My multiple sclerosis helped me define myself as a human being. As my immune system ate away at my nervous system, I discovered the simultaneous separation of and connection between my physical self and my mental self. My diagnosis of this incurable disease led me to realize that I could no longer regard myself and the outside world as most people do, and though it sent me reeling for a while, ultimately, this solidified my sense of self as a unique individual.
Before The Diagnosis
When I was only 17-years-old, the symptoms of my MS were beginning to appear in my everyday life. I would fall down stairs, run into walls, trip over nothing, lose the feeling in my hands, slur my words, and all the while, I didn’t know the cause. I was a big kid, already over 6 feet at the beginning of high school. I knew myself to be clumsy, so I didn’t think twice about my newfound extra clumsiness. But when I started uncontrollably slurring my words, I became confused and concerned.
This cycle continued until the morning of November 1, 2011, when the symptoms of my multiple sclerosis fully manifested. I woke up that day and sat up on the side of my bed, but when I tried to get out of bed, I knew something was wrong. With my first step onto the floor, I fell down.
I then tried to get up from the ground, and I couldn’t— I had no feeling or strength in my left leg, and when I tried to pull myself up with my left arm, I couldn’t even lift it. Utterly confused, I sat there trying to just lift my arm, but no matter how much my mind told my arm to move, it wouldn’t.
By the end of the day, I was in a hospital bed and seven days later, when the flare had subsided, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
The Human Default
For most people, there exists an innate human standard in which there is a natural relationship between one’s mind and body. When someone wants to pick up a pencil, they don’t have to tell their arm to reach for it or each individual finger to grasp it, they just do it. Their mind is in direct control of their body, and there is no need for it to put any effort into telling the body what to do, because to them, their body and mind are one, there is no gap between the two.
This is what I will call the “human default.” When there is a something hindering the mind’s ability to control the physical self, such as aging or sickness, the gap between the mind and body is broadened. For me, my multiple sclerosis was what was at odds with my human default.
At the time of my first brush with multiple sclerosis that November morning, I felt nothing but the separation between my mind and my body; I saw them as completely separate entities.
The Separation Of Mind + Body
As time went on, I came to the realization that not only were the mind and body separate things, but there exists a dialogue between the mind and the body. The lack of dialogue between my mind and my body caused by my MS allowed me to realize that there is one to begin with, and through this realization, I have come to an understanding that my relationship with the physical world is what proves to me that I exist as an individual.
Essentially, my experience of the breakdown of the human default when my physical body stopped cooperating with my mental self led me to point of self-reflection that allowed me to define my place in the world as a whole individual, both physical and non-physical.
It informed my identity that comprises my unique self. Not only am I reliant on my body to house my mental self, but I also realize that my body is my primary point of reference concerning the existence of myself as an individual within the world that surrounds me.
Multiple sclerosis allowed me to meditate on the new philosophical conditions I was forced to come to terms with when my mind lost the ability to control my body.
It gave me a greater understanding about the nature of defining one’s self, and the importance the connection between mind and body has in this definition. My multiple sclerosis allowed me to form my unique sense of sense as an individual and for that, I will always be grateful.