Juan the Changemaker
Juan Luis Garrido is a digital strategist, a co-chair for LGBT YouthLine, an advocate for the MS Society and a part-time master’s student at OCAD.
He has always loved balancing his professional work, volunteer work, and other personal interests. Juan shares his story about how he got started at LGBT YouthLine:
“I started as a phone line peer support volunteer. People would call in and talk about whatever they wanted. I just had to listen, ask questions and show my support. I enjoyed it. I joined the board of the organization later because I really wanted to help grow the organization and develop its capacity so that we could help more people. There was so much potential with this group.”
In his professional life, as a digital strategist, Juan also gets to listen. He needs to get to know his partners and their organizations. So that he can help tell stories about why they do what they do and help implement the real change these groups want to see in the world.
Juan’s curiosity is endless. It helps him to continue to grow.
“I'm currently also doing a Master of Design at OCAD University in Strategic Foresight and Innovation. It's a program where we learn how to design solutions that create a change through Design Thinking. I really want to find new ways to help make change for the better.”
“Think about the small changes you need to make in your life. Then find the support system that allows you to do that.”
Finding a Voice after Diagnosis
“I was diagnosed in September 2012. I had woken up one day and I couldn't feel my legs. I thought that I had slept weird or pinched a nerve. A couple of days went by and that feeling of numbness got worse. So, we ended up going to an ER. We saw a million different doctors before I got officially diagnosed.”
“I went looking for information, but didn't see anyone younger than 60 talking about living with MS. The more I learned, the more I realized that I was at the right age to be diagnosed with MS. But the lack of information made me feel alone.”
“Joining the MS Society online community helped me see things differently. I started seeing other people going through similar things. And I was able to share my story without feeling ashamed or burdened by it.”
“I’m grateful that I have a robust network of family and friends that I can be really open with. I’ve been able to talk through some of the fears and anxieties that came up after my diagnosis. Now, I understand there is always something I can do to be more resilient or to make sure that I am prioritizing myself.”
If you Don’t like Something, Change It
Juan has a mantra that helps him deal with challenges. It's a quote from Maya Angelou – “if you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.”
“When I think about it, I can't change the fact that I have MS but what I can do, and what I have done, is change my lifestyle to prioritize my health and my mental health.”
“I'm fine if one day, ‘100%’ is doing a 10K charity run. I’m also fine if the next day, ‘100%’ is ordering Pizza because I don't want to make dinner that night.”
“I still say that there is no meeting, assignment, project, event that is more important to me than my health. If I'm not able to show up and be at my 100%, then it's not worth it. I prioritize. People would be surprised by that, even as a full-time student with multiple jobs and volunteering hours, I still get at least 8 hours of sleep at night, because that's important to me.”
My MS, My Rules
“My Rules” really means that I’m prioritizing myself. That means asking – what do I need for myself? What do I personally want to accomplish? I like giving back to different communities, being a good person, and creating change in the spaces that I live in. My MS is on my terms.”
Juan took control of his diagnosis and disease by understanding that no matter what he is doing, he will always try his best. Even if that looks different day-to-day.
He defines his personal success based on being a positive member of his communities. So, whether it’s the MS community, the Queer community, his professional community or his community of friends, Juan always wants to make sure that he’s making a positive contribution.
Juan’s advice to other people living with MS is to “find a support system that allows you to ask for help. That could mean finding opportunities to share your story openly or keeping your MS more private. It’s up to you. Think about the small changes you need to make in your life. Then find the support system that allows you to do that.”
Juan is a change maker in the MS community and many other communities. Stories like his are helping change the stigma around MS. He’s one of the many people challenging what it’s like to live with MS.
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