Is Your Immune System a Hero or a Villain?

The other night I played Scattergories with my family. The letter was P and one category was “Villain/Monster”. Someone wrote PopEye and at first, majority vote was that PopEye was not a villain but it sparked a conversation. From Bluto’s perspective (the antagonist), surely PopEye WAS the villain. This lead to the profound realization that every hero is also a villain. It’s all based on perspective. He got the point for PopEye and as the night went on, my mind kept going back to this conversation.

As I ruminated over these thoughts, I found myself connecting this realization to many areas of my life. It relates to breakups, relationships, friendships, every day interactions…it even rings true to my fight against ulcerative colitis and my ostomy. In interpersonal relationships, either party might be perceived as the hero or villain depending on who you talk to and what inside information you know about the situation. When dealing with a negative experience, I try to remember to have empathy for the person I see as the villain because I understand that from their perspective, they probably feel like they’re the hero (or at least not the villain). I understand that people might think I’m the villain sometimes, but what they might not understand is that usually my actions are based on me being a hero for myself. It’s a bummer when the choices we make to empower ourselves and allow ourselves to grow result in a negative experience for other people.

You Don't Realize How Strong Your Immune System Is Until It Starts Working Against YouAs I delved deeper into finding the connections between hero and villain perceptions in my life, I realized how deeply this resonated with my perception of my autoimmune disorders. On healthy heroic days, I don’t notice anything. Out of sight, out of mind. I feel healthy, energetic, and happy. While I try to take time to appreciate life every day, I am totally guilty of taking my functioning body for granted – especially when it’s been functioning well for an extended period of time. On other days, it feels like there’s a full war going on inside me. My immune system becomes the antagonist, mistaking my organs and joints as foreigners and attacking them without remorse.

I try to place myself in my immune system’s shoes. From my brain’s outside perspective, it is clearly confused – my immune system seems to have received misinformation somewhere along the way and puts up a great fight against anything and everything it thinks is foreign, including my organs and joints. My immune system rocks at what it does. I’m pretty sure my colon would have exploded if I hadn’t had it removed. It takes some serious skill to kill a colon. I appreciate that my immune system is so faithful to fighting the foreigners and that it thinks it’s being the hero, but a lot of times my perception is that it’s the villain. It’s hurting me. Sometimes the pain is manageable, but other times it keeps me from being able to participate in the most basic everyday activities. It becomes evident to me that I am both a hero and a villain.

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