How I Cope with Questions From Strangers

Yesterday I was at a store waiting in line on my scooter when the woman waiting behind me said, “Those things are great”, nodding at my scooter.

“Yep”, I agreed. “They sure are”.

“I had one of those for a while. So what happened to you?”

Her first assumption was that I was recovering from some sort of injury. I told her nothing had happened and that I have Multiple Sclerosis. “That’s hard on you, huh? I knew someone who had that”.

Regardless of how many people know other people with Multiple Sclerosis, most strangers I encounter see a healthy young woman and the possibility that I might have a disability doesn’t compute. It’s not their fault, and I’m typically not offended as long as they are polite. Multiple Sclerosis is a puzzling disease, it can be difficult to treat, doctors don’t know exactly what causes it, so it makes sense to me that it’s difficult for people without it to understand it.

MS can change from day-to-day, even hour to hour, and I think that can be confusing for some people. I can have a day of almost complete normal, but then walk through the hallways at work like a drunk the next day. Sometimes my MS isn’t so obvious, but other times it screams out to the world. I think people expect a disability to be all or nothing. With my MS, it’s somewhere in between.

These frequent changes involved with Multiple Sclerosis can be hard to understand. Equally difficult, I think it’s hard for people to make sense of what they are seeing when they look at me. I’m young! I look healthy! But very often that’s how people with Multiple Sclerosis look to the outside world; just fine.

Living with Multiple Sclerosis has taught me to keep an open mind. Our eyes don’t always tell the full story. I’ve learned to deal with the fact that I’m a confusing image to many people. I admit I’ve not always responded to remarks about my condition with a polite answer. And these days I often full out ignore the people who blurt out inconsiderate comments or questions. While I’ve encountered plenty of idiots along the way, I’ve learned to use the questions as an opportunity to educate. I just want to be understood.

3 thoughts on “How I Cope with Questions From Strangers

  1. Hello Suzanne – thank you for writing this piece; it says exactly what is on my tin too. I have learned to deal with MS one day at a time and to respond to queries/attitudes on an ‘as seen/ as needs to know’ basis. My MS is medically ‘treated’ symptomatically and so I address queries in the same vein.

    When anyone does not really understand ‘me’, I know it is not their fault. I do my best to make everything plain but, if confusion arises, confusion reigns. Period. Nothing to be done about – just move on to the next day and see what that’s like!

    Not nice though, is it?

  2. I can laugh off most of the wierd reactions I sometimes get. But the worst and hardest thing is when people assume I am also mentally challenged! Or worse deaf and mentally challenged! I’ve had people talk loud and slowly to me! Worse not even refer to me but who I am with: does she want me to refill her drink? Its like an outer body experience. Like I’m doing an experiment to see how it feels to be handicap. And I j just use a walker. I expect more the further I progress. I handle it with humor mi could have a stand up act with the storiesm The worst was a girl who asked if I l liked wearing a pretty dress at my brothers wedding! Oh yes me like be pretty. I wear pretty dress My shoes are shiny. I like baseball! Lol

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