A woman peers over her shoulder at an empty closet of hangers.

My Free Pass Has Been Revoked

It appears the obligation-free summer I’ve enjoyed is coming to an abrupt end. I work in education and for 23 years I have been on an academic calendar, meaning when the students are gone, so am I. It was a great schedule for when my children were young because it meant I would be off work when they were out of school. Now that they are well past school age, that break means a different thing – it’s a chance for me to regroup, reenergize, or even just retreat and do nothing. With multiple sclerosis as my companion these days, the do-nothing in the summer approach can be the most appealing but can also have dangerous effects on my health.

Letting the healthy routine start to slip

As the spring season began, I mentally started my break a bit earlier than usual and stopped many of my usual routines, and returned to some old habits. It may have begun even a bit earlier when I took that last serious fall in late winter and required a few days off work to allow the bruising to subside – looking back I now see that fall took me off my stride and began another descent into the land of complacency.

Excuses not to exercise

I pretty much stopped exercising, even though I was still registered for classes. I attended when I felt like it and not on their regular schedule. There was always a convenient excuse to remain at my desk at lunchtime, rather than get up and move. I took on more after-work obligations, even though I realized they would conflict with my evening Tai Chi class, but I really didn’t care. I thought to myself, 'I could always do it on my own at home', but I didn’t.

Poor food choices

Deep down I knew I was making the choice to abandon these healthy activities, didn’t I? We ate out in restaurants or dined on quick carry-out dinners frequently and had fewer home-cooked, healthier meals. Cooking takes energy and the less I exercise, the less energy I have – it’s that vicious cycle that MS can put many of us into and can be so hard to break.

Summer has been kind in so many ways – we were able to travel extensively, including a wonderful trip to the Pacific Northwest region and their great cool-climate while our home town was baking in 90-degree heat. The United States is a beautiful country and there is so much to see and such good regional specialties and drink to indulge in, and we did our share of sampling the food and adult beverages in a variety of locales.

The reality of my decisions

The dreaded date to return to work is looming and I took a good look in my closet for what I might have to wear. Just like children do preparing for school by getting new clothes, most of us who work in education go through the same ritual, making sure what we have is appropriate and still fits. My feet haven’t grown so unfortunately, I won’t need new shoes, which according to my husband is something I have too many of already.

This time the indulgences of not exercising and the excess eating has appeared in my waistline and is obvious when I can’t button those pants or that favorite top hugs so tight it makes me appear 4 months pregnant, and at my age, I can’t pass off my weight on that possibility. A quick shopping trip, buying some pieces in a larger size, and my credit card can remedy this clothing problem. But it seems I have another problem that is going to require a different approach.

Other health concerns

The other back-to-school routine I follow is an annual physical with my Primary Care Physician (PCP). It may seem silly to see her when I am not sick, but it gives us a chance to review my medical care from the various specialists and make sure we have not overlooked anything. It is way too easy to focus all the health care on multiple sclerosis and my central nervous system and overlook all the other body systems. She immediately notes that I was due for some blood work, and I consented to donate a few vials at that visit. I got the follow-up call from the PCP office on Friday, letting me know my cholesterol was pretty good, and everything else was in normal range except, she would like me to do an A1C test early next week because my blood glucose levels were elevated.

A wake up call

Just like the return to work date, I knew this time was coming but was doing my best to ignore it - the carefree days of summer have come back to haunt me and the free pass I convinced myself I had has been revoked. Hiding behind my MS, becoming complacent, and allowing the rest of my health to decline has come back to bite me. No amount of quick fasting will bring down my sugar levels by next week to a range that won’t demand some serious intervention because the A1C test magically looks at the long-term average sugar levels and not just a few days. The day of reckoning is here.

Getting back to healthy routine with MS

So next week, not only will I return to work wearing new clothes, but I will also return to sensible eating and reasonable exercise. The carefree days of summer and convincing myself that I had a free pass to do what I want are over. If you have any tips on how you keep doing what you know you should be doing, I would love to hear them.

Wishing you well,


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