Friday, September 12, 2014

To Talk About Your MS, Or Not

I don't know about you, but one of the first things I want to blurt out to someone who is transitioning from an acquaintance to a friend is that I have MS. Don't laugh, I know some of you do the same thing.

It's not for the attention (we all know that stuttering and stumbling garners enough attention for every MS fighter) but rather a relief.

MS is a huge part of my life, it ISN'T my life nor does it define me, but it has really shaped me into who I am today. I feel almost like I can't be myself around someone and continue to lack the confidence needed to build lasting relationships unless I lift this weight off of my shoulders.

I spent last week in Cleveland, it was my first time to visit Cleveland and now I know why I've never been, just kidding :) But seriously, let's be honest, it was a little on the scary side. The last night I was there I wanted to visit the mall that was attached to my hotel and purchase some gifts for a few of my co-workers. Of course, I visited the souvenir shop first.

I asked the young guy behind the counter a question and he begins explaining a different store right below us that would have the item. NOTHING seemed strange about his explanation, he didn't slur, stutter or hesitate. Before he finished his sentence, he stopped and said "I'm really sorry, I had a stroke this summer and have trouble sometimes."

I wanted to give him a hug, but decided that might be a Texas thing and looked him in the eyes and said, "don't worry, I didn't even notice."

It hit me between the eyes. THIS.IS.ME. Everyday. With friends. Family. Co-workers and acquaintances. The first thing I want to blurt out is the reason I sound drunk and the reason I continue to stumble into the person I'm walking next to.

It had never really occurred to me that others didn't even notice the small things that I tend to find embarrassing. I just honestly don't want people to think that A) I'm drunk or B) An incompetent human being.

I've met several MS fighters who act like they are in the witness protection agency. I completely understand why. It seems like every time I read about MS in the news it's about discrimination and many successful professionals losing their senior positions because of something they have zero control over.

I'm working to find that happy medium, where I don't blurt it out in mid-sentence but don't hold it in and live feeling like I have the plague.

Will that ever happen? I'm hopeful.