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Four Ways to Help You Battle the Stress and Despair of Exacerbations

Four Ways to Help You Battle the Stress and Despair of Exacerbations

Selling our home. Moving. More renters than available inventory. Pressure to close. Pressure to find an acceptable new home. Squeezing three people and two cats from a large ranch into a tiny townhouse.

Sad. Tense. Frustrated. Anxious. Worried. Scared.


This is my life, reminding me of an old Broadway play: “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off!”

Enter an exacerbation

Enter an exacerbation. It’s been several years since I had one. I wasn’t the least surprised when it hit. The timing couldn’t have been worse. But really, when is a good time?

The day we moved my legs were numb, weak and fatigued. My stomach was tied in knots and my bladder was, well, a wholly mess. I couldn’t sleep. It was impossible to unclench my jaw. My head felt heavy from cog fog and the dizziness was full steam ahead. Yikes.

My neurologist ordered an MRI of the cervical and thoracic spine. Two hours of loud banging that even a pair of earplugs and headphones couldn’t silence. I never had trouble getting through MRI’s before but with the recent experience of serious tinnitus in my right ear all noises are amplified a hundred times over.

Note to Self: Make another appointment with an audiologist.

When it rains, it pours

When it rains, it pours, and this is my thunderstorm. Every corner I turn, there’s a boatload of unhappiness. I can’t find my umbrella.

How can I save myself from despair? How can I take back control of my body, mind, and spirit?

My usual positive-thinking self is stuck somewhere in the haze of cog-fog. Where is it? Wait, is that it floating toward me?

It’s slowly sailing my way. I’m in the first stages of feeling my left toes again. My balance is better and my cog fog is lifting. What helped me stay afloat while I was waiting?

1. Never sail your ship alone

Confide in people you trust. Family, friends, trusted colleagues, spiritual leaders, professional counselors. No one can go it alone. Talk about your situation to let your feelings out. If think you’re depressed or suicidal consult with a professional psychologist or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

2. Find your Utopia

Arrange time to relax and de-stress. Watch old movies, read a book, write in a journal, call a friend, take a bath. Do whatever helps you unwind and unclench your teeth.

3. Speak with your doctor

Whenever you’re experiencing an exacerbation speak with your MS specialist about what you’re going through. Make a list of what you want to talk about, including your symptoms. Speak to her by phone or make an office appointment. Discuss medications and/or alternative therapies. Don’t allow the conversation to end before all of your questions are answered.

4. Go easy on yourself

Stress happens! It’s a part of life that we can’t avoid. Don’t be hard on yourself if you’re experiencing a flare up. It’s not your fault, you have MS. No blame here. This is the time to go easy on yourself. Do whatever it takes to feel better. Prioritize what needs to be done and put off the rest until later. Your health is the most important thing in the world.

Holding onto hope

I’m no Pollyanna. I don’t expect anyone to bounce back to happiness and joy instantly. I’ve been in the depths of depression several times over the past 30 years of living with MS. It’s not easy to rebound; it’s unnerving and scary. But if we don’t hold onto hope, if we can’t give ourselves a chance to rest and if we won’t become mindful of our priorities then what do we have left?

Given a choice between joy and despair I think – no I hope – you’ll agree that joy feels so much better. I wish you good health and a full heart. Always.

“We don’t develop courage by being happy every day. We develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.” ~Barbara De Angelis

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • bstraiton
    12 months ago

    Such a wonderful article! Thank you for sharing with us!

    Downsizing is extremely difficult. We have to be moved out by July 1st. I’m praying we can still be in a 2 bedroom so my baby girl can still have her own room and that by some miracle my disability/SSI is finally approved after almost 3 yrs of being denied bc “you’re so young! You shouldn’t have any problems starting a new career or start school. You can walk correct? And you can think right? Maybe in another 10 years you may be approved or if you end up wheelchair bound then earlier perhaps.” All words spoken to me from either a lawyer or judge.

    This time around I think we may finally have a win tho . Been a significant change in my disease and symptoms over the last year. Went thro rebound disease which left me with a 33mm hole in my brain tissue. Ever since my body has been in reek havoc mode. Cognition has majority changed and my left arm has begun to tremor.

    Stress is my #1 contributor to constantly feeling like poo. Money and marriage problems make stress go sky high(prob my bp too‍♀️). MS is literally ripping my marriage to shreds after 16 years. I was the breadwinner, the “head of household” until I couldn’t work anymore about 3.5 yrs ago. My husband tries but he’s never been that type. If I didn’t have enough money to live as I wanted I just went and found a 2nd or 3rd job. The plan was for him to be the stay at home parent and me to go work once we had kids. Nope! Now I’m a workaholic that can’t work who’s also a sahm who has to be up and going every single day for my child. No days in bed or rest of any kind anymore.

    All the stress from that has lead to major depression and anxiety to take over. Plus after leaving a dangerous living situation last Oct I’ve now been diagnosed with PTSD. My child and Drs appts are the only thing I will leave the house for most times. If I have to go somewhere to be social I must take my anxiety meds to not be a ball of panic. It’s exhausting to say the least.

    Good luck with the move! Hopefully things will settle down soon once you’re unpacked and settled in.

  • sandydemop
    12 months ago

    I see this was written back in 2016 but the timing for sharing it or re-sharing it is perfect. Got bad news today and this article hits the spot. I called someone. Thank you very much.

  • skcullers
    3 years ago

    So sorry you’re in the rabbit hole. Also sad that afte 27 years of this I can totally empathize with you. We left yesterday to come to
    Hawaii to spend Christmas with our granddaughter and relate to everything you are feeling. Woke up this morning thinking this might be the last traveling I can do. Experiencing all the physical symptoms too. Isn’t it weird that we know stress is a killer for us but wham it smacks you upside the head anyways? Hope you got settled in. Fear the downsizing is coming soon for me too. Time of year is another challenge. So miss the fun energetic creative person I was during the holidays. Feel the loss of self harder always during the holidays.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    3 years ago

    Oh,I can feel your pain too, skcullers! It’s so palpable I can feel it through your words.

    Try to enjoy Hawaii as best as you can. What a wonderful experience for you and I hope you do get to enjoy yourself as best as possible.

    I agree with all you said, about stress and missing parts of our lives that MS takes away. But it’s also important, at least it is for me, to count the blessings we do have. Those sustain me through my darkest days. Your granddaughter, family and friends I’m sure are true blessings for you.

    Best to you and thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. It’s so nice to “meet” you.

    Cathy Chester

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