! I am not some bitter shut-in that just goes around trolling the internet, yelling at kids to stay off my lawn, and doing everything that I can to disagree with everyone. I didn’t even express any sort of anger or negative emotion in this conversation, I just shared my own opinion which was not in line with theirs. So I was perplexed because I could not figure out what my MS had to do with anything and how it even got brought up in the conversation. Oh wait. I get it, it was nothing more than the classic “I can’t answer your question, so instead of focusing on that, let’s pivot to something that has nothing to do with any of this and may even spark an emotional response from you, which will hopefully cause you to completely forget about what we were originally talking about” debate technique. I am sure there is a shorter name for that tactic but that is the shortest name I got!

Disagreeing is not a symptom of MS

I quickly went from being perplexed to being amused; I was trying to have a conversation with another human being as a human being myself, nothing else. Not a guy with MS, not a disabled 27-year-old, just a guy with his own opinion. Because they felt cornered and didn’t want to admit that maybe I had a point? Maybe their argument was somewhat flawed? They had to go and bring my disability into the mix even though it had nothing to do with anything. So I found this amusing because, at first, all I could think was “what does my MS have to do with this?” but then I realized it was just an attempt to get me all rattled and distracted from the conversation. People who know me know that I am usually not one to be so easily manipulated by emotion, so it was kind of sad (the pathetic kind of sad) to see someone try to pull something like that on me. But whatever, what do I care? But then it dawned on me; how many other people are out there doing the same thing to other people with disabilities who may not be as “water off a duck's back” about stuff like that as I am? I can see how that could really bother most people, which really isn’t cool because essentially? These people are trying to take advantage of other people for something they have no control over, and if you ask me? That is pretty pathetic on their part because guess what? Just because someone has MS does not mean that they can’t have their own opinions. Expressing an opinion that you don’t agree with is not a symptom of MS, it is a symptom of being an individual with a mind of their own.

So I am curious: has anyone ever tried to blame the way you think about something like it is just because of MS? If not, how would that make you feel? Share in the comments below!

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