Over the last couple of years, I seem to have found my online presence – both here and on twitter – increasingly categorised. I’m not just talking about the way that google seems to be sending me a disproportionate number of people from Romania, but rather the way that I am being more often included in groups/lists. Not to put too fine a point on it, I’m being categorised by some people as an MS blogger.
In some ways this is, of course, flattering. Who doesn’t like being included on lists? But on the other hand, I’m a little uncomfortable being defined by my illness. I know that I write about it here, but I also write about all kinds of other shit too. Nobody’s calling me the Piss In The Sink blogger, after all, and I wrote about that once too.
(they’re not, right? Please tell me they’re not.)
There’s a really well-organised web-ring called “The Carnival of MS Bloggers”. On it, you will find a pretty extensive catalogue of people who blog about multiple sclerosis, together with a little widget that provides links to the most recently updated blogs from that catalogue. When I first started experiencing the symptoms that would eventually be diagnosed as MS, I found reading about the experiences of other people really helpful; normal people who are just getting on with their lives. The possibility that you have MS is really pretty frightening, but ignorance only makes that fear worse. It’s not always a comfortable experience reading about someone else’s experience of MS, because they may be far more affected than I ever will be, but I think it’s important to know your enemy as much as you can. Mind you, I did stop subscribing to the official magazine of the UK MS Society because I found the advertising for mobility aids and wheelchairs a little hard to stomach. I realise that I may need these in the future, but it’s not something that I care to dwell on in the present.
Reading some of the other blogs on the Carnival of MS Bloggers can be a pretty depressing experience. It’s not so much that there is such a wide-ranging experience of the condition, and some people are far more affected than others, it’s just that the lists seem to be packed full of people who ONLY blog about their MS and their treatment. Just look at the blog titles: they pretty much all make reference to MS*. Each to their own, but I really, really hope that there is more to these people’s lives than multiple sclerosis. I realise that I’m lucky and I’m pretty lightly affected so far, so it’s probably much easier for me to bore you all with stories about my job, my earworms and my exercise schedule. A time may come when I can’t work and I can’t exercise, but even so, I honestly hope that as long as I’m able to type / dictate my thoughts, I’ll be able to talk about something else as well.
Can I not be a blogger with MS rather than an MS blogger? (I’m inappropriately reminded here about Stewart Lee’s routine castigating Richard Littlejohn for criticising the police description of murdered young woman in Ipswich as “women working as prostitutes” and not just calling them prostitutes. No, they were women; human beings; why belittle them further by defining them only by their job? With that in mind, I suppose I’m a guy who blogs and who has MS. Neither of those two things defines me). Goodness. Other people are quick enough to put us into a box, so let’s try not to put ourselves into one too.
I sometimes wonder if the people who follow the link on the Carnival of MS bloggers to my blog are ever disappointed when they find that my latest post finds me droning on about my job and not about my MS? If any of them get this far down the post, perhaps they could let me know!
* just to be clear, there are plenty of really interesting bloggers on those lists, with lots of interesting things to say on lots of different topics. I’m generalising, I know. Besides, for some people, blogging about how they feel about their MS is as good as therapy, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that either. It’s good to know you’re not alone, and it's good to be listed alongside them. As Mary says in her comment below, "...m.s. is something we all have in common, be it small or large, in this size does not matter."