Friday, October 19, 2012

Why are social situations hard for us?

This topic has been showing up a lot lately. Or is it because I'm reading more blogs posted by others talking about this? I think the number of reactions, attitudes and theories about this subject is as diverse as the number of people who inhabit our universe! That is a lot of people.

Is it that we feel inadequate in some way? Just physically getting to the same point as someone else can most definitely be harder. Does our disability, whether physical, cognitive or a combination make it difficult to feel in "control"? I think that one may be a no brainer. When old people hold the door open for you or ask if you need help, well that is just plain hard to deal with. Even within our own population we have variations and differences. So how the heck do we expect anyone to get it?

Chances are there are many similarities in the way most of us with MS feel about being out in the world. A friend once told David that "she does a lot for her condition." Not quite sure how to take that. The other day my neurologist told me that I looked wonderful and I do think she meant it, sincerely. But complements always go through three phases in my mind: 1) Oh I am happy to think that I can do all this with MS 2) Maybe I don't appear as disabled as I think I do 3) I am accepted. Wow, all this for one complement?

Let me describe a social situation I was in recently. It was an art opening for a friend along with others exhibiting their work. I had on my brace and not my WalkAide knowing there might not be too much walking involved. Lots of people milling around, lots of hellos, hugs and chatter. Right there my nightmare started. I don't seem to fixate on a particular target and therefore miss most things. This is because the vision cannot be selective and I miss things. OK, so I missed a lot of hellos, people probably standing in front of me who I missed plus too much chatter. There is something about too much stimulus in the environment that throws me off. All this involves cognitive processing, that neuropsychological area we don't always understand.

I found a place to sit down. This enabled me to view people at my own speed -- that is huge. I let people come to me, I did not go to them. People who wanted to chat came to me. I was able to slow down the rate of my partially non functioning brain by being kinder to it. So I talked to who I wanted to talk to, looked at who I wanted to look at, listened to certain people and talked only to a few. The terrain was uneven so the brace was definitely better but I wished I had the WalkAide as a friend literally had to haul me up a hill to the car.

I learned a valuable lesson here. It doesn't matter how well prepared you are, something will always trip you up (no pun!) So do the best you can because just getting out there is more than half the battle.

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