For a long time I tried to cover it- only unfolding my walking stick at the last possible minute, surreptitiously leaning against walls, not ticking boxes that would slap a label on me, seeking out quiet streets where there were no eyes watching.
The stark truth is, well, it’s ugly; I stagger, I fall against things, I freeze at the top of open stairs. People used to express surprise when they found out, but recently I find I don’t need to say anything for them to know. My time of hiding in the shadows seems to be over.
These days I hear myself building up defences by jumping right in there with full disclosure when I’m worried people will wonder why I can’t move the way they do. It’s gone to the opposite extreme. Over-telling has become a strange kind of self-defence thing for me. The last time I stumbled on the stairs at the cinema, I found myself wishing I had a T-shirt which said on the back, ‘No, I’m not drunk, I have MS.’
There is another, much more interesting side to my life though. So I have a named condition. But. I’m also a mum, a daughter, a sister, an auntie, a wife, an author, a dog owner, a book lover, a Whole Person. Beyond or behind the black and white of my condition, my life is resplendent with colour.
Of course, I’m guilty of labelling too – everyone I see at school has ‘Parent’ slapped above their heads. People I give a wide berth to on the street are ‘homeless’. Not forgetting all the ‘Eastern Europeans’ I clump together or the ‘LBGT community’ or the ‘Muslims’…
I wonder what truth you try to conceal, what label you’re struggling to shrug off? All I can say is,
you are not just one thing.
Forget about black and white.
You’re a rainbow.
And next time I see you, I’ll try to remember that.