Find Your Tribe!
MSpals is always about connecting with people that may have some idea what you have gone or are going through. It offers a safe and judgement-free space to let your hair down and make friends. In my MS journey, I have found that building connections with people who understand has opened doors for me that increasing disability bars. Thanks to the support of some of our MSpals, as well as groups like My Counterpane, and organizations like iConquerMS, I have realized that every individual voice is important. We all have something to share. We are each able to use these tools and advocate for ourselves and our communities. Even giving a listening ear to our brother or sister in this fight is powerful!
On Wednesday, July 27th, I was able to attend an event sponsored by the Seattle Commission for People with DisAbilities. I was maybe the only person there with Multiple Sclerosis. I met people with Cerebral Palsy and deaf people and autism-spectrum people. Even stepping outside of my comfortable MS tribe, I found myself surrounded by like-minded individuals. I saw the same types of struggles for everyone who attended the event. Even with a stuttering gait and slurring speech, I felt accepted. Better yet, I felt like I was able to accept and understand the other attendees a little more because we were sharing this event.
The Commission sprung out of the Seattle City Council. I hope that other cities have something similar. I would encourage all of my MSpals to reach out to others with DisAbilities. Don’t segregate yourself into only the MS groups. Definitely stay active and make a difference to your MSpals, but consider your pals with Autism or Blindness or any other disabling illness. You may find autistic friends who can easily relate to the confusion and inability to multitask that comes as part of your cog fog. Or a blind person may give you some pointers in dealing with your optic neuritis. We are different, but we are the same.
Branch Out to Other Tribes!
When we stick so strictly to groups that are “just like us”, we stifle our growth. It is easy and comfortable when we surround ourselves with people who are similar. We have to become advocates when we join ranks with people who don’t exactly know about MS. By making known what a person with MS may be like, we raise awareness. We may offer insight into our own struggles. We may inspire awe. We ease a little fear of the unknown.
When I attended that event and met people with other kinds of disabilities, I was humbled and I was proud. I saw that no matter what kind of hardship you may have, you are worthy. I am worthy. I got to hear the mayor of my city say that! I saw people who lived through much worse than I imagined succeeding just by showing up. I got to be a part of my city and I felt like my city cared about me and those like me!
The meal may not have been as fancy as some I’ve had at events sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, but since it wasn’t hosted by someone making money off of my pain it felt a lot less dirty.
The Whole World is ready to Listen!
Get involved however you can! Don’t rely on only those of us who have MS to support your life with MS. Be an advocate for yourself and everyone else that struggles. We (MSers) are not alone!