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Always Making a Conscious Effort is Exhausting

Always Making a Conscious Effort is Exhausting

For so much of my life, most of what I did was just second nature to me, as it is to most other people. When I wanted to get up off the couch and walk to the kitchen, I didn’t have to think about each physical step required to get there, I just walked. Not anymore though; now I am constantly aware of each step; the position of my heel and toes, the angle of my ankle, what direction my torso is leaning, how tense my core muscles are, where I intend to be in time and space after each step, and so on. The simple act of walking is made up of so many intricate moving parts, and usually, people don’t even notice them.

Having to think about every little thing

These tiny movements are second nature, things that our brain works on behind the scenes so that we don’t actually have to think about them. But so many of the things that my brain used to take care of on its own are now up to me to make a conscious effort to keep working properly. If I don’t take “manual control” over my body, chances are my “autopilot” will totally fail and cause me to trip and fall. This doesn’t just apply to walking though, it seems to apply to everything I do from the moment I wake up till the moment I go to sleep. It’s exhausting! Having to think about every little thing I do… I can’t imagine that this is not a major contributing factor to my fatigue!

The simple act of holding a glass

Now, walking is one thing. In fact, I can even see how someone could read what I just said and think, “well, yeah, if you have become more physically disabled I can see how walking could require more of an effort, but at least you can still walk,” and yeah, I am grateful that I can, even if it requires more effort. But here is another one that I am pretty sure a lot of people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) can relate to: the simple act of holding something in your hand. Let’s say it is just a glass of water. Most people could stand it the kitchen with a glass of water in their hand and carry out a conversation with someone without even thinking about how they are holding the glass. I’m not saying they aren’t aware that they have a glass in their hand, I’m saying they probably aren’t thinking about how they are physically holding it; how a certain amount of strength is required to be able to grip that glass hard enough to not drop it while not so hard that it cracks in their hand. I feel like I can’t give someone my undivided attention when I have to make such a conscious effort to keep that glass in my hand.

It’s really frustrating

So, you will almost never see me holding a glass that doesn’t have a handle, because so often when I am holding an object (such as a glass or a bottle of pills) in my hand, I will randomly just let go and watch it fall to the floor. Picking up a bunch of pills off the floor really sucks, but not like cleaning up a mess of wet glass that just exploded across the floor. It’s really frustrating because I can watch it happen; I can be looking at my hand holding an object, and then just let go of it as if the “wire” carrying the signal from my brain to my hand instructing it to hold on tight was just randomly cut. I almost always have to think, “don’t let go, don’t let go, hold on to it, don’t drop it” when I am holding something so that I don’t lose my grip on it. This is mentally exhausting, so I tend to just avoid holding on to anything that I wouldn’t mind dropping so that I can help lighten the load on my brain. In computer terms, it feels like my CPU (brain) is always working at 100% and never gets a chance to just relax.

Too much input

Another way I imagine a lot of what I have to do is like I’m flying a helicopter. I obviously don’t know how to fly a helicopter or a plane, but I imagine that in more modern vehicles of the sky, a computer handles a lot of the work so that the pilot can focus on what’s important instead of every single little gauge. But in the vehicle that is my body, I feel like I am sitting in a cockpit full of hundreds of tiny gauges that are both feeding me inaccurate data as well as spinning out of control and somehow I have to figure out what they are all trying to tell me so that I can keep my body from crashing. There is just too much input! I can’t keep up with all the data, interpret what it is trying to tell me, and keep myself functioning smoothly so instead, I inevitably will (from time to time) trip over my own feet or drop whatever I am holding because constantly trying to make a conscious effort to do the things that I never had to think about doing before is just exhausting! Talk about multitasking!

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Comments

  • katrina
    1 year ago

    Yes!
    Thanks for article.

  • meghmacn
    1 year ago

    So much yes! This covers a lot of my experience, too. It’s difficult to explain to people how much thought goes into the little things.
    For example, I have had to tell friends and coworkers that I’m not being rude or evasive, but I cannot walk, talk, and look at them. Too much input, too high a fall risk.

  • Matt Allen G author
    1 year ago

    people joke about not being able to walk and chew gum but for me? Well, sometimes that is a reality!..

  • Jessie
    1 year ago

    Great article – thanks for putting into words one of the frustrations of having MS! I couldn’t agree more.

  • Farmer
    1 year ago

    Thanks so much for this articulate explanation of the overload that makes each day such a mine field to navigate. I am always saying that I can not walk and talk at the same time. I always get a chuckle. But I really mean it! I have to choose. Walk or talk. Walk then talk. Talk then walk. Choices.

  • Matt Allen G author
    1 year ago

    Yeah my ability to multitask is GONE (not that I was very good at it to begin with). For me I would say I don’t really walk AND talk but rather I walk THEN talk; one thing at a time.

  • LuvMyDog
    1 year ago

    I was diagnosed with MS nearly 37 years ago. I thought I had a few problems then…. but add in old age, injuries from falling more times than I can remember, worn out hips, knees, shoulders and compression fractures in my spine. Then, add in stomach ulcers, IBS, gall stones and depression. Aahh yes, talk about exhausting! I never in a million years would have thought I would be in so much pain, mentally and physically but, here I am. But you know what?? There are people who are worse off.

  • Matt Allen G author
    1 year ago

    Yeah whenever I feel like I just can’t do something I remind myself that there is ALWAYS someone out there who is worse off yet they can STILL take care of business. There always seems to be a way even if *I* can’t think of it on my own.

  • Azjackie
    1 year ago

    It is exhausting. There are a lot of things I’ve modified: cleaning one room per day rather than the whole house, pulling weeds I wear knee pads so I can crawl in the rocks, wheeling my walker and trading to the push mower to mow the lawn. But then I think when will the modifications stop working?

  • Matt Allen G author
    1 year ago

    Yeah I have made so many modifications like that in my life and eventually they DO stop working at which point you have to re-modify them. MS seems to require a neverending process of adaptation!

  • mmcclaskey
    1 year ago

    After cleaning up shattered glass a few times I realized the greatness of plastic mugs with handle.

  • Matt Allen G author
    1 year ago

    I always gran plastic when I can whether it is a mug, bowl, or plate. I even prefer plastic utensils over metal ones (sometimes).

  • J R
    1 year ago

    Great article!

    It’s so many additional steps. When I was reading the glass in the hand I was visualizing but what am I going to do with the glass WHEN I have to set it down quickly or what if I drop the glass is there a towel near by and OMG is this a nice piece of furniture should I be standing somewhere else?

  • Matt Allen G author
    1 year ago

    Yeah I should have mentioned that; I run SO MANY different scenarios through my head so that I can have a gameplan ready for whatever might happen!

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