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How I Relate to Superheroes Because of My MS

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I didn’t know it at the time, but four years ago, I was given superpowers. Like most superheroes, I continue to learn about my powers and how to use them for good. Sounds cliche, but hear me out please.

I have multiple sclerosis (MS) and many of my symptoms are invisible to others which makes it that much harder for people to understand my illness.

Superheroes are often misunderstood individuals. Often they are somewhat outcasts of society. Yet, rather than become bitter by how others treat them, their thoughts evolve into armor or a shield to see life in a different way in which others aren’t capable of seeing.

This has happened to me after my diagnosis of MS. It started three years prior to my diagnosis when I woke up with the entire room spinning around me and I walked around feeling drunk for two weeks after. Then I lost sight in my right eye temporarily for another two weeks. The doctors could not tell me why it was happening. So, I began learning my superpower of faking well. This became my secret identity like Superman has Clark Kent, or Wonder Woman has Major Diana Prince in the U.S. Army.

I pretended to be well because the test results said I was well, so it must be true. I believed the power must be mine then to be well. “Push through the pain and be tough like ‘normal’ people do,” I would tell myself. I switch to my secret identity all the time as I insist on living happy and enjoying life when I’m able.

People see me smile and doubt my illness. People also look at Superman and Wonder Woman and for some reason don’t believe they are Clark Kent and Diana Prince, and vice versa. How can they be both? Why don’t they just stay as superheroes?

They need a break and they have to protect themselves from the bad guys by laying low and saving energy for when it counts. Me too! I’m not that strong all the time. I need breaks from trying to look well. Wonder Woman can’t have superhuman strength, speed, and durability all the time either. She and I both get weak from fighting so hard. I hide out quietly after being Wonder Woman for a while by being like Diana. I can’t stay as Diana too long either. If I didn’t choose to be positive and happy sometimes, then I’d have to be a supervillain blaming all my problems on others and punishing the world.

When I finally got my diagnosis after three years, I thought that would be the breakthrough and now I could drop the act. Now everyone would see I am not making it up, finally accept me, and help me. Not true. I still have to fight for the help and acceptance I need to want to feel good. Superheroes experience this as well. They can’t help wanting peace, happiness, and equality, yet continue to be misunderstood by others. People start to doubt their intentions for looking so good in their tights, cape, and bracelets and tiara in Wonder Woman’s  case. How dare she look good!

Superhero stories often show that their struggles to be understood give them intellect and courage to cope with the persistence of the bad guys.

I put my superhuman courage to use, just like Wonder Woman when I was overcome by embarrassment the first time I needed to use a cane in public. The fear of judgement or pity made me feel like I was wearing my tights and underwear like a superhero and getting stared at as some “weirdo.” Eventually, I would use that cane with pride like a cape of power. But I didn’t do it without the help of a friend.

Like all superheroes, I had people placed in my life, my vigilantes, like Wonder Woman has her Amazon advisors to give courage to keep going. This allowed me to have the perspective others lack to focus on the few things in life that really matter. It’s funny how I used to worry about the silliest things. I rarely worry now. Superheroes don’t worry. They jump into action and do what is needed to survive, as I do.

Superheroes have weaknesses like Superman has Kryptonite. Extreme heat or cold, physical or mental stress, lack of sleep are all on my Kryptonite list. Wonder Woman’s bracelets reveal her weakness by their original name, “bracelets of submission,” which relates to the idea that her and her Amazon friends were once oppressed in a man’s world before moving to Paradise Island. I won’t submit to anyone’s idea of what a person with a disability should look like.

MS continues to throw new plot twists at me like with the medication I was on. I was taking a medication for three years and it suddenly caused my liver to start failing this past March. Then, I think this event triggered my intermittent hand pain symptom to now be constant. The doctors didn’t understand why I wasn’t satisfied when the tests showed no evidence of my MS getting worse. Medical tests rarely back up anything I’m feeling, so I don’t really take them very serious. Wonder Woman doesn’t listen to those around her saying everything is safe. No, she knows there are still bad guys working on their next plan to finish her, like my pain is trying to finish me.

I’m sure there are so many more comparisons I could make with people like me with MS and superheroes. But, one I often think about is how our illnesses force others to be real with us. Like many others, I feel it when people make gestures to avoid me to save themselves from awkwardness. They are polite in public, but avoid getting too close maybe because my awkwardness makes them think of their own weaknesses or something. It’s like Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth. We are looking to see how people are going to behave around us, forcing them to show their true character.

Are you going to let me blend in like Diana and fit in to the crowd? Or are you gonna make us bring out our superpowers to fight for our needs? In that case, I will be like Wonder Woman because I will make you wonder about me and my superpower, as I live a happy life with my invisible jet and boomerang tiara, without you on my Paradise Island – which you’ve been banished from.

You’ve never seen me and Wonder Woman in the same room, have you? I’m just saying…It could be true.

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Thinkstock Image By: g-stockstudio

Originally published: October 27, 2017
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