Becoming Superwoman

Do you remember what it felt like to stand atop a skyscraper, strap on your cape, and soar through the clouds? You were invincible. Do you remember?

I do.

My little brother and I would race through the house in our Superman pajamas, weaving around furniture and stretching our arms out for optimum speed. We’d lift obstacles with our super strength and untie damsels from railroad tracks and rescue kittens from trees. We’d fight villains with lasers that shot out of our fingertips and overwhelm them with our sweet karate moves.

It was a fun game – one that has continued into adulthood. Have you ever been asked what superpower you’d most like to have? Flight? Strength? Invisibility? Though I suppose some thoughts are better left unread, my answer was always the ability to read minds.

As we grow older and life deals us our cards, we come to realize that we’re, in fact, not invincible and that the likelihood of being bitten by a radioactive spider is slim. Our hopes of leaping from building to building or being able to see through walls fade. When hardships arise, stemming from disease, for example, those childhood fantasies of immortality vanish and are replaced with fear.

Fear is something we learn. We learn to allow fear and doubt to become real-life villains and it’s important that we discover that, while they’re not how we once envisioned them, we do possess super powers.

Here are a few of mine:

Empathy: I’ve learned a great deal of patience and understanding of other people who live with chronic and unseen illnesses. My “BUT YOU DON’T LOOK SICK!” switch is no longer triggered when I see someone park in a handicapped spot or use an elevator to get up or down only one floor. Compassion has always been a strength of mine, but it’s more fine-tuned now to the secret and not-so-apparent afflictions that many people face. I’m personally invested now in a way that I wasn’t able to comprehend before.

Strength: Every single person on this planet has a threshold that, if crossed, will cause them to crumble. This limit for adversity varies from person to person and is influenced by their physical and emotional environment. I hope and pray that I never reach that line in the sand, where I teeter on the edge of completely falling apart. I’ve come close, I suppose, but the ability to reign in fear and refocus your attention on gratitude for the positive – while still allowing yourself to feel human emotions – is strength.

Visibility: This might be the most important one. Shoving invisible diseases into the spotlight is no easy task. There is much at stake: pride, relationships, or career path, for example, and it takes a brave individual to put a face on an ugly sounding disease. Fully owning an invisible illness and allowing it to be part of who you are without letting it become you or define you is a delicate balance that is achievable, if you work toward it.

Some might argue that these are not extraordinary characteristics, but rather traits that we are all born with. This may be so, to a degree, but I choose to believe that superpowers are grown and matured through experience and hardship. Look at Batman, for example. Bruce Wayne witnessed his parents being murdered and he grew up to fight crime, taking on the identity of something that he was most afraid of – bats – and turning it into a symbol of hope.
 
What’s your superpower?
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Cat

Cat Stappas

Cat was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2013 and writes about her experiences in her blog, It's Only A Bruise. She hopes to make the dark corners of the internet a little bit less scary for both the newly and the long-time diagnosed with some honesty, positivity and — sometimes — some tongue-in-cheek humor. You can read her blog here and follow her on FacebookTwitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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    10 Comments

  • metaspencer.blogspot.com   Dec 1, 2016 2:34 PM
    Your points about visibility/invisibility in particular resonate with me. At times, I find my MS is even invisible to myself ... and those can be the best of times or the worst of times. This disease is certainly a trickster.
  • Avatar
    gjlisGLORIA  Dec 1, 2016 3:10 PM
    Thanks for the uplifting words, Cat.
  • Avatar
    BethyC  Dec 2, 2016 2:57 PM
    Beautifully written. I would say one of my traits would be a grateful heart. I thought my heart was grateful before MS, but after diagnosis I believe it is even more so. Simple tasks that I used to loathe, almost bring tears to my eyes because I am so thankful that I am able to do those things at this time in my life, when tomorrow I may not. A grateful heart for the individuals near and far who are in my life and who help make my life with MS a little bit more bearable day to day, like you Cat! Thanks for this post. <3
  • Susan Lesperance   Dec 2, 2016 3:04 PM
    Cat, you are a remarkable young lady. You always know the best way to communicate how to live a fulfilling and complete life despite sharing it with MS. Thank you so much for giving us a big part of you and for educating us through your beautifully written words.
  • DawnRossing   Dec 15, 2016 5:55 PM
    I HAVE BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH MS FOR OVER A DECADE NOW AND HAVE VIEWED IT AS A NEGATIVE AND POSITIVE BOTH. I GRADUATED COLLEGE WITH A DEGREE IN MARKETING, BUT ENDED UP GOING TO SCHOOL AGAIN TO BECOME A TEACHER. I FOUND THAT TEACHING IS WHAT I WAS MEANT TO DO AND NOT COMING DOWN WITH MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS, I WOULD HAVE NEVER KNOWN WHAT DREAM JOB IS. I HAVE BEEN ON SEVERAL DIFFERENT MS MEDICATIONS THAT HAVE NOT BEEN REAL BENEFICIAL FOR ME. I JUST RECENTLY SUFFERED A BAD EXACERBATION AND ENDED UP IN THE HOSPITAL AND REHABILITATION SERVICES FOR THE LAST FEW MONTHS. I HAVE DECIDED TO TRY LEMTRADA WITH IS GIVEN THROUGH AN IV THE FIRST YEAR FOR 5 DAYS AND THEN I WONT RECEIVE THE SECOND DOSE UNTIL A YEAR LATER FOR 3 DAYS. THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF POSITIVE RESULTS; I HOPE I EXPERIENCE THE SAME POSITIVITY, AS WELL. I AM STILL IN TEXAS VISITING FAMILY AND SEEKING BETTER MEDICAL THAN I WAS RECEIVING WHILE IN COLORADO. I AM ANXIOUS TO RETURN TO COLORADO BECAUSE THAT IS WHERE MY PUPPIES ARE AT AND I MISS THEM SOOOO MUCH! STAYING WITH MY MOTHER IS A PATIENCE LESSON, WHICH IS BENEFICIAL SINCE I DON'T POSSESS ANY AND LOOK FORWARD TO LEARNING SOME. I HAVE ALREADY BEEN BLIND WITH OPTIC NEURITIS AND HAVE LEARNED TO USE A WALKER, WHEELCHAIR, AND KEEP A CANE WITH ME 'JUST IN CASE'AND RELEARNING HOW TO HOLD MY BLADDER IS MOST HUMBLING. ALL IN ALL, I WOULD SAY THAT THE MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS IS BOTH A CURSE AND A BLESSING. I CONSIDER MYSELF A LIFE LONG LEARNER AND I AM RECEIVING AN EDUCATION EVERYDAY!
  • Brandi   Dec 16, 2016 9:56 AM
    I'd recommend the book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell. It talks about how things like a disability, parent loss, etc can actually be an advantage in how it shapes a person.
  • Betz Miller   Dec 17, 2016 1:47 AM
    My superpower is I CAN MAKE CHOCOLATE DISAPPEAR!
  • Lisa Rodman   Dec 27, 2016 1:02 PM
    I feel as if I have become a hermit in my house.going out to do simple tasks I don't look forward to, because my symptoms become more visible. Walking, finding things in my purse etc. I am not currently on any kind of meds and I am resisting going on them. I know now it is MS ...but I'm pretty sure I've had it awhile just blew it off as something else. I feel better now that I know, I thought I was going crazy. It got a lot worse the last couple of years. The sun and I are not friends anymore. That's when i got checked out with MRI and cat scan so now I manage symptoms.
  • Kathy Dolan   Feb 17, 2017 4:27 AM
    I am a wonder-woman
    Have been and always will
    But now that definition
    Has gone drastically downhill

    It used to mean I could cook and clean
    And dance the night away
    Now, it seems, I'm out of steam
    Half way through my day

    I used to work around the house
    And at an office (which kept me busy)
    Now the slightest little task
    Throws my mind into a tizzy

    I have M.S., so I've been told
    My brain has been affected
    Now the "wonder" in this woman
    Seems frequently defective

    And so the word has been reduced
    To questions in my mind
    I wonder where, I wonder what
    And I wonder if, at times

    I wonder where my glasses are
    And, "Has anyone seen my keys?"
    I really don't know what I'm doing
    Would someone help me, please??

    I wonder what I was thinking
    When I said, "I should write it down..."
    I hope that thought will lite on me
    The next time it circles round

    When it does, I'll be prepared
    With paper and a pen
    I'll snatch it up and write it down
    When it flies by again

    And so I'm STILL a wonder woman
    I wonder all the time
    Despite the fact I'm so unsure
    I'm a legend in my own mind

    I wonder where it is I'm going
    Or if I've already been
    Sometimes I wonder how
    This MS life will end

    I wonder if I'm losing it
    (whatever "it" might be)
    I hope if someone finds "it"
    They'll bring "it" home to me
  • Kathy Dolan   Feb 17, 2017 5:34 AM
    I recommend a book called "One Way Walk" Tate Publishing ISBN 978-1-61566-461-0...definitely explains how to have peace in the MS Storm. I just purchased a t-shirt (don't remember from where) that says: "Yesterday morning the devil whispered in my ear "You're not strong enough to weather the storm." This morning I whispered in the devil's ear..."I AM THE STORM!!"