Jumping to Conclusions
Living with Multiple Sclerosis makes me hyper-vigilant of every little zap and ping in my body. MS is a chronic disease of the central nervous system and often manifests itself in ways that are invisible to outsiders, but those problems are known intimately to the person who lives with this disease. Balance, coordination, eyesight, fatigue, and cognitive struggles are some of the more common symptoms of MS.
I’ve never been one much for coordination or balance – my kindergarten teacher recommended to my parents I be retained for another year of development because I was unable to bounce a ball. I still can’t bounce a ball well, and as much as I want to blame my MS my lack of coordination probably has more to do with the development of my early skills of piano playing and reading books instead of hanging on the playground.
The decline in my eyesight started around 40 - is it just coincidental that it seemed my arm length grew shorter about that time, too. No longer could I hold the reading material further out to focus and I succumbed to reading glasses. If I had known back then that I had MS lurking, it would have been happy to blame it on this disease and not aging. I now own way too many pairs of reading glasses because I tend to take them off and forget where I put them. Cognitive problems from Multiple Sclerosis, such as keeping track of things or remembering important details is a good target to blame for forgetfulness. Never mind that every person I know of my age and even younger has the same complaint about forgetfulness and absence mindedness, but doesn’t have MS.
Perhaps MS has caused contracture of my muscles and joints - could that be why I have also lost almost an inch in height over the past 40 years? Certainly the extra pounds I am carrying around these days can’t be impacting my knees and hips – all that pain must be coming from weak hip flexors, a well known MS problem. I’m still looking for an MS excuse for the creaking and popping knee joints.
Fatigue is a fairly regular companion – but it seems everyone my age complains of being tired. I have no way to understand if their tiredness matches my fatigue since this is an invisible symptom. Fortunately for me, there are prescription drugs I can take for this fatigue that my friends without MS can’t easily or legally acquire.
So how do we figure out what is the fault of MS and what falls into life’s woes? Never mind that I am approaching 60 – age couldn’t factor into my physical decline, could it? Those pictures of smiling, active seniors on television and in print ads show me what aging gracefully looks like, so my slower pace, wobbly legs and overactive bladder must be from the MS, right? I would love to jump to the conclusion that what ails me all relates to my MS, but my days of jumping are long over - it would be more akin to jumping into a pitfall of conclusions.
It is so much easier to point a finger at MS rather than acknowledge that in addition to having a chronic disease, I am also aging. Do you sometimes have to remind yourself that other things can cause problems in addition to the MS and like me, you have to work hard to slow the desire to jump to the conclusion that Multiple Sclerosis is to blame for all that ails us?
Wishing you well,
Does your employer provide workplace accommodations due to your MS?