Have you ever heard of Goldfish Syndrome? Probably not. I hadn’t until I made it up. Maybe you think I’m referring to famous people living in a clear glass bowl in which every movement made is subjected to public scrutiny, Jay Leno jokes or tweeted about. That is one theory, however, it’s not mine.

I am certainly not famous, but I do feel, at times, quite like a goldfish in a bowl. Sorta like the random ones won at carnivals as prizes for popping a balloon or the one scooped out of a slimy fish, poop infested tank at a pet store, bagged, wrapped with a bread bag tie and handed to a scatter-brained kid because a frazzled mom caved in and bought it for a kid who won’t quit whining.

A goldfish? Yes. A goldfish. The analogy is quite clear, even down to the sludge-riddled small bowl, goopy rocks and fake palm tree. Here’s why. Stay with me on this one. The first fish to be domesticated, thanks to the Chinese, was a goldfish. I feel I’m fairly domesticated at this point in my life. I don’t eat poo or my young and I try to keep clean. So is it with goldfish. If they do eat poo, it’s because they haven’t been fed or can’t see through the parasitic water. They try to clean off the gunk by scratching against something in the bowl. Goldfish have trainable behaviors which are conditioned by their owners. I’ve been conditioned by my family to behave (kinda). I’m perhaps still in a learning phase with some things, but that’s cool. Despite what we have all heard, goldfish have longer memories than 3 seconds. They have a memory span of up to 3 months. With my MS brain, 3 months sounds good goal for me. Goldfish also have voice recognition abilities. That’s awesome! I may not remember a birthday, name or what I ate on my last vacation, but I know the voices of my friends and family. A well cared for goldfish can live up to 10 years before being put into a match box or flushed. I’m older than 10, but if I take care of myself and others will help care for me, I will live to hopefully 100 and land a spot on a Smuckers Jelly jar on the Today Show.

People and goldfish have quite a lot in common. Both need air, clean water and food in order to survive and thrive. Both need room to grow. Did you know goldfish can get stressed out? They can. If their environments and messed with, some chubby-handed kid tries to pet them or there is too much noise, (yes, I said noise) they can wig out just like we can. I don’t like my surroundings to be drastically disrupted, I am a huge advocate for personal space and I. Hate. Noise. Plop me in a mall during a holiday, encapsulate me shoulder to shoulder with too many people, (even shopping when all of church crowd, lugging tired fit-pitching kids, pile into my local grocery store is a near death experience for me) or there’s a loud mouth or TV blaring, confusion, anxiety and possibly a few potty-mouthed laced sentences are triggered.

Fish get diseases. We get diseases. Goldfish get ones like Hole in the Head, Dropsy, Fin Rot and Costia. Goldfish diseases are usually from neglect, not enough air, over-feeding and parasites. I’ve not been neglected. MS is not a disease I got from dirty water, too much ice cream or bug bites. I do have lesions on my brain (like parasites gnawing the nerves), my right foot drags and my right hand flops and drops stuff, I can’t feel my big toe, but I don’t think it’s gonna rot, and I’m a bit awkward when I walk. (Costia in goldfish make them swim weirdly.)

When goldfish are not fed properly, their bowls resemble a cloudy scum pond, and they are neglected (usually by the kid who promised to faithfully care for it) and pushed behind a stack of magazines or toys, they will become diseased, beg for air, swallow their poo, lay limp on the bottom of the rocks next to the then slimy palm tree and subsequently float to the top of the bowl to die. Sad.

Can you see, now, the correlation between me and a goldfish? It’s not just me. Gratefully, I have the care and attention I need and medicine to help slow this MS mess down a bit. I can be the best me I can. I’m not at the mercy of a responsibility-challenged person. Widen the view beyond my bowl and yours (home, neighborhood and city) to the world at large. Aren’t we supposed to be responsible for the care of others, especially those who can’t care for themselves or have fallen on bad times? Aren’t we supposed to care they have a safe environment, clean air and water and food to eat? Yes we are. Do we always? No. We’re all subject to the Goldfish Syndrome. We’re all swimming together in this world’s bowl of humanity. Let’s be responsible, meet needs and care. And as we do, let’s all remember to be kind.