‘It hurts to be judged by complete strangers’

Iain Crosbie.
Iain Crosbie.

A Carnmoney man who has been living with multiple sclerosis (MS) for the past 10 years has told how public ignorance of the condition has led to him being accused of being drunk.

Iain Crosbie was speaking about his personal experiences after a recent poll revealed that over half of MS sufferers (61 per cent) have been mistaken as ‘drunk’ because of their symptoms, which can include balance and mobility problems as well as slurring of speech.

The MS Society poll asked people about their personal experiences of living with the condition, which affects more than 4,500 people in Northern Ireland.

The survey found nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of respondents had their condition questioned by strangers for ‘appearing to be well’ and almost everyone (90 per cent) said they were frustrated with people putting their fatigue down to ‘just being tired’.

While people with MS might appear to be fine on the outside, they’re often struggling with a number of hidden symptoms including numbness, tingling, problems with mobility and balance, vision and dizziness, fatigue, bladder problems, muscle stiffness, pain or depression.

Iain was diagnosed with MS in 2005 at the age of 37.

“I’d been experiencing blurred vision, dizziness and balance problems for years but had put it all down to the stress of having a busy job in the aerospace industry.

“The diagnosis was a shock and it’s definitely changed my life,” he said.

“I can understand why some people think you’re drunk when you stumble and slur your speech but it still hurts to be judged by complete strangers who have absolutely no idea what it’s like to live with MS every day.

“Before I had to retire I had a great job that I really enjoyed,” the 47-year-old continued. “A few years back I was at a conference. I lost my balance fell down the stairs and two delegates simply stepped over me and muttered ‘It’s a bit early to be drunk.’ It was humiliating, but they were shocked and embarrassed when it I got up to speak and explained that I wasn’t drunk, I have MS.”

Michelle Mitchell, Chief Executive of the MS Society said: “For the 100,000 people living with MS in the UK, the condition can be hugely challenging and unpredictable.

“People with MS are presented with enough daily challenges to overcome; the last thing they need is society to judge them without compassion or understanding.”

For information about MS and the symptoms log on to www.mssociety.org.uk