I like to think of myself as a sort of superhero with strange powers and attributes--peculiarities that have arisen from some sort of unusual event. There are those who have been bitten by a spider, for instance, and straightaway start climbing walls. There are those who have been exposed to some sort of exotic radiation which has caused them to turn powerfully huge and green. There are those who come from a different planet altogether and can fly. The only difference is that in my case, having been exposed to the transforming properties of the disease multiple sclerosis, the super powers are super deficits. The Amazing Cognitive Deficit Man! The Incredible Numb Man! Neuropathic Man!!
When I awoke this morning, I found that my left arm and hand had gone completely numb. Wow, I thought, how miraculous is that! I could not have been more impressed if the arm had been suddenly infused with iron-like strength, though I would probably have felt more pleased in the latter case. Of course, sometimes a person--even a non-superhero--will sleep on his arm and will wake to find the arm numb and tingling for a moment until the blood returns to the muscles. That's not a superpower. It's a cause and effect situation, and readily remedied. But when your arm and hand are numb for no good reason (so to speak), and remain numb no matter how you shake or move them about--that is a superpower. Numb Arm! The Man Without Feelings.
A couple hours later, feeling has returned to the left hand, while the right hand remains at baseline numbness (no feeling in the index finger). So my power is somewhat like the Hulk's, in the sense that it comes and goes. The transformation of the Hulk, however--from Bruce Banner to giant green man--has a trigger (that being anger or severe stress), whereas my transformations just are, whenever they please to be. I can be functioning fairly normally, and then suddenly become The Stupendous Where The Hell Am I Man as my brain becomes suddenly unplugged.
Needless to say, these super deficits are not very useful in any imaginable world, although they are a fairly impressive curse--which relates them, again, to the superhero, for many among these, regardless of the accidental benefits of their powers, would prefer to be without them. The Wolverine finds his condition of sprouting steel claws from his knuckles a curse (as well as painful). Bruce Banner prefers not to get angry and turn into the Hulk--or rather, he would prefer the luxury of being angry without having to turn into the Hulk. In short, they would prefer to be 'normal'. And I would certainly prefer to be The Amazing Completely Normal Non-Super Deficit Man.
What is truly super about my super deficit powers is their periods of absence, and the renewed and heightened appreciation of how fearfully and wonderfully made we are. Whose body is this that feels so suddenly at home in itself? Whose arm that moves with such strength and comfort and feels the slightest pinprick? Whose neck is this that turns with such painless ease? Whose feet are these that are no longer stone but pure sensation, such that the toes know the feeling of single blades of grass? What body is this that rests at night without pharmaceutical assistance, that slips to slumber like a leaf turning peacefully on the surface of a pond, that sinks naturally to the depth of sleep without struggle and that wakes refreshed and as lively as a fish?
Occasionally, I will experience a moment wherein the pain in my back and shoulder is suddenly all but gone, and I will think, My God, how perfect! How perfectly perfect! How miraculous I am! How wonderful these moments! How blissful it would be to be free of the super power of my disease.
The pain returns. The stiffness returns. The brain-fog returns. And I am again a mutant--an X-Man, singled out of the world by the unstoppable attributes of a progressive disease.
I am MS Man.