If you have stumbled upon my blog as a newly diagnosed person with Multiple Sclerosis, welcome. Did you know this blog is written specifically with you in mind? Most people would think it’s more about weight loss or running or devotional thoughts, and it is… but this blog was born out of a desire to see more positive, uplifting MS sites out there. And there’s a big reason: Multiple Sclerosis internet sites and forums can be full of depression and HATE.
In the days after my diagnosis, I did what most people do–I hopped online and googled and read as much as I could. In that, I found many blogs and sites that claimed to connect other MS patients with a community for them to support one another. What I found was a lot of harsh words, strong judgement and generalizations, and just a lot of really depressed people discussing their disability checks and how horrible the government, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, etc., were. When I posted a question about my medication, just wanted other experiences, I was met with so much ugliness and people telling me I was an idiot for choosing that one and making me terrified and doubt what my doctor and I had discussed. The ugliness and intolerance of one another SHOCKED me. I promise you, I could find NOTHING encouraging. My husband found me one day sobbing, watching some MS YouTuber describe her latest horrors and mad vents about medication costs and doctor copays and he said, “NO MORE.” We agreed that research was a good idea, but no more blog reading or YouTube watching or reading comments or forums where people discussed their MS woes. We were going to stay POSITIVE.
A year into diagnosis, I learned about Cheryl Hile.
Y’all have heard me talk about her before. I love this lady. I love her determination and tenacity and the pure spark of joy she brings into everyone’s lives. I went from me being a total fan girl of Cheryl’s to us becoming pen pals to now friends. And she created a community for me and nearly 200 others who all have the same desire–to not let MS define who we are. That means many things for each of us individually. Just getting to know these other folks, one can see just how MS varies from person to person. We have several people in active MS exacerbations, that seem to come back over and over, and those like me who’ve been in remission for years without any visible effects. We have several long term runners, having completed dozens of marathoners, we have newby runners (like me!), we have speed walkers who use poles to keep them upright, we have swimmers, and bikers, and those who’s victory is walking to the mailbox that day! BUT, the common theme in all of us is this–WE CELEBRATE! There is ALWAYS something to celebrate. Even those of us with severe mobility issues or in chronic states of MS flares, CELEBRATE! There is joy abundant… Sure, we have moments of venting, but there is HOPE and JOY at the heart and we can all love and encourage one another when we need it. I don’t know how I would make it without this group!
In all honesty, the internet itself can be pretty dark. For those of us who put ourselves out there, hate can come when we least expect it and from the least likely places. I was once attacked on a National Multiple Sclerosis Society thread on Facebook. They had shared my story of getting control of my health, losing weight, and becoming a runner. It was short and featured this picture of my husband and I after we finished our first half-marathon.
There were so many sweet comments and people who told me our story inspired them to get up and fight that day, even if that meant they walked to the mailbox for the first time in months.
And then, there was the lady from New Zealand. She commented in all caps, “SHAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” repeatedly. She said that it was so hurtful to those who were truly struggling with this disease to see success stories. That I and MS Society should be ashamed for sharing that. That we were spreading false hope and making others feel inferior if they too weren’t able to run a half marathon.
Y’all, this broke me.
Like, weeping and in the fetal position and praying like I had never prayed before.
I was devastated at the thought of discouraging anyone, especially a fellow MS sister or brother, even if that was NEVER my intention. A dear, sweet friend got a hold of me and talked me down. We ended up looking at this lady’s facebook page, and guess what? She didn’t have MS… or if she did, she was doing incredibly well and traveling the world. And if she knew someone with MS, she didn’t seem to say anything about them. Maybe her mother passed away from complications of MS or maybe a dear friend… I tried to put myself in her shoes and imagine what she could have been through that would have brought about that type of reaction. I prayed for her and asked God to meet me in that low place. My pride always comes into play in times like that… the compliments and sweet comments stroke my ego… the one negative comment tore me in two. God reminded me that when I share my story, it’s not to bring me glory, but to bring HIM glory.
Have you dealt with haters? I know. We all have. If you are on social media in any capacity, I’m sure you have dealt with your fair share of haters.
Did you know, Jesus talked to us about haters in John? Check it out:
John: 15:18-19: The World’s Hatred
“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.”
It feels odd to say that a scripture about being hated is comforting, but I guess it’s more of validation that we are on the right path. When we spread joy or point others to Him, we will experience some hate. When we put ourselves out there and go out of our comfort zone to encourage and love and share Jesus, we’re going to run into some haters. It’s part of the deal. But if we are doing it all for God’s glory and NOT our own, it’s a lot easier to shrug it off, pray to forgive, show LOTS of grace, and let it go.
So, in other words, haters gonna hate, y’all, but let’s respond with grace.