I learned early on that it can be difficult to tell people that I have MS. They don’t know what to say. They want to give support or compassion; they don’t even know which. It’s almost like they feel they should give condolences. I sometimes feel really bad about that, but other times I just think it’s funny. My first experience with this was early on, I had just been diagnosed and I had never used a cane before. So, naturally when I went to work with a cane, people I didn’t know well thought I hurt myself. I got on the elevator with the big boss–president/CEO level. He asked what happened, did I hurt my leg, etc. Without thinking, I said “No, I have MS so it’s hard to walk sometimes.” Now, this guy was one of the nicest guys I ever met, so the look on his face made me want to swallow my words. He looked like I just told him someone died and he didn’t know what to say. I think he said “I’m sorry” or something, I don’t remember, but I do remember that I never wanted to make anyone that uncomfortable again. Now I try to ease into it by first saying that I have trouble walking sometimes. Thankfully, most people I have contact with already know. But if strangers ask, I just say whatever I feel like saying; I figure I’m never going to see them again, so what’s the difference? I don’t want to make strangers uncomfortable any more than anyone else, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that if I’m in the mood to shock someone or shut them up or silently laugh at the reaction, I can’t spend the energy feeling bad about it. If that’s bad, oh well, maybe I’ll say 3 Hail Mary’s after I do it from now on.
These are the opinions of Debby Nowicki only and do not reflect those of the IEEE or any other organization or individual.