A Valuable Lesson Taught to Me by My Fine Motor Skills
Last updated: November 2023
An unfortunate reality of multiple sclerosis (MS), for many of us living with it, is that over time it may take things away from us. Things like the ability to run, ride a bike, drive a car, or even clearly see the world around us. Sometimes this can literally happen overnight, but other times the process of losing an ability takes place slowly over years. In the time since I was diagnosed, my fine motor skills have slowly deteriorated, introducing new limits into my life. Limits that when tested, as I recently learned the hard way, can cost you $70 in a matter of seconds.
Before MS: The DIY days
Growing up I loved two things, I loved art and I loved taking things apart to see how they worked inside. As a child, I always had a crayon or pencil in my hand. When I was in high school I did a lot of drawing, writing, and a little painting. I also became interested in practical special effects used in movies so I learned to sculpt and make molds for latex prosthetics and masks. I also started working on motorcycles/dirt bikes, small engine repairs, woodworking, building and repairing computers for my neighbor's business, and every 'Do It Yourself' project you can think of. I pretty much did a little of everything.
After MS: The slow decline of fine motor skills
In 2010, when I was 20 years old, I was diagnosed with MS. I got my first taste of how my body, something I’ve used all my life without even thinking about, could just stop working the way it always had. One of the first symptoms of my initial relapse was a loss of fine motor skills.
At first, I noticed that I was having a really hard time playing the piano and guitar, typing, and even writing my name with a pencil. This got better with time but after each relapse I would eventually experience, my fine motor skills got a little worse. I still tried taking care of all the DIY projects I could but I slowly found myself needing help to do many of the things I had always been good at. However, my pride often kept me from asking for help until after I was completely sure I couldn’t do it on my own.
A great escape
I don’t play a lot of video games but growing up they were always a big part of my life. There is one series I’ve played and followed since 1998 (probably because it's such a great nostalgic escape from reality) and the latest addition to this series was due to release in 2023. I was definitely excited, so I decided to treat myself to a new controller I wanted specifically for this game. I picked up this new controller about a month in advance of the game’s release. I was so excited!
A pricey but valuable lesson
However, my excitement was quickly put on pause once I began testing it. The all-black design and low-profile buttons quickly posed an unexpected problem. Thanks to my diminishing fine motor skills, poor proprioception, and a very slight loss of sensation in my fingers, I couldn’t quite tell if I was even pushing the right buttons! So, I decided to modify the controller a bit to improve its accessibility. This wasn't unfamiliar territory; not only had I taken small electronics apart for repairs in the past, but I’ve modified several controllers just like this.
As I meticulously disassembled the controller, I noticed that its components were a little more intricate and compact than I remembered them being. I hesitated, wondering if I should try to get some help, but my determination to do this on my own was being fueled by my stubborn pride. Most of the modifications proceeded smoothly, but just as I was about to finish and close everything up, I accidentally broke a small connection off the motherboard. There was a time that I could easily re-solder this but that’s one of many skills MS has robbed me of. So just like that, in a quick second, my brand new $70 controller I thought I would soon be using to play a long-awaited game, was useless. Poof.
The real cost of not knowing your limits
This self-induced misfortune was very disappointing, but I’m glad it happened. It made me realize how important it is to know the limits of your MS and what can happen if you test them. Losing a little cash sucks, but in many other situations, the cost could be much higher. Thinking so stubbornly about what I think my limits are in other instances could very easily result in serious injury or worse, and that is one of my main takeaways from this. I really should have known better. I decided to keep this broken controller displayed on a shelf to serve as a reminder of how important it is to be aware of my limits and what can happen if I test them.
What I learned from this mistake
It’s extremely frustrating to lose the ability to do something you’ve always been really good at. It’s even more frustrating to know you lost it because of MS. However, the reason I wrote this was to focus on, how simply breaking a little toy made me realize how important it is to always be aware of the limits MS has given you. How in other situations, those limits could lead to a mistake with much greater consequences. Now I see the limits MS has introduced to my life not just as “what I can’t do anymore” but as, “what the possible consequences of ignoring those limits are.” Something I’m really glad to be aware of now.
What about you? Have you had to learn the hard way why it’s important to know the kinds of limits MS has given you? Share your stories in the comments below!
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