"Support the Fight: A Review of Something on our Minds"
When “We Write for the Fight,” an online self-help group connecting people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), put out a call for writers to contribute to an anthology project whose proceeds would benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, many responded. The project produced Something on our Minds, which is edited by Tracy A. Todd and Sean J. Mahoney. The anthology is divided into three sections: poetry, personal reflection, and short stories. Each piece presents a unique response to life with MS and a wide range of emotions from anger to fear to gratitude to joy. The complexity of emotions coupled with the many different ways MS can affect peoples’ lives gives readers a glimpse of day-to-day life as the writers’ bodies and spirits evolve with this disease.
The poetry in the anthology reflects on how the writers’ lives have changed since diagnosis, how they now view themselves, how they think others must view them, and more. Some poets focus on the strength they’ve found in themselves and their appreciation of their lives and of those they love. In some poems, there’s a struggle for identity as they work to negotiate who they know themselves to be and how that’s changed or not changed through the course of the disease. Other poets focus on the people around them who lend support and encouragement. Some bear witness to how things around them have changed. There is honesty in each poet’s voice—these poets communicate what they know to be true about MS to an audience that may or may not have an understanding of this disease.
The personal reflections in Something on our Minds share with readers more in-depth accounts of living with MS or being a caregiver of a loved one with MS. The writers use humor and analogy to help readers “get it.” As they explore their diagnosis, they discuss such issues as negotiating daily tasks, becoming numb to the embarrassment of falling down in public, and engaging others in conversations about MS. Readers leave with an understanding of the frustrations of physical therapy, of unanswered questions, of research that doesn’t yet address patients’ needs, of what these writers are grateful for, and of the challenges that face someone who’s body suddenly won’t do what it’s asked to do. These essays highlight the complexities of our relationships with MS and inspire us to support efforts to learn more.
In the final section of the anthology, writers share stories. Most of the narrators have MS, and in their stories, they use metaphors or analogies to help readers picture what the characters in the stories are going through as they negotiate MS. Some stories also are aimed at helping readers understand what’s happening to a body that has MS, using storytelling techniques to help readers empathize. Readers end the section with a better understanding of many of the terms associated with MS and how those translate into a language people experiencing the disease understand. As readers flip through the contributors’ section, they will see that the writers who’ve contributed to this anthology have lived with MS in many different ways and for varying lengths of time. Readers are able to better understand the complexities of MS—the reader who has MS will find kindred spirits and the reader who knows someone with MS will find new appreciations for what their loved one is experiencing. The writers are supporting the National Multiple Sclerosis Society by sharing their worlds with us. We can support them and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society by purchasing this anthology. All proceeds will benefit society programs and education and research initiatives—and we readers personally benefit by listening to these stories of MS by people with MS because they will help us better understand MS.
Something on our Minds (CreateSpace, 2013) Edited by Tracy A. Todd and Sean J. Mahoney ISBN 9781484965245
Liz Whiteacre teaches creative writing at Ball State University. She is the author of Hit the Ground (Finishing Line Press) and co-editor of the anthology Monday Coffee & Other Stories of Mothering Children with Special Needs (INwords Press). Her poems have appeared in Breath and Shadow, Wordgathering, Disability Studies Quarterly, The Healing Muse, and other magazines. Learn more at whiteacrehitstheground.wordpress.com.