As many of you may already know, yesterday Jack Osbourne announced that he has recently been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I wasn’t aware of this, as I rarely follow celebrity news, until a friend told me and then I looked it up. Apparently, just three weeks after his new daughter was born, he noticed some signs that something was off, such as numbness and vision loss. He went in for tests and low and behold, it was MS. He has said in a recent interview that he was shocked, angry, sad… all the things I would expect him to be. Then he says that he decided that this wallowing wasn’t helping, so he was going to have a positive attitude, and learn to adapt and overcome. He also has great hope in the medication he’ll be using and in changes to his diet and exercise routine.
I’ve SO been there, so I could understand these comments and even sympathize. What I couldn’t wrap my mind around, however, was his very public sharing so soon after his diagnosis. I mean, his daughter was just born in late April, which means he’d have noticed his symptoms mid-May and been diagnosed sometime around there. 1 month later, the magazines are printing the article. There’s just no way I’d have been ready to go with something this life changing so fast. And more than that, he’s taking CRITICISM! I mean, if you read any of the websites running the story online, people are commenting after the story and many people are criticizing him or even his family, as if his sordid past or his father’s drug use have anything to do with this disease. People have said that he’s just seeking the spotlight, as if anyone wants to have THIS news to share publicly. People have said that he is touting one course of action, drug therapy, and he should be touting another such as holistic medicine or acupuncture or organic veganism. In the midst of an incredibly difficult and personal time, he is actually facing negativity and anger instead of just support and well-wishes. I can’t possibly imagine how he is doing that or even why!
But as I was talking with the hubby last night, it occurred to me that perhaps, because of his celebrity status, he felt he had to share this information publicly. Maybe to use his status to raise awareness. Maybe to raise funds. Maybe to spur researchers on to a cure. Or maybe, just as likely in my mind, because he figured that the media would eventually find out about it anyway and he wanted to control the flow of that information. Which makes me sad for him.
One of my biggest frustrations during the confusing time of my diagnosis was the prying of other people. I shared the news with select individuals, either because I trusted them and needed an outlet to share or because I felt that our relationship was close enough that they had a right to know. And several times, I was sorely disappointed by the fact that they chose to share this information, MY information, with others. Just last week, I went to visit an old colleague who I was close to and who I have missed and when I shared my diagnosis with him, he was already aware. Not because I’d had an opportunity to share this very personal, very real struggle with him. Because he had already been informed by someone who I thought I could trust. I felt betrayed. I imagine that, at some point, someone would have leaked the information about Jack Osbourne to the media and he would have felt betrayed too.
Why do we feel the need to do this? Why, in our society, are we so consumed with the goings-on in other peoples lives, things which do not concern us, things in which we do not need to meddle, that we compromise their privacy. I have another friend who has been diagnosed with a terminal neurological disease. Most of the mutual friends and acquaintances we have do not know. He co-workers can not know. She will not even share with me the name of this disease. She guards over this with great secrecy, because she’s been burned before. Because her trust has been violated before. Because she’s been betrayed. And I feel sad for her that many times she must have suffered along through things, the emotional toll of this disease, the physical toll, because she was too afraid to share with others who might betray her trust to someone else.
I understand that Jack Osbourne is a celebrity and therefore he must be braver than the rest of us. By releasing this information all at once to everyone in the public, he can’t really be discriminated against in his work place, as I am so afraid I will be. But he can still be pitied in conversation by acquaintances. And he can be judged. And he can be underestimated. And so I admire his bravery in announcing this news publicly, especially so quickly after his diagnosis. But I also think that I, for one, would never, ever want to be a celebrity and have all that scrutiny, that lack of privacy, that invasion of my emotion, placed on me. I guess I’m just too private a person.