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)


Stress brings MS to excess

Can stress weigh you down and increase your risk of a multiple sclerosis exacerbation (if you have MS)? Can heightened anxiety, increased concerns, and emotional overload raise your risk for an MS flare-up?

You bet it can.

I’m there – right now. Fight as I might, the MS symptoms that plague me most often are raising a ruckus. And I’ve been here before. If you are an MS warrior, you probably have as well.

What’s the stress this time?

Here in the Upper Midwest, we’ve had a whirlwind of wild and weird weather. The latest onslaught has led to massive flooding, which basically wiped out my daughter’s house. The waters actually moved her one-story ranch home off its foundation. Because the structure has no basement, all of the rushing waters spilled right into the house itself, destroying furniture, appliances, and other contents.

Two semi-truck-sized dumpsters could not hold all of the discards.

Once the bulldozers remove the remaining ruined shell of the house, along with its cracked foundation, construction will begin on a replacement.

In the meantime, my adult kid is living in a camper in the driveway and looking out the window at her ruined property. We are trying to scrape together funds to help with the solution, which promises to be beyond all of our means. Insurance is balking at the claim. The federal government is taking its own sweet time to determine if this is a worthy disaster for any sort of loans or aid.

Someone from the county stopped by with a jug of bleach, a tub of cleaning wipes, and a spray bottle of disinfectant. We appreciate the gesture, but I’m not sure that will do the trick this time. The house has been inspected and declared “totaled,” “unsafe,” and “condemned.”

Her car was also ruined. The claims adjuster wrote up his report, offering a replacement sum that wouldn’t buy her a nice mountain bike, let alone a reliable car.

Can you say, “stress”?

Sure, my kid is reeling. Who wouldn’t be? Me too! I want to help her with all my heart. At the same time, I can almost see the MS MonSter, rearing his angry head and baring his nasty claws at me.

I’m feeling sick, even though I haven’t caught anything. The MS headache hurts from scalp to toes. My chest is tight. My ears are ringing. My gut hurts. I am slugging it out, trying like heck to stay strong. How can I help, if the MS MonSter knocks me off my feet?

Enough whining. 

Suffice it to say: I’m in overload mode. I would wager you’ve been there. You get it.

Yesterday morning, I showed up for a routine doctor’s appointment, only to find it was scheduled for afternoon instead. But I had promised to join my daughter for an on-site consultation. Fortunately, the doctor’s receptionist was kind enough to reschedule without extra fees. So there’s that.

It’s like I’m trudging along, carrying a backpack filled with rocks.

I have friends who actually like to practice a rigorous sport called rucking. Nope, not the rugby kind of rucking. These folks load up their backpacks (or rucksacks) with special metal plates (purchased in various weights) and carry them for miles on purpose. They do 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons, full marathons, and more.

This form of rucking is based on military training exercises. In the military, they ruck with full gear and boots.

One guy I know, who pursues rucking recreationally (in honor of a family member, who was a fallen veteran) recently toted a 65-pound rucksack and carried a large American flag for a full marathon across desert hills in the American Southwest. That’s 26.2 miles, if anyone is wondering.

Holey moley, right?

To me, “ruck” sort of sounds like a four-letter word, if you get my drift. I’ve spent enough time and money in the chiropractor’s office (and even in the hospital) to address neck and back issues related to past injuries and MS demyelination to want to jeopardize whatever spinal integrity remains.

But I get it. Facing difficult challenges is empowering.

OK, back to the rucking thing. I think I want to coin a new phrase: “emotional rucking.” That’s what I am feeling, right about now. Maybe you know the feeling.

When stress piles up, including both ongoing issues and pressing crises, it can add extra pounds to our proverbial backpacks. It drags us down, slows our steps, and can even make us ache all over.

I am extremely grateful that I have been able to pursue running, while battling MS.

At least, much of the time I can. It's an amazing stress-buster for me. I fully understand that MS often sidelines even the strongest of souls with physical attacks that bind them to canes, crutches, or wheelchairs. So far, I’ve been blessed with continuing mobility, although my stamina and balance can certainly suffer during exacerbations.

Like now.

Such times remind me that it’s only by God’s grace that I can walk at all. So, if I have to run a little slower or not as far – or if I even have to take a breather from my own fitness goals till my MS-fighting body settles down, then I’d better be smart about it.

Stress brings MS to excess. Symptoms flare. I can feel it. Maybe it’s time to put down the old rucksack till some of those heavy rocks fall out again.

Adapted by this user from Pixabay public domain image

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