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Put On a Happy Face Part 2: Community TV

  • Richard Cohen:

    One of the things I hear a lot from people with chronic illnesses is the desire to be normal. Do you feel normal?

  • Ann Marie Johnson:

    Hmm. I don’t know. That’s a hard one. I would like to think I’m normal, in the sense that “everybody got somethin'.” But I don’t know. I mean, normal in terms of the day to day? No, no. There are things that just interrupt my normal, so to speak, you know? What’s normal? The normal person my age, African-American women my age, you know, and the things that they do, I’m not necessarily doing like how they are doing it, you know? So in a lot of respects, sometimes I feel like no I’m not normal. But then again, is that bad? Who wants to be normal? Sometimes normal can be boring and plain, you know? And I think I want to be more than just that.

  • Richard:

    What would you say to another poor black chick from Brooklyn if she was diagnosed with MS?

  • Ann Marie:

    Well, first thing is you’re not alone. You’re definitely not alone. You know? You’re gonna get online and you’re not going to see many woman like you, like me. But we’re out there, and you’re not alone. And believe me, a lot of what you’re feeling, I’m feeling too. Some days are good, some days are bad, but together we’re gonna do it. We’re gonna make it. And hopefully it’ll get better.

  • Richard:

    How do you keep going? What gives you strength and what gives you hope?

  • Ann Marie:

    Talking about it, being around people like me. Between the support groups, between ... well, a big piece of this is actually the support groups. Going out and seeing other women just like myself, seeing older women, you know? There’s women in my ... that I’ve met in my travels, you know, that I can just totally connect and relate to, and seeing that, those images ... I need that, I need that, you know? When I was first diagnosed, because I didn’t see that, it really kept me even more depressed because I didn’t see anyone like me. And I immediately started to write and someone got a hold to my writing, and the next thing you know, everything that I was saying in terms of I’m not seeing anyone like me. I need to see a, you know, a young African-American woman like professional like me with MS, and the next thing you know, someone said, "Well, if you if you want to talk about it, if you want to ask about it, then you could be about it.” And immediately I went out and became very involved in terms of talking with many others with the illness, and in that journey of going out and talking about my experience, in a lot of ways, it was kind of therapeutic for me because I got to meet a variety of people, you know, at different stages of their journey, some that were newly diagnosed, as myself at that time, to people 10, 15, 20 years, well into their illness. The one thing that was common with everyone was that they had hope. So seeing that definitely, you know, encourages me. You know, when I’m at my weakest I think of the many people in my travels, and I’m like, hey, if they could do it, I know I can.

  • Richard:

    Helping others helps you.

  • Ann Marie:

    Definitely, and it’s, I kind of fell into that. I was looking for information for myself, and in looking for information for myself I felt I had to share the information with others, I’ve gotta tell, I’ve gotta tell, because I don’t want no one else to ever feel the way I felt. I don’t want no one to ever, you know, spend a summer in their bedroom. That no one cares. I mean, I don’t want people to feel that way, because that’s how I felt, and I know how easily you can feel that way with this illness so just being able in a lot of time to shout off the mountaintop, you know, “You’re not alone, it’s OK, talk about it.” You know, that’s what I’m about, and in shouting I find that people shout back, “Hey, we’re there too.” And, it helps me. It helps.

  • Richard:

    So a lot to be said for coming out.

  • Ann Marie:

    [LAUGHS] 

    Yeah. Yes, there’s a lot to be said about coming out.

  • Richard:

    Thanks.

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