Knowledge is Power
By Mary Pettigrew
February 21, 2015
For many of us it starts when we are small. For many of us it continues through adolescent and teen years. For many of us we grow up unscathed from childhood issues, taunting, or typical “rites of passage” intended to mold us into adulthood. For many of us, this is not the case.
Maybe you were the “new kid” at a new school or showed up with a bad haircut, acne, or experienced your first period, unbeknownst to you as you walked down the hall in white jeans…gasp! Many of us have been bullied or gossiped about for being different, weird, or had their reputation ruined and labeled a “slut” after confiding a secret to the one person who you thought was your best friend.
Many of us grow up, move on, and are able to cope with these awful childhood experiences, able to look back without embarrassment. Again, this is not always the case for many people. Whether it be in our DNA or various childhood issues or trauma, many of us carry that drama with us through life – becoming numb to it all, judged, or embarrassed to speak out and seek help.
We must pay attention to the mental stability of young minds in the world. We must educate people as to how to recognize and respect mental health without embarrassment before it gets out of hand. We must focus on teaching children about stigma, judgment and to treat people with compassion at an early age. Stigma and judgment often occur when people see what they physically “see” and create an opinion over things they can’t understand. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER – I find myself saying this often, but it’s true. We’re making progress, but still have a long way to go!
Tomorrow night is the 87th Academy Awards and I find it refreshing to see some of the top films and roles of the year deal with mental illness and chronic illness/disease. Just to name a few:
~ American Sniper: PTSD
~ Still Alice: Alzheimer’s
~Two Days, One Night ~ Depression
~ The Theory of Everything: ALS
~ Selma: Segregation/racism
~ Cake: Chronic pain/depression (even though this film wasn’t nominated)
For me, I can speak most clearly on chronic illness with “invisible symptoms” – and my history of eating disorders and depression/anxiety. In 2001, at the age of 35, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. My life changed drastically at that time. MS affects everyone differently. I’ll say it again…MS AFFECTS EVERYONE DIFFERENTLY! My MS gives me many troubles, but it really affects my brain with cognition/memory issues. I’m used to people coming up to me with a story about their aunt or a friend who still works and is doing just fine – or, they tell me to try a certain diet because it “cured” a friend – or, they ask why I’m in bed all day – that I look fine and were able to do things yesterday! UGH!!! Their faces judge as if to say, you’re lazy, you’re faking, it’s all in your head, etc… Heat is a big issue with MS. Weakness and loss of other control can happen, yet I refuse to put a handicap placard in my car when going to the grocery store in the summer because I’ve SEEN the judging faces of ignorance staring at those who walk “normally” into the store. Hence…STIGMA – the shame inflicted and lack of awareness from others can often result in lives destroyed. There is no reason to put up with this anymore.
Social Media is a powerful tool which can produce positive results if…IF used correctly. The concept that strangers can meet across the globe who relate to each other, share the same passion, build a platform and create a community is fantastic! This is a big step in moving forward – educating others, vocalizing, sharing our stories to eradicate the various stigmas in society. I’ve experienced this magic myself and the healing powers and support it inspires is well… I’ve got no words…just grateful.
It’s time to heal, to make it alright to be different or ask for help. It’s time…no more shame, no more drama, no more pain.
ABOUT MARY ~
Mary is a patient advocate for MS, chronic illness & disabilities. She is a freelance writer from Texas who enjoys exploring a variety of different styles & genres, however her deep passion for creative writing (poetry, essay, narrative interview & non-fiction) remains unwavering & purposeful. Mary's personal & professional background is an eclectic compilation consisting of the fine arts, civil rights advocacy, fundraising with 15 years in sales/marketing & event planning in the private club industry. Mary is a 1990 graduate from The University of North Texas with a B.S. in Hotel/Restaurant Management. In 2001, Mary was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Within a few years, health issues forced her to resign from the career she loved. As her marriage began to crumble, Mary was keenly aware of the emotional & mental crisis firmly taking hold. Eventually, she sought the help of a professional therapist which helped her learn the important coping skills needed to tame/calm mood disorders & to encourage healthy ways in which to purge the noisy chaos inside the brain. This loss of reality, normalcy, & PURPOSE needed to be reinvented, renewed & rewritten...NOW! The divorce & all related proceedings lasted an unfathomable six years, yet it was the therapy, communities & her writing which kept her most grounded. Each poem a cathartic purge, each word a therapeutic tool meant for healing & to inspire resilience. Blindsided by this newfound purpose & passion, Mary continues writing & exploring a plethora of multimedia outlets to this day. Her writing, networking & advocacy projects target the MS, chronic illness & disability communities. Her interactive presence can be seen throughout social media. Although MS is the primary community in which she advocates, Mary enjoys playing an active role in other patient communities (bloggers, writers, music, live chats, special events, & many more. One of the key messages Mary continues to emphasize is how chronic illness can affect everyone differently. MS is a prime example in that we are not a "one size fits all." This disease called MS is a conundrum in every which way. To this day, research continues, yet we still don't know the root cause for MS, yet current findings now show "risk factors" for the disease. MS can morph as it sees fit to do so. Unpredictably, silently, sometimes relentlessly this MS becomes an uninvited, unwanted "internal room-mate." Mary's overall background & her desire to discover herself & new creative outlets was a plus. A renewed student for life, Mary continues to explore the unknown - Once you switch off your "auto pilot" it's amazing what you can see & do. Place focus on learning, consume new information & participate in activities uncharted or foreign (The science of Neuroplasticity). All of this is most DEFINITELY a work in progress, but remember to focus most on the important things in life. Laugh out loud & live selflessly with compassion, purpose & unbridled passion.
Connect with Mary at:
🔸Twitter: @pettigrew66, @MSpals
Acknowledgments and Press ~ UPDATES TO COME
* Creator & Co-founder of MSpals: A Global Organization (2014 - present)
* Administrator & contributing author of content, posts, & interviews: MSpals blog:
~ The Summer of Sport: Forward Poetry 2012
~ Poetry Rivals Collection 2013
~ Something On Our Minds Vol.III
~ Something On Our Minds Vol IV.
Interviews: National Multiple Sclerosis Society's "Momentum Magazine"
~ 2013 = Art Therapy & MS
~ 2015 = Connecting Via Social Media
Other works also featured on a variety of blogs, websites, videos, as well as other multimedia platforms including:
iConquerMS/The Accelerated Cure Project
WEGO Health - Patient Leader
HealtheVoices - Patient Leader
MS Focus - Monthly contributor
View all posts by Mary
One thought on “Knowledge is Power – an essay”
Your battle is a wonder to behold, Mary.
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