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When I'm Accused of 'Playing the Multiple Sclerosis Card'

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I was recently accused of “whipping out the MS card,” and I have a few things to say about that.

First of all, I know with 100 percent certainty that I’m not alone. I suspect just about every single person with a chronic illness has been accused of this. Maybe not to their face, maybe not even behind their back, but people around them think it, whether they’re aware of it or not.

When you accuse someone of playing their chronic illness card — meaning they use their illness as an “excuse” to get what they want — you are essentially letting that person know you don’t trust them and don’t empathize with their situation. And that person will very likely close themselves off to you going forward. They won’t want to ask for help when they need it. They’ll hesitate to discuss their unpleasant symptoms with you. They will hide their challenges as best as they can so they don’t have to be faced with that horrible accusation again in the future. They will push through, they will pretend and they will inevitably overdo it.

It takes a great deal of courage for me to admit my limitations. To admit when I need help. To admit when I cannot complete a very simple task because my body won’t allow it. I’m not just talking about admitting these things to others, but also admitting them to myself.

Throughout my life, I’ve taken a great deal of pride in being emotionally strong, resilient and independent. Asking for support, even from those I’m closest to, makes me feel weak. Vulnerable. And while I don’t necessarily enjoy putting myself in that position, I’ve come to realize it’s absolutely necessary from time-to-time if I want to live my best life with MS. And shouldn’t I be able to make myself vulnerable around those who love me, my first tier support system, without being accused of “whipping out the MS card?” That shouldn’t be too much to ask.

We’re all fighting our own battles, be it with our health, financial instability, lack of work/life balance, difficulties in our marriages, relationships, family crises etc. and we all need a little support from time to time.

Will I take you up on your offer to grab a few things at the store for me (while you’re there) to save me an extra trip and maybe a few spoons? Yeah, maybe!

Will I be there to support you when the load on your shoulders gets too heavy? Yes, absolutely.

Will I take advantage of your endless kindness, your faithful friendship, your love and your unwavering support, and use my diagnoses to my advantage to simply get what I want, when I want it? No, I will not. This is a promise.

So please, do me this favor:

Have trust in me, as I have trust in you. Have faith that I will not lean on you unless I truly need to. Remember, it’s not easy for me to ask for support. Please don’t make me feel ashamed when I do.

Originally published: September 10, 2019
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