The Tsunami

By Chernise Joseph (Zivvy)

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with tsunamis.

I know how that sounds, tsunamis aren’t the friendliest natural phenom to be fascinated by, but I think that’s why they’ve caught my attention like they have.

When I think of change, I think of tsunamis. Consider this: tsunamis are the perfect representation of change, not only because they have the ability to change lives in seconds, but because they’re water. Water shifts around barriers it can’t go through and destroys what it can to follow the current. It’s not malicious, it’s based almost completely off of the way a hill slopes or how something is built. It just happens, rhyme-or-reasonless. It takes the path of least resistance.

Change lately has felt like a tsunami, and I don’t even just mean the virus. Everything in the “post-corona” world has been a thousand little tsunamis and I’ve found myself asking what could possibly be next? Aliens? Be honest, would you really be all that surprised if you turned on the TV to reports on a flying saucer landing? If your answer is “no,” I think you’re making progress to accepting change.

Tsunamis and aliens are probably the two most unrelated things, but hear me out. They have something common: we can’t control them. If you’re slightly type A like “pre-corona” me, then that fact is soul-crushing. On the steps to success in surviving change, that’s rule number one to understand: you can’t and don’t control anything–and that’s okay. Seriously. It’s okay to give up right now and stop fighting the current. You’ll be okay. You might come out the other end a little battered and bruised, but we’re grateful for our scars when they show we’ve survived.

My MS shows itself in a fun way: fatigue. I never thought it was possible to despise a word, but I do. I hate fatigue because it isn’t enough. “Fatigue” isn’t post-marathon tiredness or flu exhaustion, it’s more than that. It’s like you were born with your bones already five times older than they are. It’s like your brain is short-circuiting when it tries to think thoughts for the most basic of things, so something that should only take a few minutes changes to days–or even weeks sometimes. The reason I bring fatigue up is because it’s the biggest teacher when it comes to learning how to accept change, mostly because it doesn’t give you a choice in the matter. It just happens, just like any other natural disaster. What matters is how you react to it.

I watched an interview with a tsunami survivor a few days ago. The most jarring thing was listening to her talk about how the sun still shone above her, even as she was swept away in the giant wave. The birds still sang, albeit perhaps a sadder song, and life, outside of life on the ground, continued on as usual. She thought her life was ending and the last thing she’d see was the sun still hanging above as her only witness. For those of us with MS, I think we can relate to that to some extent. On some weird level, having this disease does feel like you’re getting swept away and only the sun is watching it happen. We woke up on that sunny day in mid-March only to feel like the world may just be ending.

That’s the greatest thing, though: the world isn’t ending, at least not physically. The most important idea that comes with change is knowing that it’s inevitable and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, even if it may seem to be so at first. “Metamorphosis” means change, too, only most of us associate it with a tiny, fuzzy caterpillar transforming into a beautiful monarch butterfly. I can’t speak for the caterpillar, but I’m sure the change its experiencing isn’t always that pleasant inside its cocoon, but it still endures.

Maybe that’s the secret. Maybe we’re all just caterpillars right now and the transitional period we’re in right now is just us inside of our cocoon. The caterpillar doesn’t fight it, and we shouldn’t either. Maybe if we stop resisting, we’ll come out as beautiful butterflies, too. Or… maybe we’ll just wind up moths. Either way, look forward to who you will become because that’s one thing that’s a universal promise: you won’t look anything like you do now.

*Born in the heat of Texas, Chernise Joseph is an avid writer with perpetual writer’s block. She was diagnosed with MS in 2016 and has been on the ride of a lifetime ever since. Read more from Chernise on her blog

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The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) is a national nonprofit organization and leading resource for the entire MS community, improving lives today through vital services and support. MSAA provides free programs and services, such as: a Helpline with trained specialists; award-winning publications, including, The Motivator; MSAA’s nationally recognized website, featuring educational videos, webinars, and research updates; a mobile phone app, My MS Manager™; safety and mobility equipment products; cooling accessories for heat-sensitive individuals; MRI funding; My MSAA Community, a peer-to-peer online support forum; MS Conversations blog; a clinical trial search tool; podcasts; and more. For additional information, please visit or call (800) 532-7667.

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