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“That’s Normal, We All Do That!”

“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…

What’s-His-Face…

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!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Cherilynn
    2 years ago

    Bless you so much for being able to express how that phrase that makes my blood boil. I find that family members usually resort to this phrase. I know they think they are helping but Lord have mercy I have just about popped a blood vessel when someone says it. I could never figure out why though. Thanks again!

  • Julie
    2 years ago

    This is maddening! I have even forgotten what I was talking about to someone right in the middle of our conversation! Words won’t come to me or the wrong word comes out without me realizing it until I see the strange look on the person’s face.

    I have been diagnosed with MS for 16 years now. I am approaching my 58th birthday in a couple of weeks so there have been many times that I wonder if this is something that I should chalk up to getting older but I don’t feel that almost 58 is all that old! I have friends that are still working and sharp (mentally) so what is MS and what is aging?

  • Matt Allen G author
    2 years ago

    People have told me, “that’s just part of getting older” and I was like, “I am 23…” or however OLD I was at the time haha…

  • MSStong
    2 years ago

    I often have numbness in my right leg. Someone was asking me about my MS and my symptoms, someone listening in on my conversation made the dumb&$$ comment “if her leg was numb she wouldn’t be walking on it”.
    I was actually in a state of disbelief at what I had just heard. Don’t think I’ll ever forget that one.

  • Matt Allen G author
    2 years ago

    “And if your brain was working properly you would not be making such dumb and rude comments” – JK, but wow, I would not be able to keep my mouth shut haha

  • Matt Allen G author
    2 years ago

    Usually I am REALLY polite but I think that would have been one of the times where all of a sudden Matt is a bit of a jerk 😀

  • angie328
    2 years ago

    YES. All of this. Except for me, it’s not about the cognitive issues, it’s my fatigue.

    A few weeks ago, I went a little too hard on the weekend. I stayed out late two nights in a row. I drank a little too much. It took me almost a week to recover. When discussing this with my boyfriend (whom I live with), I expressed my frustration about my body and how long it take me to recover after a weekend of trying to live my life like a “normal” 25 year old. I was near frustrated tears about how tired I was; about how hard it was to get out of bed in the morning; about how I wished that my body would work for me, not against me.

    His response? “Babe. I get it. I’m not entirely back to normal yet either.”

    Basically a slap in the face. While I know he was trying to not let me allow my MS to keep me from living my life, what I heard was, “Oh, please. Stop complaining. You’re fine.”

    It’s frustrating. I live with the man. We’ve been together since before my diagnosis. He’s been there through all the changes, and yet, he still doesn’t REALLY understand what I’m going through, how I’m feeling. He doesn’t truly get that when I tell him I’m “tired” it’s more than just my body saying “time for bed.” It’s bigger than that. And it is really frustrating that sometimes he brushes it off.

  • Matt Allen G author
    2 years ago

    Fatigue is probably the most misunderstood symptom we have when it comes to trying to explain it to people who do not have MS. “yeah, I get pretty tired too”. It’s not at all the same as “being tired” because most the time even if I lie down I can’t sleep, I just feel ,miserable.

  • Darlene
    2 years ago

    Thank you Matt, you have expressed what we as MS’ers experience . My husband is really very good most of the time by accepting what I am experiencing even though he doesn’t actually get it, he really can’t “get it”. The few times he says “That’s normal, or I get that, or I do that.” makes me feel like I’ve been slapped in the face. Mostly now, I just move on and try to understand where he is coming from. Probably the biggest thing I deal with now, is when I just can’t follow what he is talking about, I can’t follow simple thought processes like I used to. I can’t remember 1 thing much less a list of things. I worked with 3 ladies at the voting polls this week, I could NOT remember a name even after being with them all day and even after I would spell her name in order to picture it so I could recall it. It seems like names are extremely hard for some reason. When I apologize in advance to someone for probably not remembering their name as soon as I say it, they say “Oh I do that too.” They don’t realize what I am talking about until they are unfortunate enough to spend time with me. I also have real problems remembering grammar rules, how to spell words, punctuation etc., even though I used to be very good at it. I can’t remember recipes I have been making for over 40 yrs.. If I am following a written recipe, I have to look at the recipe after each ingredient, or step until I am done. I can’t go to the pantry and get 2 or 3 of the required ingredients, I have to take the written recipe with me, unless I want to make a trip back & forth until I gather all of the ingredients….It is SO frustrating. The Dr. syas it is not Alzheimers, but is from my MS. Most of my lesions are in the 2 frontal lobes of my brain, the “higher thinking” parts of the brain. Physically no one would even no that I have MS, but this thinking/remembering thing as hard too. Ok, done with my pity party, thanks for the forum to unload to people I know will “get it”! : )

  • Matt Allen G author
    2 years ago

    Well, I can keep my response short and simple; you are describing me. I hate it so much… I can tell you about a theory in quantum physics one second and not be able to do basic math the next.

  • Joys-An
    2 years ago

    Several years ago I went to a new neurologist on a day that I was having a particularly hard time speaking. I just couldn’t get my thoughts together and then get the words wouldn’t come out. What did she say to me? “Oh that’s OK, we all do that.” I wanted to scream, “No, it’s not OK. And unless you have MS too, you have no idea what I am trying to tell you.” Needless to say, I was soon looking for another new doctor. Another time I went to my GP and by the time they got to me I couldn’t remember why I was there. He had refused at an earlier appointment to write a letter to the court to tell them why I couldn’t sit on a jury. When, at this appointment I had to go out and get my husband to tell them why I was there, I got that letter. It isn’t frustrating enough, we have to also put up with the ignorance of others who won’t take the time to listen and learn. So no, Matt, you aren’t alone in this. I’m sorry you are so young and have to deal with it. Great topic!!

  • Matt Allen G author
    2 years ago

    After years of trying to find a good doctor, I finally found a genius but even he, as much as he understands MS, will from time to time pull one of the “that’s normal, don’t worry about it” things on me.

  • Mickle13
    2 years ago

    Ok, so how about getting into the shower and suddenly realizing you have no idea what’s been washed and what hasn’t?? Often.

  • Matt Allen G author
    2 years ago

    routine, routine, routine. That is what keeps my life “going”, it’s all “muscle memory” so I don’t have to rely on my memory AS MUCH

  • potter
    2 years ago

    Great topic, looks like everyone has mentioned the same cognitive problem I have had ant the same comments I get from people. I don’t get upset with them, they just don’t understand and are usually trying to relate with me. Once in a while you will get a jerk, but they are a jerk to everyone so you can’t take it personally. Potter

  • Matt Allen G author
    2 years ago

    I pretty much never take it personally anymore, I get that people won’t understand certain things and frankly I am kind of tired of TRYING to explain it to them…

  • gmc
    2 years ago

    Matt, I guess we’ve all experienced the “I do that too” comment and the irritation it brings, but I’m struggling now with my husband’s always having whatever jewel MS is now inflicting. Why is that so irritating?

  • Matt Allen G author
    2 years ago

    I am so hesitant to try to get back into a relationship because of this (well this and a few other things)

  • 2 years ago

    The memory thing is wicked. It bugs me so much when people say they forget stuff all the time too. Perfect example: I was watching TV and heard an argument outside. 2 men had stopped their cars right in front of my house and were about to have a fight. I thought I was going to have to call the police. But as soon as it started, it ended. No fight, just maybe 10 seconds worth of yelling. The next day my next door neighbor asked me if I heard it. I did not remember it at all and was feeling mad for having missed it. I told her to call me if anything like that happens so I can be “entertained”, lol. She said she would have if it would have lasted, but it ended so quick. After she left, I was laying down on the couch all bummed out that I had missed something exciting. Then after a few hours, the scene I had witnessed did a replay in my mind and I realized I DID see it. When I told my next door neighbor about my crazy misfired memory ~ or non-memory ~ she still did not “get it” and said she’s done that too. Huh??? I just can’t make people understand. I think I’ll use the “frequency” thing next time trying to explain my awful memory issues. But people will probably still say “oh me too” or “that’s just part of getting older”. Extremely frustrating! Stepping off my soapbox now, lol ~ Caren

  • Matt Allen G author
    2 years ago

    I wish there was a way for people to experience one day in our shoes so they could SEE and FEEL it all for themselves.

  • Grant1270
    2 years ago

    Great article! My experience was when I went to the VA hospital for an evaluation after being diagnosed. I tried to explain to the dr. that my memory was crap. I could not remember things. My wife was with me and she vouched for me. The dr. kept coming up with excuses like telling me I probably had a lot of things I was trying to remember at the same time, so it just seemed like I couldn’t remember. Or it’s because I’m getting old. I was only 50… The funny thing about the entire appointment was that when I left, I’d forgotten my glasses in his office and he had to chase me down 4 stories and out the front door. He never changed his mind though… I probably just had too many things to remember at that moment to remember my glasses. What an idiot dr.!

  • Catgirl66
    2 years ago

    My all time favorite? I was going to brush my teeth & found myself putting MOUSSE on my toothbrush! The best thing about that, NO ONE, ,at least no one that I know, was willing to admit to doing that. But if anyone had claimed it was normal, I probably would have choked them..

  • joebic01
    2 years ago

    Matt,
    thanks for the great article and insight. As a 59 year old male with a fiancé, our ages play a role in remembering “STUFF” however your article describes to a T what I’ve been telling her all along. Yes age does play a role but MS makes it worse and compounds everything. Even when you tell people you have MS, they just look at you dumbfounded and expect you to be normal. Also, people’s own opinion about this disease comes into play as each individual’s opinion varies with or without facts. Sorry about the ramble, but I just had “A MOMENT” of what the hell am I talking about. Appreciate the insight you have shared.

  • meissie47
    2 years ago

    Yeap!! I get that so I’ve gotten to where I don’t talk to anyone about my MS symptoms anymore. I have a friend that’s a nurse that was always trying to fix me with a what I call one size fits all aproach. She meant well but irritated me so much.
    I now have to be really firm and almost rude to her so she’ll get it.

    No wonder they call this a lonely and misunderstood disease.

  • 2 years ago

    I’ve also gotten to the point where I no longer talk about my symptoms because people don’t understand. It makes me feel better to find others that “get it”. People just think it’s all about not being able to walk well. But it’s electric shocks, pushing so hard trying just to empty your bladder that you physically hurt yourself, loss of balance/coordination which is the biggest cause of falling all the time, double vision all the time, blurry vision when I push myself to do things too hard…blah blah blah. It’s easy to go on and on. Thanks for listening to me rant, lol. And, hang in there, I “get” you!

  • imurhcklbry
    2 years ago

    I’ve had something happen to me twice now. Get in my truck to head home from work.
    It’s hot out. Need to roll down the window. My left hand goes into action, but instead of hitting the button for the window, it flips the left turn signal on! Ugh!

  • Michelle
    2 years ago

    OH my gosh- so glad someone else does things like that. I have to be very careful when driving and I’m tired. I’ve found myself trying to turn on the washers and clicking the high beams, or more scary- trying to put the car in drive and going to reverse, or parking and hitting the high beams instead of putting it in park. Thankfully, I’ve only done that a couple of times.

  • perreaju
    2 years ago

    What I’m dealing with right how is the way my family treats me since I got sick. Both my brother and my son told me to “get a job” when I was having financial problems and asked them to borrow money. I got a big lecture from my son about how hard he works, and how I needed to “grow up” and go out a get a job with Uber or McDonald’s. They think I’m still the same way I was 20 years ago, when I could do anything and get any job. Of course, since they never visit, I guess they can’t be expected to understand that things are different now and I can barely walk. Social Security Disability believed I was disabled, but not them. The other day it was really hot and my leg quit working. My other son became angry and told me that I just need to get used to the heat, build up a tolerance for it. When I tried to explain it’s because of nerve damage, he got angry. I guess I can’t expect anyone who doesn’t have this disease to understand. I didn’t, before I got bad, but I’m getting really tired of trying to tell people it’s not a choice, me being this way. It was forced on me by this disease, and if I could choose something else, I sure wound have. All I can say is people, mostly people in my family, sure are stupid.

  • Darlene
    2 years ago

    So, So sorry perreaju@hotmail.com It is so painful to feel that rejection. I hope you will find support from the many MS sites like this one. It is really helpful to be able to correspond with others who know exactly what you are talking about.

  • Michelle
    2 years ago

    I hate it when I say I’m tired and need to sit for a bit followed by a “me too” or “I’m tired too) by one of my guys at work. I guess I need to say I’m MS tired. I’m pretty open about the MS and how it affects me to my crew and bosses, but one of them just doesn’t get it. He trys to use it as an excuse to sit around and do nothing because I’m sitting down. (and to be fair- my job does require me to spend time in the office- his does not.) But I’m being a “mean/pushy boss” when I give him things to do if he stays… But the whole “I’m tired too” followed with that look (you guys know which one I’m referring to)- well, I’d love to give him a real kick in the rear with my steel toes!

  • Michelle
    2 years ago

    sounds like they are in denial- big time. It’s other people who get seriously sick with an incurable illness, not THEIR family members. It’s too hard to process- too scary to think about or admit, so they do everything to make it go away in their minds. So sorry you have to deal with that- I’m not a hugs kinda a person, but when I read what you wrote- I just wanted to give you one. I hope they wake up some day, for your sake.

  • Ymmsvh
    2 years ago

    I’m sorry that you’re going through this. In my own experience, certain loved ones wanted me to be Not Sick so they wanted me to do Normal things. Took a long time for them to catch on.

  • Matt Allen G author
    2 years ago

    What the heck… people… next time tell them to just “Google Multiple Sclerosis” so that maybe they will understand how real it is. Or email them some articles from here?

  • Hallingdahl
    3 years ago

    Thanks for this excellent article. I do not have MS, but I live with Sally who does have MS. She forwarded the article to me and I read it with great interest.
    Oh, where to start? First my confession, I am guilty of so many of the things mentioned by the author and commenters. As a guy and athlete my whole life, but older now — almost 70 — I am very quick to respond to stimuli. A few examples:
    — I anticipate the speed of a car going by on the street that I want to enter, like leading a teammate with a pass going for a fast break in basketball, and pull quickly into traffic.
    — I respond very quickly to someone saying, “Look at that pink elephant in the back yard”.
    — In the kitchen I move quickly, when preparing my weekend speciality of bacon with onion, tomato, cheese omelets.
    — Concerning the refrigerator, I insist on, “Tall things on tall shelves, short things on short shelves.”

    OK, enough of my examples. I only mention these in order to acknowledge my impatience with Sally several times a day. I am sincerely trying to do better, but I seem to be a slow learner.

    So to pick up on my examples, here are some things Sally does which she will readily recognize when she reads this:
    — Sally waits until the car passing by on the street has gone well past and then seems to process the need to enter traffic, not anticipating speed or movement. So, I get anxious and impatient riding with her. She slows down coming to a green light seeming to expect the light to turn red. To which I have commented a few times — not so nicely or politely — “If you slow down just a little more, that green light will turn red and we will be able to sit here for a couple of minutes.”
    — When we are in the office together, with the TV on but also, each looking at our own computer, I might say, “Look at how goofy Trump’s hair looks.” About 5 seconds later she will say, “What…what… did you say Trump?” And I reply — not so patiently — “Well, he is gone now.”
    — When I just about have the bacon and omelets ready, I ask her to come and set the table, etc., etc… She sets a couple of dishes out and maybe the glasses. But then with my need for speed, I quickly pour the milk, put the bread in the toaster, napkins, salt and pepper, butter, jelly. You get the idea.
    — When we are finished eating, she will often put a small item in the fridge, maybe a baggie with leftovers on the tall shelf intended for large items. My thought is, “If we have little items on the tall shelves, where are the gallons of milk, soda and large bottles of orange going to go? They won’t fit on shelves 6 inches high.”

    So this is my confession. I am aware of the daily challenges, Sally faces. I read the information she gives me. I try to be understanding and be patient. BUT, sometimes I am just an impatient jerk and fall well short of my goals for living with a person with MS. I will try to do better. I do love you, Sally!

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 years ago

    Having MS requires a lot of patience but sometimes I think that living with someone who has MS when you do not requires even more, obviously I do not know so I can only imagine. All I know for sure is both “parties” have to be patient with each other and try to communicate as best as possible

  • SallyM
    3 years ago

    Thank you Matt. Your insightful article moved my partner, Hallingdahl to reply in a way that surprised me! You perfectly put my thoughts into words. I have struggled to articulate my experiences as well as you did. I look forward to more of your reflections.

  • Carole
    4 years ago

    Thank you so much for sharing Matt. The weirdest thing was the other day I was thinking, am I losing my mind. Your post has made me breathe a sigh of relief that thank goodness I am not losing my mind because I experience very similar situations. I at least once a week try to either put my laptop in the fridge or toilet. A lot of the time when I am speaking to someone I cant remember a word or I lose my train of thought; it is like I travel to another planet; and once I have “travelled” back I cant remember where I left off or what I have or haven’t said or if I said it in my mind or out loud. It also drives me mad when people say it is normal and it happens with age, I am only 38 years old, seriously. This has been extremely difficult to deal with because I used to have a good memory. It is hard when people say you look so good, and yes maybe I look good on the outside, however if they knew what was going on inside, they would have a completely different perspective. So I have learnt to just say thank you to them, because I know they do not understand, and that is ok because I have also learnt that they do not need to, although at times it does really get to me.

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 years ago

    “You look so good” – “well, if only I FELT as good as I look” haha that is my typical response

  • 148xmgk
    4 years ago

    Oh Thank You for saying it so well! It has become my pet peeve! What is extremely frustrating is trying to explain why I can’t be trusted to do “simple” data entry! Even tho I have an MRI that taught me what a “Black Hole” is, I still get the comments.
    I am blessed with a husband that laughs with me when I ask him to load the dishes in the car wash. Or I read something in my journal & have ab- so- lute-lee no recall of the event. I used to be the go to person in my family for memories.
    The best I can describe it – info goes in, travels across the information highway, shorts out & Lord only knows where it ends up on the other side! It’s a bonus when I find a person to talk with that doesn’t try to finish my thoughts for me

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    This helped me peice together my idea for my next article, thanks haha

  • Tess
    4 years ago

    Anthony Hopkins is my fav too!…If I remember correctly.

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    Lol I think you do remember correctly!

  • kjhurst
    4 years ago

    I have a figure ground disturbance meaning I can’t see the forest for the trees. It drives me crazy in our over-stuffed garage.

  • MarcieKim
    4 years ago

    :\

    That must drive you crazy.

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    O_o lol yes

  • Panzersmom
    4 years ago

    It makes me want to scream when I hear that comment.

    Yes, everyone gets tired. But, until you have reached the point where you physically cannot function or carry a thought, you have no idea.

    Yes, everyone forgets things. Sure, but you have no idea how many times a day I have to remind myself what the day is. I repeat it in my head all the time. I honestly don’t always remember.

    What, you didn’t understand what I just said? Oh, right. I just spoke gibberish instead of words. . . again. Goes over great when teaching a full class of graduate students.

    I may look just perfectly fine and as if nothing could be wrong, but I have to work very hard physically and mentally to appear “normal.”

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    and sometimes no matter how hard we try it’s just too difficult to appear “normal”

  • Michelle
    4 years ago

    I endure mental lapses all the time, it’s very frustrating… But to the outside world? I appear fine. I lose track of the conversation, can’t come up with simple answers … I sometimes have a delay when I answer… A long pause before I speak and this is always taken the wrong way. My husband often says “hello? Are you listening?” “Why are you sitting there with a blank face?” He doesn’t get it and honestly I get tired of trying to explain my weirdness.

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    Yeah I know what you mean, to try to quickly explain to everyone every single time something like that happens is just flat out unrealistic…

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