Have you heard about MS warriors? It’s a term that many use to empower themselves or others who have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I think the aim of calling oneself MS warrior is to change perspectives: from feeling like a victim (“poor me”, “this has happened to me”, “I am powerless”) to taking matters of health into one’s own hands (“I’ve got this diagnosis, but I am not giving up.” “I will fight for my health and happiness”). This idea of empowerment is great.
However, whenever I hear the term MS warrior, I shrink. I feel uncomfortable. I don’t like it. MS is a disease where our own immune system, which is meant to ensure our health, attacks our bodies and weakens them. Multiple sclerosis means “many hardenings”. In many ways, we describe MS with war terminology: attack, hardening, flare… And conventional medicine (this is not a post against western medicine, I’m being treated with Natalizumab), treats MS just like that. We “suppress” the immune system with interferon or chemotherapy, we “prevent” our immune cells from entering the brain with mononuclear antibodies, and we are potentially “confronted” with a disability.
Calling ourselves MS warriors implies that we are at war, that we
- vigorously fight against this disease and/or
- fight to live a happy life despite the diagnosis.
In either case, it is us against MS. That doesn’t seem right to me. It means responding to aggression with aggression. Why not approach MS peacefully? What if a change in attitude helps us understand our bodies better and supports holistic health? I sincerely believe that our bodies always do the best they can to work in our favor. What if we approached MS with that in mind? What if we gently turned inward? What if we learned how to listen to our bodies? You can ask your body what it needs at any given moment. Is it sleep? Is it nutrients? Is it movement? Is it more community? Is it quiet time? What do you need more of and what can you let go of because it does not serve you anymore?
Maybe there is causation: if our thoughts are hard (“I am fighting this disease,” “I won’t give up,” “I will win”) our bodies harden even more. And, just maybe, when we soften our thoughts, our bodies soften as well? I don’t know if this is true, but I know that I feel a lot better when I take notice of MS symptoms with loving kindness. When I ask my body what is wrong and how I can support it best at any given moment.
War is fear-based. If there are only two underlying emotions: fear and love, why not approach MS with love? How about choosing a term that expresses love for ourselves, our bodies, the entire world? How about “MS peacemaker”? I think I like that a lot better. Let me know if you like the term MS warrior in the comments!