I have a degree in Anthropology, and one of my linguistic anthropology classes brought up the idea that if we don’t have words to describe something, it simply doesn’t exist for us. It will always be a struggle to contemplate an idea that our language has no words for. It’s interesting to consider that one way to undermine an idea is to change the wording.
I have Multiple Sclerosis. Those words didn’t exist in my language as a sentence until after my diagnosis. They’ve fundamentally changed the way I view the world and the way I view myself. I’ve been struggling with this for years, and I stopped blogging for a long time simply because I didn’t have the words to describe what I was feeling, what I was going through. I didn’t, and I still don’t, want to write about hardship without concluding with a happy ending. But I haven’t had any ideas for happy endings for a while, and I don’t want to just whine! Oh woe is me! Oh Heavens to Betsy everything is terrible! It isn’t, and it hasn’t been terrible, but I get very frustrated when language eludes me.
So anyway, if we are able to undermine ideas through the nuances of the words we use to describe them, how do I rewrite “I have MS” into something… else? Something still true, but less, I don’t know, definite? And I can’t just tack “…but it doesn’t have me” on the end of the sentence. I tried that. It doesn’t really work, because the underlying idea is still there. It has to do with the nuances, the garbage associated with what it means to “have MS.” It takes a LOT more time to rewrite the underlying associations than it does to change the wording of a single sentence. But maybe it’s a start.
I have MS. (Feels like the truth, but it’s limiting.)
I don’t have MS. (Untrue)
I was diagnosed with MS. (But what do Doctors know? Heh. Too weaselly.)
I… need to redefine what it means to ME to have MS. (DAMMIT! I was hoping to change the sentence WITHOUT delving straight in to the underlying associations! But this also feels like truth.)
I DON’T WANT TO HAVE MS!!! (Also true, but not helpful. Sigh.)
So. As you can see, I’m struggling a bit with this. Any ideas? I’d LOVE to hear them, and I’m sure I’m not the only one having an identity crisis over a diagnosis!
Changing the wording isn’t a cure. But maybe it’s a step towards acceptance, a way to balance the way we were with the way we are now? This is my hope, and I think examining our words, the way we speak about things, can be a positive step. Diagnosis isn’t always about disease, it’s also about labels, and how we feel about those labels will always come out in the words we use to talk about them.
Benjamin Ross Hoffman's personal blog
Nietzsche famously wrote that he was writing to be understood only by his friends, which raises the obvious question of why so many people who don’t like what they think he says claim to understand him. This weekend I listened to a few conversations that seemed to get him totally wrong. I resisted the urge to correct them at the time since it wasn’t completely material to the conversation, so I’m dominating that urge into a blog post to get writing practice.
Note that Nietzsche didn’t write this way, presumably for a good reason. You may superficially understand what I’m saying but fail to internalize it, unless you follow up by reading the original until you understand how this is the same thing as that.
According to Nietzsche, in the beginning, there were people and power relations.
Words are Powerful
Words are one of the main ways people interpret, keep…
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Honestly, English is really bad at dealing with a lot of structural illnesses, whether mental or systemic. (Of institutions rather than people, but that’s another kettle of kippers entirely.) May I suggest a sentence that focuses not on the existence of the condition – that might not even use the term MS as such – but on the life and lifestyle and emotions that go with it? “My life includes MS – and that aspect often sucks – but neither it, nor I, ‘have’ each other.” Just a thought.
Love, and strength!
That’s awesome 🙂 I like that. My life includes MS, just as it includes a whole bunch of other things, both good and bad. It includes it but isn’t overwhelmed by it.