The month of March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, an effort to help expand knowledge, support and understanding about the disease. I wrote this short piece to educate others about what it feels like to live with MS and a disability. It is my hope that you'll join me in spreading awareness about MS by helping to educate others.
Don't feel sorry for me, but do me a favor by learning more about MS. Then the next time I tell you I'm tired or I seem to often cancel plans, you'll have a better understanding why.
I don't look like there's anything wrong with me, but my immune system tells a different story. So the next time I feel the need to occupy a handicapped parking spot, first ask whether my placard is registered before you begin shouting obscenities at me. I appreciate your concern, but I think you should treat a disabled person with the respect they deserve.
Practice compassion and tolerance whenever you see someone with a disability. Their road is a daily battle of maneuvering the challenges of life. The things able-bodied people take for granted, such as walking, talking, dressing, exercising, seeing, peeing, pooping and intimacy is considerably more difficult for people with disabilities.
Help us keep our self-esteem intact. Imagine falling down in front of a crowd and people begin to whisper that you look drunk. Or you find yourself attending an event with some friends and are unable to keep up with their fast pace. We don't enjoy burdening others with our issues. Yet, in our silence, we'd be comforted in knowing that not only do you understand why our bodies are disobeying us, but that you'll also be willing to slow your pace down to help us feel better about ourselves.
Be patient. We are fearful of the next exacerbation (flare-up) that may wreak havoc on our bodies. So if you're trying to make plans with us, and we seem to ask a lot of questions (how long will the event be, where is the nearest parking lot, is the venue accessible) please be mindful there's a reason why we're asking so many questions. It's not that we don't want to see you; it's simply that we need to take care of our MS.
For more information about Multiple Sclerosis, please visit The National Multiple Sclerosis Society website.