Two hands, one is knotted up and not working properly, the other is seemingly fine.

The Unparalleled Frustration of My MS Clumsiness

As I’m sure you know from the first-hand experience or from briefly speaking to just about any MSer, a multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis comes with no shortage of frustration. MS isn’t sparse in its variety of mental irritants either. Dealing with all the red tape in the healthcare industry? Frustrating. Trying to cope with the unpredictable nature of this incredibly dynamic chronic illness? Frustrating. Coming to terms with the fact that rebuilding yourself after the neurological destruction of an MS exacerbation often requires a copious amount of failure to produce a single win? Well, yeah, I guess you could say that’s a little frustrating.

But above all else, you know what has done a better job of expanding the creativity of my “sailor’s vocabulary”? The tiny, everyday mistakes I make that result from how clumsy MS has made me.

I’m a pretty patient guy, but...

Somewhere on my list of top 5 things that MS has taught me is patience. As is the case with anything that requires continuous medical care, nothing happens overnight. You’re pretty much always going to find yourself, at some point, sitting around twiddling your thumbs as you wait for some faceless office worker, that you will probably never meet in the entirety of your life, to process your paperwork, renew a prescription, or get you an appointment. It often feels like the entire freight train that is your life has to stop and wait at the station for some random guy to check a single little box on some seemingly arbitrary form.

It took time to acquire that patience

Doesn’t sound too difficult, you say? Well, imagine that you’re stranded on the side of the road on a hot summer day in California. It’s over 110 degrees outside, which means the asphalt you’re standing on is well-over 160 degrees! And for some unknown reason, you aren’t wearing any socks or shoes! Your feet are on fire! Oh, also, you have some mysterious injury that prevents you from sitting or lying down, so standing on the road is your only option.

OK, this is a pretty ridiculous hypothetical, but entertain me.

It's not easy to wait calmly

The next and the most obvious thing you do is pull out your phone and call up your shoe guy (as you do) who says he can have a pair of sneakers and burn-relief ointment airdropped to your location via helicopter but...it’s going to take 24-48 hours to arrive. Do you still think it sounds easy to calmly wait in place for the help you need? Because that’s kind of how it feels.

I had no choice but to exercise my patience

Well, eventually, I had no other choice but to learn to endure this MS-related frustration and just be patient. Because what other options did I have? So even though I was already patient to begin with, I gradually improved this monotonous life-skill. I became even better at putting up with all kinds of crap of the uncontrollable variety.

But I am not patient with myself

Unfortunately, my well-exercised patience doesn’t seem to extend to myself. Or is it my MS? No, it’s me...well, no... it’s my MS. OK, let me explain. Yes, I find it remarkably frustrating to receive a letter in the mail informing me that, for the second time, my insurance is denying my appeal regarding prescription coverage. However, I’ve come to accept that this is just “part of the game.” I just got to take a deep breath and try again. That, I can handle.

Surpassing the limit of my patience

But let me try to depict a situation in which I have, on more than one occasion, totally lost my cool. A situation that sometimes feels like no amount of patience could possibly allow me to respond proportionately.

It’s 6:30 in the morning, and I just finished brushing my teeth. I set my electric toothbrush on its little stand, and I reach for the small white cap to the tube of toothpaste I just used. I pinch it between my thumb and index finger, and a small part of my brain, for a very brief moment, experiences the feeling of success that you get when you finally grab a stuffed animal in the claw machine at the bowling alley.

“Yes! Got it!”

But you know what’s next...

A stupidly simple trigger

After successfully clasping my fingers around my “prize” like a boss, I start to lift it off the counter towards its home at the end of an unsealed tube of toothpaste and... I drop it. As I watch it fall in slow motion back towards the counter, I wonder how I could have possibly dropped it. I had such a firm grasp!

“Ugh, this hand is obviously rigged…”

Well, no big deal, it’s not like I don’t get another try, right? But then, still in slow motion, the cap makes contact with the counter, starts bouncing around a few times, and despite my best attempt to summon my pre-MS ninja skills, falls off the edge of the counter and into the little trashcan I keep in my bathroom.

Immediate frustration

Queue the audio clip of the dad from “a Christmas Story” shouting fake obscenities at the broken furnace in the basement: gerd-fergin-smit-fratten housestickle-rankin-flopper fingers!

It’s not you, it’s me...wait, no, it IS you

Rationally, I know that small, little things like that, making a mess when eating, or repeatedly failing to place a screw on the tip of a screwdriver (even though it’s magnetic) aren’t my fault. MS has done a lot of damage to my fine-motor skills and dexterity. So obviously, MS is to blame for these little mishaps, not me.

Before MS vs. after MS

So, I know I shouldn’t get so frustrated at myself. I know I shouldn’t feel like I’m struggling to do something because I apparently suck at it... because I know I don’t. I mean, before MS? I was freakin' amazing when it came to picking up toothpaste caps and screwing them back onto their tubes! But thanks to MS? Those days look to be a thing of the past.

I just can’t help getting frustrated at my clumsiness

I’m so clumsy now! And I get so frustrated with myself! Frustrated that I can’t do such simple things. Even though I know this is because of my MS and not me, I can’t help it. It’s such a regular thing for me to find myself cursing my own hands.

What about you? Is it just me?

Do you ever find yourself getting angry at your clumsiness despite knowing that MS is to blame and not you? What tips do you have for anyone feeling overwhelmed by not being able to physically do what they once could? For being so MS-clumsy? Share below!

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