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Why I Sometimes Forget I Have Multiple Sclerosis

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Don’t let the headline mislead you. I am quite literally reminded of my illness with every step I take — every slower, off-balance step.

But I have recently noticed that despite my challenges, sometimes I really do forget I’m different. I have the privilege of forgetting because to everyone around me, my limitations are not special. In fact, in my circle, they are not even constraints. Rather, my condition and what it means are just part of regular life and who I am — nothing special, sad or unusual about it.

Being open and honest about my condition has taken away a fear I only recently realized I carry. The fear of “What if they knew the truth? How would I be treated?” I feared being a burden and the stigma I would face. I did not want to be defined by my illness. As someone who has lived with MS since I was a teenager, I avoided telling others about my illness for a long time. But today I am mostly open about it — not entirely of course, because let’s be honest, my demons will always follow me — and have learned that having MS does not mean getting treated with caution and sympathy. It also doesn’t mean I am a burden or that I cannot fully participate.

I make some sort of adjustment in most daily tasks. These adjustments may be holding on to someone’s arm as we walk through the mall, sitting down on a bench while my kids play in the park or making modifications during a fitness class. I find if I’m honest about why I need a rest or why I do things differently, it is no big deal.

Given the acceptance and understanding I have experienced, my hope is that the more of us there are – more “regular” members of society – who are open about our challenges, the closer we come to breaking the stigma of what MS looks like.  In the process, we help to educate others about what an invisible disability may look like — and how little it needs to change us.

Getty photo by Princi Galli.

Originally published: May 30, 2019
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