Us with MS – How Do People See Us?

Debi Wilson avatar

by Debi Wilson |

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Faith of the Mustard Seed

Years before I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the administrator at my job assumed one day that I had been drinking or that I was on something. My balance was a little off and I bumped into a wall right in front of her. I didn’t think anything of it because I had a tendency to be a little wobbly at times. She didn’t say anything to me and she gave no real indication that she even noticed. Strangely, the very next day I had to take a random drug test. Coincidence? I think not.

Thinking about that incident and her perspective of me made me begin to wonder what others see when they look at me or anyone else with MS.

From my perspective, there are more empathetic people in the world than not. Many people are kind to me. They open doors, make eye contact, or ask if they can do anything to help.

When I experience such kindness, it brightens my day and makes me feel good about the world I live in. I feel connected and respected. Most people I come into contact with look through the empathetic eyes of their experiences or the eyes of someone they know.

Some like to share that they have been in my shoes because of broken bones or surgeries. They can relate to being in the wheelchair or using a walker. They are curious about my story and when I tell them I have primary progressive multiple sclerosis their eyes show a deep compassion.

Epathetic or indifferent

Of course there is an opposite side to empathetic people — the indifferent ones that cannot relate to my situation at all.

Maybe they haven’t ever experienced health issues or haven’t been around anyone who has struggles. As long as they are not mean or rude, their reaction can be understandable.

Mainly it’s in the grocery store that I find most people who fall into the latter category.

They are busy and hurrying so fast that they run circles around me, literally. It’s easy to feel I am in some kind of high-speed NASCAR race. They have to get in front of me no matter what, it seems. Even if it means they have to slide through a space too narrow to accommodate them.

I must say, it is interesting to watch people act impatiently. I know we live in a busy world with so much to do. Then when someone moves a little bit slower and throws off the rhythm, it can send some people into panic mode. I try to get out of the way and let them by. I know it’s not easy to be stuck behind someone slow when you are healthy and moving along at a certain pace. I just hope they are thankful and never take their health for granted.

What I have concluded from my own experiences is that everyone views life through their own reality. Whatever a person has experienced colors how they see the world. The only true reason why other people’s perceptions of us matter, is because the way they see us impacts how we are treated. We, the people with disabilities, have feelings and ideas. We should be treated just like anyone else — with respect.

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Judy Lynn avatar

Judy Lynn

This very thing was happening to me today. I look able-bodied, but I have been 'lurching' a bit today. I walked 5 blocks to a local tea shop in our unseasonably warm 68 degree weather. I caught a few odd glances...I think I looked as though I had come out of a local bar. But it's election day, who could blame me?! lol

Debi avatar


LOL Judy!

steven avatar


Unfortunately, I do have a gait problem so the disability is visible when I walk. I only wear an AFO so it's only minor, but still obvious. Only one leg is affected. I avoid telling anyone about MS choosing, instead, to say I have an injury. What I've noticed is that people think that MS is the "wheelchair" disease. It affects people's perception of you. It affects social interactions, meeting new people, job interviews, and more. It's what makes this such a terrible disease. The psychosocial aspects of MS are devastating. How can you live will with this? People shun you and you become socially isolated which in turn, makes living with it worse. Support groups help to an extent but they're not there with you at home in the evening. You need much more than that. I've given up on bothering or seeking to gain better employment; just the limp alone is a deal breaker, such is the society we live in. Sorry I sound so negative but it's hard to continue to have hope when research crawls at snail's pace and they don't know what causes progression. Eventually, most MSers will progress and that is depressing. Our only real hope in reversing the disability is to support legitimate stem cell research like what is being done at the Tisch Center.


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