Since using a walking stick, I more often notice other people with sticks. It must be a little like if you are pregnant you have heightened awareness of things to do with pregnancy. Perhaps it is the human equivalent of birds of a feather flocking together.
Except at first I wasn’t ready to flock together with other stick users or MSers. I didn’t really accept that I belonged in that flock.
The fab physio from the local Physical Disability Service visited me at home, as they aim to do for all people newly diagnosed with a progressive neurological condition. She designed a personal exercise programme for me and over the course of two or three home visits gently encouraged my physical progress in the early days/weeks/months after I left hospital following dx. She also introduced me to the Disabled Living Services gym or more properly the Neuro Group session at the Integrated Sports and Leisure Centre.
It is not a glamorous gym. Functional and friendly but a bit downmarket. I love it.
One of the best things about going to the Neuro group session at the gym is the lack of pressure. The gym is not open to use by the general public during the group session times. There is no ‘work harder, more reps, more weight, faster’. What there is plenty of is nonintrusive encouragement, support and chat. And that comes from physios and fellow neuro users alike. There are people with sticks, walkers, wheelchairs and some with none of those things. We have different things in common and there are huge differences between us. All people in the group have some sort of neurological condition.
Today I went to the gym a bit later than usual and it was very quiet. When I arrived there were only a handful of other users. By the end of the normal group session time there was just me and a very latecomer. The latecomer’s wife asked the physio if I was ‘one of you’. We worked out that she was really asking if I was a physio/staff member or ‘a patient’.
We agreed I am the latter. I may spend a huge amount of time as a patient with doctors, nurses and other health workers but I don’t tend to think of myself as that and neither do most members of the neuro group. However, there are advantages to being a patient if it’s a friendly flock.
For a long time I had resisted being part of anything joined up with other MSers. I went on a Mindfulness Awareness course because it was a medical referral. I did meet and found I liked spending time with other people with neurological conditions because we could understand each other’s experiences in ways that people without such conditions might not.
These days I am happy to be a member of MSsy, a Young People with MS group. Yes, ‘young’ - me! Again, it was my disabled living physio who had suggested this new group to me. I like that I can now class myself as a friend of at least one member of the group. I would not have met her without MSsy.
I seem to be one of the birds of a feather.