Pride Comes Before a Stumble

Being a relatively young (of heart if nothing else) man, I can sometimes have a bit of a problem with accepting help. Yes, I have got Multiple Sclerosis and my disability has a couple of outward signs (stumbling gait and a walking stick), but I still suffer daily from an invisible limitation.

Pride.

Now this limitation can be a positive if it means that I’m going to do the best for my loved ones despite what MS can throw at me. But it can hold me back if it stops me from accepting help when I might need it.

I don’t think I’m alone in this, but the age at which I was diagnosed (early 30s) – coupled with the general unpredictability of MS – can still make me lash out a wee bit.

Now the National Trust is a UK charity that works to preserve and protect historic places and spaces – where we live, there are quite a few within a 30-60 minute drive. Actually, I’ve just done a check on their website and there are 11 places which are less than 20 miles away from our house! (PLEASE NOTE: our house is small and the spare bed is available on a strictly first-come first-served basis)

Plus you can always get a nice lunch at most of the properties.

So if the weather is good (like it has been recently), we’ll get in the car and drive out to one of them. Unfortunately, everybody else invariably seems to have the very same idea.

When I’m walking in crowds, I can get very agitated – it’s always amazing to me that people don’t see my stick. One of the few places I’ve been where people made a conscious effort to allow me some space after noticing it was New York. Strange.

But in the UK? In the sleepy Midlands of England, with its aging-population? There, not so much.

So it was quite a frustrating day, with my agitation rising with each person who bumped into me. I was particularly taken with the young guy who seemed to be following me around the gift-shop; when I looked at him he just stood there smiling at me and said, “You having a good time?” Yes, we do get some weirdoes in England.

Eventually we decided to get some lunch – my wife doing the hunter-gathering while I took our daughter to find a table.

Cue much staggering, clattering around, and LOTS of muttering under my breath.

When I finally found a table and made sure our daughter was safe and comfortable, I gracefully got into my own seat (FULL DISCLOSURE: I actually kind-of fell onto the chair).

Just then an older lady who was working there as a volunteer came up to me and sincerely asked, “Are you alright?” I don’t know why it touched me (I was possibly just relieved to have somewhere to sit and a bit tired and emotional) but for some reason her just asking filled me with joy and gratitude.

Even though I shook my head saying “No I’m fine, thanks”, it lifted my spirits for the rest of the day, and I became aware of the other people around me. There were many old and differently-abled adults in the room. There was also a family with three kids, one of whom was severely disabled.

Again, I’m reminded that I’m extraordinarily lucky. My disability is mostly invisible so I don’t tend to get many ‘gawkers’. And my wonderful daughter is incredibly healthy.

And look! Here comes ‘Mummy’ with our lunch!

Yes, I can feel sorry for myself and I know that #MSsucks (but oh, how I hate that Twitter hash-tag!) but until someone can prove to me otherwise, we only get one go at this. So we should probably start enjoying it and helping each other.

That lady’s simple kindness has stayed with me for a couple of weeks now. It shows that there are good people out there and sometimes people just want to help because it might look like I need some assistance. No biggie.

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