“That’s Normal, We All Do That!”
You know what really grinds my gears? Since I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis I have been dealing with this and I know almost everyone with MS has had this experience. It probably does not even get to many people that much but for me? It really starts to boil my blood with frustration. I am talking about when you try to explain what you are feeling to someone who does not have MS and they tell you “oh, that is normal”. I am not sure why it gets to me so much, maybe I am really just frustrated with myself for being unable to adequately describe something to someone or maybe I am just frustrated that some people just do not seem to get that it’s pretty obvious that what I am experiencing is not normal. Or are they just trying to play it down to make us feel better? Well, thanks... but by telling me it is normal I feel like I am being told I am just complaining. Like what I am experiencing is nothing. I am not sure but either way I hate it and I know I am not alone. So for this article in particular I want to go over some examples relating to memory and cognition issues.
What Was I Doing?
In this scenario, I suddenly find myself walking down the hall into a room in my house. I don’t even remember getting up to go anywhere! I am just in the hall now, walking. It almost feels like waking up from a dream; “Wait… where am I going?” or maybe I snap out of it to find myself holding a hammer wondering, “what was I going to do with this?” This happens to me way more than you would think. So I try to explain this to someone and the first thing they say is “Oh, that’s normal, I do that all the time,” or my personal favorite (since I am in my early 20’s) “That’s normal, it’s just part of getting older”. Maybe the age thing works for some people but for most of us it just is not that. Here is the difference: frequency. The average individual is bound to have experienced this from time to time but those of us with MS may experience this all the time! I know for me it’s just part of life, that is just how it is now. Point is, if the average individual experiences this once a week (for example) and we experience this multiple times a day then statistically speaking it is pretty obvious that there is just a little more going on here…
Next up: memory loss. Well, technically most of us probably have not actually “lost” a memory but instead we can no longer make the connections in our brain to find a memory so it just sits in there like a needle in a haystack. Either way, I hate when someone asks me something like “What is that actor’s name?” and I look at the picture and instantly recognize him, in fact, it is one of my favorite actors of all time! I even have a huge collection of his movies but for some reason the name escapes me. Finally I just pull out my phone and do a quick search on Google; Anthony Hopkins! How could I forget? Well we all do that from time to time but once again the difference is frequency. It’s one thing if you feel mentally stumped even once a day but when you frequently have days that this happens at least once in every conversation (even if it’s just with yourself in your head) then it’s probably safe to assume it’s not normal.
What the Heck Was I Thinking?
OK now let’s move away from memory-related symptoms to cognitive related problems. Ever finish eating breakfast and realize you just put the milk in the pantry and the box of cereal in the fridge? That is a pretty simple mistake though, so how about finding yourself putting toothpaste on your shaving razor instead of your toothbrush? Or reaching for a candle like you are going to take a sip of water? When someone tells me “That’s normal” all I can think is “Just because it has happened to you once does not mean it is normal for me to do this as often as I do”.
It’s like your ability to think logically is temporarily disabled. Sometimes I’ll be looking for something like the TV remote only to find it in the refrigerator! “Jeez, was I drunk or something last night?” Well, no, I was not but I still did that. Ever see the movie Step Brothers with Will Ferrell? In this comedy he is a 40 year old man still living with his parents and his step-brother, another 40 year old man who like Will Ferrell’s character is still a kid in the head. Well there is a scene where the parents wake up to find the house a mess and the mother’s purse is in the fridge and the couch pillows are in the oven. The two step brothers were sleepwalking all night and were responsible for the mess and misplaced items. OK So why am I telling you about this? Well in this movie the actors playing these two step brothers are trying to do really over the top things for the sake of humor. So when someone tells me that we all do weird things like set the remote in the fridge I think of this movie because they were doing things that I myself actually do from time to time only they are trying to be funny because they know that we all know those things are not normal, at least not for an adult. So why am I being told this is normal? How do they not get it?
There are so many more examples regarding so many other MS symptoms but those are my personal favorites. But what about you? What do people tell you is normal that you know without a shadow of a doubt is not normal? Share below! Surely this will be a fun conversation!
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