MS support groups. The idea terrified me. Me, teacher of Philosophy and Ethics, and Sociology; vocal opponent of stereotypes and presumptions, adamant, active objector to all forms of prejudice, purveyor of open-mindedness… hypocrite.
So walking in, for the second week in a row, to my local MS support group today, I was somewhat surprised to find myself feeling positive about what I knew was to come. A warm welcome, the odd snippet of useful information about side effects or the best consultant, understanding but not whinging, empathy but no head-tilting, sharing but no circle-sitting and turn-taking. My fears had been allayed at last week’s….what? Meeting? (Too formal.) Gathering? (Too much hinting at middle-class book clubbishness.) Coffee morning? (Too activist-charitable.) It was just people in a room, with tea, and scones. (I think the scones are instrumental.)
But for the first (well, second – I’ve already said I went last week but I am now recounting the two visits as one event) time since diagnosis, I felt understood. The urge to describe, in graphic detail, each symptom, sensation and emotion, was simply not felt (just like my legs… inappropriate humour? Says who!). I knew that they knew. The word “fatigue” no longer meant, “I had a sleepless night” or “what a busy day, I’d like a short sit down now please” but instead was automatically translated as the screeching, violent imperative to
“Stop everything. AT ONCE. OR YOU WILL FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE EVERY HANGOVER, JET LAG AND FLU EPISODE OF YOUR LIFE ZAPPED INTO YOUR BODY IN ONE RELENTLESS PULL TOWARDS THE HORIZONTAL POSITION.”
But none of that needed saying. They knew. They had felt it, were feeling it now. And the over-riding emotion was one of relief, of being heard without needing to say a word.