Living with M.S.

"Living with M.S. is sort of like training for a long race. The harder you try, and the longer you keep at it, the stronger you become.
Eventually, looking back, you may be amazed at the power you possessed, even when you had no idea it was within your reach." (Linda Ann Nickerson)

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Somebody stop me. I've done too much. Again.

Yikes. It’s only the first day of December, and I am already overspent. I’m not even talking about the checking account. It’s my energy bank.

(If you live with multiple sclerosis, you know exactly what that means.)

I’m overdrawn.

  • Maybe it’s because I have run (at least 3-4 miles a day and often more) on seven of the past ten days.
  • Cooking and hosting Thanksgiving this year, and then spending the rest of that weekend pulling out and putting up holiday decorations is likely another contributing factor.
  • Darting about town to do a bunch of extra errands for holiday shopping and craft supplies could have drawn me down a bit too.
  • Constructing and sewing seven children’s toys for Christmas might have something to do with the spasms my back is now feeling.
  • Wrapping presents for a couple dozen extended family members took some wherewithal as well.
  • Participating in out-of-the-house evening events on three of the past four nights may bear some blame – even though all of these were fun, and I wouldn’t have missed them.
  • Looking forward to going out for hearty holiday happenings on three of the next four nights might play a part.
  • Did I mention I had to play a little catch-up to meet my end-of-month writing quotas?

Are you getting tired, just reading all that?

Please don’t misunderstand. None of these are negatives. I willingly signed on for all of these endeavors and actually enjoyed doing them.

I love the Christmas season.

But I’m a little spent.

That’s how MS works. It’s an up-and-down, back-and-forth, give-and-take sort of life. It’s nearly impossible to predict how much energy will be available on any given day, but we know we are supposed to manage that resource wisely and try not to run out before the end of each day.

Only it doesn’t always work that way. Especially during the holiday season, when so much fun is there to be had.

I think it’s time to pull back from the front lines and plug into the things that recharge me – at least for an hour or two.

Know the feeling?

I’ll be back, once I get my gusto restored.
 Koala in Tree - Pixabay

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Ever want to put on a mask and just hide from the world?

Maybe a masquerade isn’t always child’s play.

Halloween is nearly here, and masks are in vogue. Scary and silly masks fill store displays. People of all ages put them on for fun.

Masks invite us all to make believe we are someone (or something) we are not. Maybe we pretend to be spooky figures, wild beasts, or comical characters. Generally, it’s all in good fun – or so folks say.

That’s not what I mean here about putting on masks.

Psychologists like to talk about masks as emotional defense mechanisms. Perhaps people put on figurative masks to hide their feelings, store their internal secrets, or feign positivity when they don’t really mean it. Sure, mental health experts make a valid point.

But that’s not it, either. Not for the MSer.

When the MS MonSter attacks, sometimes the MS warrior may want simply to slip on a mask and go through the motions of life without having to explain or engage. Although we’ve been told countless times on our best days, “You don’t look sick,” we have days when we glance in the mirror and see death warmed over.

Our foreheads crinkle. Our brows bend downward on the sides. Our smiles droop into frowns. Our heads drop, putting even more pressure on our already aching necks and backs. Our shoulders slump. We may look a whole lot older than our years, at least for a stretch.

You get the point.

Then, if we do drag ourselves out and about, we inevitably run into all manner of colleagues, family members, friends, neighbors, or others.

“How are you?” they ask. But they don’t really want a rundown.

So we simply answer, “Fine, and you?” Then we shuffle along, wishing we’d avoided the whole interaction, so we wouldn’t have had to lie about how we really feel.

Some days, a mask is just what the doctor ordered. It’s easier to be anonymous when we’re under the weather. 

 Vintage photo / public domain

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Who wants to exercise when your head is pounding?

Headaches and multiple sclerosis often go hand in hand, so to speak. (Sure. Tell us something we don’t already know.) And, even though MS may make exercise extra challenging, experts often suggest that physical activity may alleviate certain types of headaches.

How many of us have groaned to hear doctors nag us about exercising more to ease our agonizing pounding heads?

“Thanks, Doc. I’ll get back to you on that.”

I’m not saying physicians need to pull out their prescription pads every time we have headaches. It’s pretty easy to see why adding more medicines isn’t always the answer. But maybe exercise isn’t the fix-all for all varieties of headaches, either.

When your head is throbbing, isn’t exercising just about the last thing you feel like doing?

Maybe it helps with tension headaches. Hey, working up a head of steam might burn off some stress. An all-out workout may not fit the bill, but a walk around the block, a gentle bike ride, or a few sets of chair calisthenics might do the trick.

Endorphins increase with exercise (even moderate exercise). That’s what makes runners keep coming back for more. Endorphins make us feel better, and they even help to reduce pain. Maybe that's why a little exercise actually can help with headaches caused by tension.

But what about other kinds of headaches?

Will exercise actually alleviate these?

  • brain freeze headaches (eg, ice cream headache)
  • caffeine withdrawal headaches
  • cluster headaches
  • dehydration headaches
  • dental-related headaches
  • drug rebound headaches
  • encephalitis headaches
  • fatigue headaches
  • flu headaches
  • food sensitivity headaches
  • hangover headaches
  • hormone headaches
  • hypertension headaches
  • injury-related headaches
  • meningitis headaches
  • migraine headaches
  • overexertion headaches
  • post-spinal-tap headaches
  • pregnancy headaches
  • seasonal headaches
  • sinus headaches
  • sleep apnea headaches
  • spinal headaches
  • TMJ headaches
  • tumor headaches
  • vision-related headaches
  • weekend headaches

Maybe you can think of a few additional types. Some say there are at least 150 kinds of headaches. Well, whaddya know? That’s a head-scratcher. (Sorry, had to.)

Many of these sorts of headaches can signal serious medical conditions or even health emergencies. If a sudden excruciating headache shows up, particularly an unfamiliar kind of brain pain, it’s a good idea to contact the doctor.

But for most of us (especially MSers), headaches can be all too familiar complaints.

I get it. When the worst kind of headache hits, all I really feel like doing is crawling under the covers in a dark, well-ventilated room to sleep off the attack. Exercising is the last thing on my mind then.

But, when the headache finally passes, the pain-free relief makes me want to run and dance and skip and jump for joy. Until that flurry of activity sets off another episode.

 Adapted from public domain artwork
1890 lithograph by J. Williamson

Feel free to follow on GooglePlus and Twitter. Please visit my Amazon author page as well.
You are invited to join the Kicking MS to the Curb page on Facebook and the Making the Most of MS board on Pinterest.
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