Saturday, October 08, 2005

MS and identity: dual citizenship, but without a country?

In Illness As A Metaphor, Susan Sontag wrote:
Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.

I sometimes feel as though I switch passports so often that I don't know where I really live, that I don't feel at home in either kingdom. Thursday, I parked in a disabled parking space before heading to my full-time job. Yesterday, I called in sick because I had a bad head cold. Today, I'm sitting at home while my wife and friends stroll about at the farmer's market downtown.

Today, in The Guardian, there's a piece by Hilary Freeman, a 34-year-old woman with a fairly mild case of MS, that touches on these themes:
Just as someone with anorexia sees a fat person when they look into the mirror, so I see a healthy one. My self-image has never quite caught up with the knowledge of my condition. I have mild MS symptoms — fatigue, tingling, blurred vision, a thumb that sometimes shoots out of its own accord — but nothing that has stopped me, now aged 34, from living a normal life. Yet I find it nigh impossible to get insurance or to pass a medical. So who am I, a sick person or a well person? Disabled or able-bodied? The truth is, I don’t know. And neither, it appears, does anyone else.

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Tom Naka said...
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Cecilia said...

Very ON the mark post, Doug. Thanks. I don't really think the tone of the Times' article on Hilary Freeman is very fair. AS IF ... everyone ever diagnosed with MS wouldn't like to just get on with their lives. You gleaned the best of the article when she talked about not knowing if she's well or ill. [Notice it's not because we don't feel unwell that the question pops up.]

I just can't help resenting the rest of that article's implications to 'buck up' nor its overweening suggestions to get some perspective on being 'not that sick'.

Would it be so bad for articles to put forward that MS is a (f...g) brain disease that messes with your brain? Are reports so disguised simply because people are so scared of citizenship in the kingdom of the sick? [Bless Susan Sontag for her clarity.]

Anonymous said...

My aim in this article was only to write about my own personal experience, not anyone else's. But from the correspondence I received, it seems my sentiments struck a chord with many other people with MS. If you don't share my experience, why not write your own article?