Are you brave even if you didn't choose to be sick? Thoughts from a Multiple Sclerosis warrior.

Chronically Ill? Wow, you must be SO Brave.

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Being brave isn’t the absence of fear. Being brave is having that fear but finding a way through it.

Bear Grylls

Do you think of yourself as brave? I never have. Growing up, I was always afraid of bugs, needles, heights, and oh so much more. Okay, I’m still afraid of all of those things, but I’ve gotten a lot better with needles! Let’s just say, I’ve never been the epitome of brave.

When I picture someone who’s brave, I picture a first responder. A veteran. A surgeon. A teacher (all those kids?! Whoah, that’s brave!). Someone who does difficult or terrifying things because they want to help others. Yet, since my Mulitple Sclerosis diagnosis, many people have told me how brave they think I am.

Can I get a refund on this body?! It’s defective!

Uh, me? Nope, I think you’ve got the wrong girl. Mulitple Sclerosis isn’t something I chose, and doctors don’t even know why it happens yet. I don’t want this disease, and I don’t think I deserve admiration for living my life with something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

excuse me, can I get a refund on this body please? It's defective! Thoughts on bravery and inspiration from a Multiple Sclerosis patient.

Sharing about my treatments and my life with MS on social media is something I do to help raise awareness for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. And, I do it to help others will invisible illness to know that they’re not alone. I appreciate the never-ending support all of my friends and family give me. But, I’ll be honest, while I appreciate them telling me that I’m ‘brave’ and ‘inspiring’, I usually don’t feel like I am.

I don’t feel brave when I’m lying on the couch too fatigued or in too much pain to play with Dixie, my sweet dog. When I have to turn down doing things I enjoy with the people I love, because my body will not cooperate, I don’t feel brave. Trying to choose a medication that will possibly help me but likely will also have horrible side effects doesn’t feel very brave. I sure as hell don’t feel inspiring. But, as one of my dear friend’s often reminds me, I don’t get to choose who I inspire,

And as another friend reminded me, choosing to be vulnerable, choosing to fight my disease (and my own body, really), continuing to participate in Walk MS is actually very brave.

Brave: ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.

While I may not ever be truly ready to endure the pain that Multiple Sclerosis causes me, I can recognize the times when I show courage. Using the wheelchair assistance in the airport, because I need it as much as I hate it, is brave. I wish it wasn’t brave, because I wish that people wouldn’t stare when you ‘look so good’ but actually need the assistance. #ThisisMS

I’d love it if we didn’t have to talk about how brave Selma Blair was for showing up at the Grammys with a cane because of her Multiple Sclerosis. I wish we could simply talk about how beautiful she looked. Or better yet, how talented she is! Yet, that’s not the world we live in. Disability, using assistive devices, etc., is still looked upon as ‘less than’. And showing your face in public when you’re different?! Wow, that’s brave.

Maybe one day, being different won’t be seen as so brave. We can hope, right? Truly, I hope that as a society, we can all learn to be kinder to each other. To judge less, love more, and believe each other when we say that we are struggling.

And of course, I hope that one day there’s a cure for Multiple Sclerosis so no one else will have to suffer and be brave enough to fight their own immune system.

How do you deal with being told that you’re brave or inspiring when you don’t feel like you are?

Comments

  1. Nicole

    Thank you… I needed to hear this today. I don’t feel brave or inspiring + feel like a phony when people tell me I am.
    And, honestly, sometimes it irritates me when I’m told such things… because I don’t have a choice in the matter. So it really has nothing to do with courage – I’m just doing what I have to in order to get through. Just like everyone else, abled or not.
    But, maybe people are right, maybe we are braver than we give ourselves credit for. But I’d rather be noticed for something that has to do with the real me, not my disabilities – those are just circumstances. There’s a heck of a lot more to me than those… and they’re far more interesting!

    1. You’re so welcome! There are SO many more interesting things about us both, but we aren’t phony’s either. Even if we don’t have a choice, we are getting through it all the best we can! And that is something we deserve credit for!

  2. I always feel a bit strange about the “you’re inspiring”, “you do so well considering..” etc comments. I’m just being me. Doing the best with what I have.

    1. Yes, it’s the same for me! Strange, right? But, doing the best we can, facing what we do, is a form of bravery. And if they’re inspired? Well, I can’t decide who I inspire, but I try to take it as a compliment.

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