What my personal experiences with Autism has taught me about living with MS.
Anyone who has met me will eventually hear about my brother David. He is my older brother, who is kind, loving, and has Autism. I grew up in a time period where the term “retard” was used (which still makes me cringe by the way), so I am sensitive to the use of words and closed minded people. I also have an issue with the word “normal”. Clients would tell me that this is really just a type of hair dryer setting or shampoo; It really isn’t a way to describe people. I always knew that I was never a “normal” person, I always looked at people and life differently because of my life experiences. Just like MS, you can’t paint people with autism all with the same brush. Like most people I did not know how not “normal” I was. My symptoms finally became a problem too real to ignore. I always say that I wish people came with instruction manuals but they don’t. So you have to figure them out and find what is best for them. I also did not know that living with my extra special brother would train me for dealing with this disease. So, these are the things my brother has taught me about life and how to cope with MS and not being “normal”. Acceptance and respect. Remember to accept and respect that people come in all shapes and sizes and people may not look disabled. I hear this a lot. That I look “normal”, and my brother looks “normal”. So, remember to be kind and sensitive to all people because they may be normal on the outside but perhaps have their own personal challenges and struggles on the inside. There are some days I am so very fatigued, that I want to drop onto the carpet for a 20 minute nap. Please pass me a pillow, and watch me drool. Sometimes, I am not sure how I will finish out the day but, it’s a good thing at least I look normal??? Laugh, and don’t take yourself too seriously. My brother’s rather direct mode of conversation has led to many a funny David story. Much like the TV show, Three’s Company where there is always some sort of misinterpretation of the situation and hilarity follows. Be grateful for the life you do have and try to laugh at yourself and keep a sense of humour. Relax. My brother loves to hang out and watch car racing, movies, or play video games. I think it is relaxing for him. I am still working on this skill. For some of us this seems like mission impossible but I still try to make an effort each day to forget about it, relax, and enjoy the world around me. Get your priorities straight and try to simplify your life. It is easy to overload and overwhelm yourself which isn’t healthy for a person with any disability be it MS, autism, or any impairment really. My brother does get upset if you change his routine, but so do I! I have had to let go of my old life and stop letting the little things bother me. This is an ongoing struggle that I face head on every day. Help others. Helping others will help you. It helps distract me, forget about my own personal challenges. It’s time for me to give back to my community, little did I know that it would be the MS community. My personal mission now is to help people with MS adopt a healthier lifestyle which includes exercise, and exercising in a safe way. One that helps improve their fitness, flexibility, strength, walking and balance. Ultimately, I want to help people walk across the room and get out of a chair with strength, grace and dignity. This is my shameless plug for our RRMS exercise class, please check it out if you or somebody you know might be interested. So, thanks big brother for continuing to bring your inspiration, your challenges, and your love that makes you truly the “special” person you are. And to all you not “normal” people, welcome to the club, you are in good company! Cheers.