Monday, February 11, 2019

Struggling to Find a Purpose


Since I’ve been writing about my life with Multiple Sclerosis, I’ve covered a wide range of topics. Many of those will typically include pieces that discuss, not necessarily a specific symptom, but the changes and emotions I (or others) encounter because of living with MS. While symptoms like painfatigue, and cognitive function are extremely difficult to live with on their own, the collective effect that the disease has had on my life is sometimes the most difficult to deal with. One of these unfortunate effects that I struggle with, often on a daily basis, is trying to find my purpose in life.

Questions purpose in life

While not everyone with MS is on disability or forced to leave their career, there are many that are in just that situation. No longer able to work full time, struggling to fill their days. Additionally, many people may still work, but their bodies allow for little more than that. They are still making a living, but perpetually paying the MS Tax for it, leaving them with a tired life of only work. Whether the disease takes your livelihood or your social life, or both, it can create feelings of unfulfillment and lead us to question our purpose in this life. What’s a life when I’m not contributing and making a difference? What’s a life, if all it is is work?

When You’re Doing All You Can

“What about this? What about that? Have you heard about that other thing?” Our well-meaning friends, and sometimes even ourselves, are constantly looking for the answer to our chronic illness. Searching for that magical treatment that will fix us and let us live the lives we once lived. The not-always-welcome-truth of the matter though is that many of us are already doing everything we can to fight our disease. It’s not easy to accept that multiple sclerosis has no cure. It’s also not easy to accept that you may be doing everything you can and you’re still not back to your old self. Coming to terms with having an incurable illness is extremely difficult. Accepting that you are doing all you can doesn’t make you a quitter though, it allows you to begin to live.

Are you really doing everything?

I can’t talk about accepting your position until I emphasize that, maybe more than any other disease, multiple sclerosis requires you to do a tremendous amount of work. Are you seeing a knowledgeable enough doctor? Are you maintaining as healthy a diet as possible? Are you getting some form of exercise? Have you seen speech, occupational, and/or physical therapists? Are you taking care of your mental health? Treating multiple sclerosis requires much more than a great neurologist. Even if you are taking a disease-modifying medication and you haven’t had an exacerbation in a long time, you may still not be doing enough. There may still be room for improvement. There is a lot you can do to fight this disease, it really is a pain in the ass. I have to be blunt here: honestly, if you aren’t a little frustrated by the number of appointments and things you have to do to fight this disease, then you aren’t fighting it as best as you could be.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Choice Is Mine… and Yours

You and me not gonna wake up every morning and get what we want.

A choice is necessary

I heard that notable line in a movie once. Though I cannot remember which movie it was, that one astute line still resonates within me. It is incredibly factual, most accurate and undoubtedly applicable in an array of situations that anyone can experience in a lifetime. There will be those wondrous days, whether fun-filled or just comfortably content or uneventful, that we awaken to and all is well until bidding goodnight; however, there are the mornings we arise and must face the ongoing or onset of various unfortunate happenstances or adversities. For instance, a troubled relationship, a child in some sort of crisis, loss of a loved one, financial woes, vehicular problems, poor health, involuntary job loss, and world calamities are only several examples of waking up to something we don’t want to encounter. Naturally, what anyone would want to awaken to every day are good days, good times. That’s not particularly realistic so a choice is necessary – succumb to the trials we are faced with or seek ways to manage and cope to live a fulfilling life in spite of them.

A whole new MonSter

I awakened on July 13, 2007 to receive a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. Over the years and especially presently, I awaken to the daily challenges of living with a chronic, degenerative disease. Definitely unwanted. I learned early on that it was necessary to make a choice because there was now a whole new MonSter of an element to awaken to which didn’t replace any other trials, but instead added to them and it wasn’t going anywhere.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Gone In 60 Seconds: When We Suddenly Aren’t Well


In my many years of living with Multiple Sclerosis, there have been so many things I wish I could convey to the people around me that don’t live with the disease. One key concept that would be incredibly helpful for myself and others with the disease, is that we can go from feeling relatively fine one minute to being overcome by symptoms the next. The idea that symptoms can come on so suddenly, often coupled with the invisibility of said symptoms, can be difficult for our friends, family, and coworkers to accept. It’s a fact of life for many with MS and can lead to canceled plans, strained relationships, and excessive amounts of frustration.

How can the change happen so quickly?

One of the big reasons that symptoms can come on so quickly has to do with what we call triggers. I’ve explained triggers in more detail here. The basic concept though, is that there are conditions (like temperature change, noise, and stress) that have an impact on us in a short amount of time. When you have MS, the myelin sheath, which acts as a layer of insulation around our nerves, is damaged. That damage makes it hard for signals from our brain to get where they are supposed to go (either at all or sometimes it just delays them). Different conditions can make that damage suddenly more apparent.

Our brains have problems communicating with the body

You may be thinking, “well if that damage is already done, how is some outside condition causing problems so suddenly?” A good example is temperature. Those electrical signals traveling along the nerve are sped up and slowed down depending on the temperature. When the myelin is damaged, meaning there is less of an insulation layer, outside temperatures begin to have a greater effect on the speed at which those signals travel. While temperature is a common example, there are many conditions that can cause these signals to have difficulty going where they need to go. Essentially, our brains begin to have problems communicating with the rest of our body. With our brain controlling everything, that can be extremely problematic and issues can appear quite suddenly.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Perspective on Excessive Positivity


The community of people who suffer from Multiple Sclerosis grows every day. With that, the amount of people who try to take on the role of inspirational social media warriors grows with it. I feel like every time I open Facebook or Instagram, I see multiple people exclaiming how they “decided” to thrive with MS and not let it “have them”. I’m very happy that they are doing well, so far anyway, but just because they are “thriving” doesn’t mean those who are not haven’t been fighting just as hard, if not harder.

Positivity sells

Let’s face it, positivity sells. People want to be heroes and want to see heroes. Even the National MS Society’s social media seems like an unending stream of feel good stories. Again, great for those people, but there are other stories out there. For every wife that has stood by her man in sickness and health, there are those that haven’t. For all the MS patients that have just finished 5Ks, there are some who are in wheelchairs. I’m all for remaining positive, but when you see so many positive stories without really seeing the other side, it begins to diminish the effectiveness of those tales. Aside from that, it can begin to have a pretty negative effect on a lot of those people that are struggling.

Monday, January 7, 2019

DON'T JUDGE ME


In the past, I have experienced discrimination when I have had use my handicapped-parking pass. I’ve had people judge me for using the motorized scooter inside the store because I “look fine”.  I can’t even begin to tell you just how many times I’ve been judged, just because you can’t tell that something is wrong with me easily.

Being judged by others with MS

However, being judged by others that are living with Multiple Sclerosis has to be the worst type of judgment I’ve ever received. I’m sorry that you have a more progressive type of MS. I wish that I could take your pain away and that I could help ease your daily struggles. I guess that’s why I write at all, to help those that can’t get the words out share with their loved ones the truth about MS.

Imagine being told over and over again, “You’re so lucky, I’ve been in a wheelchair for so long, you appear to be doing just fine against MS.” Or… “I don’t think you are typical of MS’ers. I guess you can have MS without any real symptoms.” With that being said, I’m not trying to be rude to those who say these things, but I can tell you that they can be hurtful towards people like me that live with a chronic illness with mostly invisible symptoms.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The Key to Contentment


It’s that time of year again, Thanksgiving is behind us and Christmas is coming. In previous articles, I’ve talked about the stress of the holidays and how that affects our bodies, but this year I want to go a different route. This year I want to talk about contentment. It’s something I think is important not only when it comes to holiday gifts, but when it comes to our health and our lives as well. We don’t always get what we want, but finding contentment despite that is the key to real joy.

Contentment and joy

You may be wondering how on earth I can mention being content with multiple sclerosis. How can contentment find its way into the crippling fatiguepaincog-fognumbness, and more? Let me first say that it took me a long time to find contentment in the midst of it all. But, finding contentment despite your circumstances is a beautiful thing. You see, if I always based my contentment on my circumstances, then the probability of me ever finding contentment would have been shockingly low. My contentment isn’t based on what’s going on around me at the moment though, it’s based on joy. I’ve found that being content brings me joy, and having joy helps me remain content. They go hand in hand.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Suffering In Silence


Have you ever been told that you are being too quiet?


That you don’t interact much with others often? Or you might be on the other side of the table… are you looking at a friend or relative, realizing that they aren’t being themselves? Are they being extra quiet and secluded? If you answered yes to any of these questions, let me share with you my experience.
As most of you can tell from my writing, I’m very blunt and sarcastic; I like to make people laugh. However, that’s not always the case, especially lately.

I’ve been quiet lately


I’ve been a bit quiet here recently and haven’t really wanted to converse with others on the phone or in person. While I hope that those close to me don’t take it personally, it’s something that is hard to explain.
I’ve been extremely stressed lately, more than ‘normal’. It’s almost like a brain overload, where I can’t take any more things going on, and I go into self-preservation mode. Picture a robot that is on and is being active/mobile. Then, all of a sudden, things go crazy around it, and it powers down… that’s how I feel.

I feel like I’ve switched on my ‘power down’ button


I feel like I’ve switched on my ‘power down’ button, to keep myself safe and sane. I’m sure I or someone else has gone over a topic in relation to this before, but I felt like I needed to revisit it. Things change and how we cope with situations can also change. If you were looking at me right now, you wouldn’t ‘see’ anything wrong with me, physically.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

THE SADNESS OF FORMER FRIENDS


In recent times, I’ve found myself making some rough decisions when it’s come to friendships. Creating and maintaining friendships while suffering from Multiple Sclerosis can be extremely difficult, enough that I’ve spoken before about how MS can turn friends into strangers and strangers into friends. While it’s common for people to discuss how they’ve lost friends because of their disease, we don’t often speak about consciously removing friends from our lives for the same reason. I have found myself talking to certain friends less and even unfollowing them on social media of late because seeing and hearing about their lives saddens me.

The life I expected to live

Who am I talking about? The friends that are always taking trips, that are always out, that are starting or having families. The ones whose lives are going the way I thought and hoped my life would go. For a while, I admit, I experienced feelings of jealousy. I’m not proud of that, but I admit it. I was jealous that longtime friends were living the life I expected to live. I was jealous that they still had their careers, that they could go and enjoy a baseball game on a hot, sunny afternoon, that they travel, and date, and do everything without the giant weight of an incurable illness weighing them down. I was happy for them, but I was also jealous. I desired what they had so very much.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Busy Being Sick



“He doesn’t work, he looks fine, I wonder what he does all day?” That’s a question I’m sure people have often asked or at least thought about me the past few years. I would probably wonder the same if I didn’t know me. Sometimes, I think the people that do know me wonder that as well. Honestly, as time passes, I’ve caught myself thinking that, too – What do I do? What have I been doing? Well, when I’ve thought about it, I’ve been busy being sick. Many people have a hard time understanding that having a chronic illness can actually be a full time job.

What if we just chill?

Recently when I had to, yet again, bail on plans, I had a friend say they’d come over and just chill with me on the couch instead… to which I said I couldn’t. I think they were perplexed and even a little offended that I said no to the offer. While there are times that might work out, the truth of the matter, is that when I cancel on something or say I can’t come out, I’m not just sitting at home laying on the couch watching TV like a grade schooler who stayed home sick for the day. There may be moments that are like that, but when I bail on plans or otherwise say I can’t come out, it’s not exactly that much of a picnic. Generally, wherever I am (bed or the couch), I’m likely struggling to get comfortable, moving from spot to spot. Alternating twisting and turning, sitting and standing, trying to somehow to get relief as pain and spasms shoot through my body.  If that’s not the case, I’m likely fatigued, which is not the same as tired. It literally becomes hard to move, hard to speak, hard to make it to the restroom or even change the channel. I may not have those issues the entire time, or I might, it’s unpredictable. Point is, I’m not exactly good company to others. I also feel pretty awkward with others seeing me like that.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Body Image


Body image. Almost everyone worries about how they look, it’s just human nature. But, in today’s society with perfection surrounding you on social media, it’s even easier to get caught up in being consumed with how you look. Having a disease like MS, where your body doesn’t always function the way it shouldand subsequently can affect the way you look, having a positive body image can prove difficult.

All I can see is everything negative


I began having pretty significant issues with my body image and self-esteem at the ripe old age of 12, so right around puberty. Pretty normal, right? I was just like any other preteen girl with low self-esteem until I was diagnosed with MS at 14 and those feelings amplified. I’ve never been a huge fan of what I’ve seen in the mirror. It doesn’t matter if I’ve been told I’m the most beautiful girl in the world that day – when I look in the mirror, 90 percent of the time I am unhappy with what I see. I feel like even on days that I’m feeling good and pretty confident that as soon as I look into the mirror it’s like a black fog comes and all I can see is everything negative about myself. And one day it clicked. I find that a lot of the negativity I feel towards my body image is attributed to MS.

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Lies vs. the Truth


MS likes to feed lies to me daily. And I know I can’t be the only one. So, today I wanted to remind you of the truth. Remind you to stop believing the lies that MS likes to whisper in our ears. These lies can manifest in our minds quickly, but it’s up to us to stop accepting them and to shoot them down.

Lie number one: You are not enough.

I feel this way a lot. I’m not good enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not strong enough. A big part of MS for me is that it affects my self-esteem. I look in the mirror, and I don’t like what I see. I don’t like the tremors that have caused me to want to hide in shame. I don’t like the lines and wrinkles from the worry and stress of what’s to come. I don’t like the dents in my stomach and upper thighs from years of injections. The list goes on. But, each day when I look in the mirror, and I am fed the lie “You are not enough,” I try to beat that thought down before it even reaches the surface completely. And, I tell myself these truths instead:

The truth: I AM enough

I am beautiful in my own way; I am smart, and heck yes, I am strong! My tremors are visible and embarrassing, but they WILL NOT define me. Those lines and wrinkles? Those dents from injections? They’re my battle scars. They show that for my young age, I’ve fought hard to get where I am today. They show that although I’ve been through some low times, I have fought my way back up, and I have had to endure pain to maximize my overall health.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

SOME BENEFITS OF LIFE WITH MS



When it comes to thinking, and even writing, about life with Multiple Sclerosis, it’s incredibly easy to focus on the negatives. I know I personally cover a lot of unpleasant topics, not because I’m pessimistic, but because I feel they need to be talked about. I also feel that when someone else reads about what they are going through from someone who has experienced it, it can be comforting, and even a positive experience. All of that said, I think it’s important to remind myself, and others, that it isn’t all doom and gloom. That life with MS has had some positives for me, too.

Appreciation


Living with Multiple Sclerosis for so much of my life has really taught me to appreciate even the smallest parts of it. I really feel like I wouldn’t really appreciate life this much had I not had so much taken from me. There is just something about having your life so uprooted by something out of your control that helps you recognize and love the small things. Living with a condition that may make you wake up one morning unable to walk really makes you appreciate everything from a small breeze to a cold beer. I’m not sure I’d be as appreciative had I not had this disease (I certainly wasn’t before I got it), so that’s something I can be thankful for.