MS and a Movie
I love movies. I love how they can be used to tell so many different types of stories and evoke so many different kinds of emotions, not only by how they are written but by how they are shot (angles, lighting, motion, etc), what kinds of sounds are used, the music, and so on. There are just so many pieces that have to go together to make a great film! A director has to look at all of those pieces and decide what the best way to put them together is in order to make the audience feel the way he/she wants them to feel. But when a director is making a movie and thinking about their audience, they are usually thinking about how the average individual will react to their film, not how the small percentage of viewers with (let’s say) Multiple Sclerosis (MS) will react.
Growing up wanting to make films
Growing up I was fascinated by the idea of making films. It seemed like my friends and I were always trying to make something worth watching with whatever camcorder we had access to. I would always do my best to watch any “behind the scenes” documentary that was airing about popular movies (be them action, horror, drama, or comedy), and of course, try to re-create what I had learned. In high school, I was determined to pursue a career in the movie industry, whether as a special effects make-up artist (the people who sculpt monsters and make latex prosthetics for actors) or as a writer/director. I was pretty passionate about it, but my life slowly moved in a different direction and eventually I gave up on that idea, especially after being diagnosed with MS at the age of 20 when I shifted my focus to writing. But I never lost my love for cinema and still enjoyed going to the movie theatre to see the latest releases. It was still such an experience, such an escape from reality; a way to momentarily leave the world I live in behind while slipping into a world that doesn’t exist, where the impossible is in fact possible.
The growing intensity of my symptoms changed that
But about 5 years into my life with MS that started to change. Because of the growing intensity of my symptoms like myoclonus, my poor vision, my shortened attention span, and even my balance (to name a few), I started to enjoy the experience of going out to see a movie less and less. For example, one of my favorite movie genres, when I was in high school, was horror but that was the first thing I crossed off my list of “things I want to watch,” because horror movies almost always contain sudden loud sounds in order to scare the audience. While there was a time where I would never even flinch while everyone else jumped and gasped, I now experience what feels like my diaphragm collapsing in on itself when I get a simple text alert on my phone! So the high pitched shrieking sounds in most horror films are now painfully unpleasant and my uncontrollably intense reactions to them leave me somewhere between extremely annoyed and angry which tends to distract me from the movie.
Feeling extremely disoriented
On top of that, staring at such a large screen full of so much motion messes with my vestibular system, leaving me feeling dizzy and sometimes a little sick, like I had been spinning in circles for an hour and suddenly stopped to try to walk in a straight line. Between that and the low light of a theatre, I have a hard time not bumping into the walls or falling on my face when leaving because even after I have left the dark theatre and entered the bright lobby, I feel extremely disoriented. For example, after the last movie I saw just a few weeks ago, I was entering the bathroom of the lobby and while trying to turn around to hold the door for someone walking in behind me, everything started spinning and I fell into the wall but before sliding to the floor I was able to catch myself on the trashcan. Awesome, he must have thought I was drunk!
Holding tightly to the railing
Whatever… but oh yeah, back to the actual theatre; walking down the steps in the dark after the credits have played is somewhat terrifying because I feel like I am trying to walk down a flight of narrow stairs with my eyes closed and the only thing I have to hold on to (so I don’t trip and fall) is a metal railing that who knows how many people have touched since the last time it was cleaned. In case you weren’t already assuming, I (like so many other people with MS) am immunocompromised, so I usuallydo everything I can to avoid germs! But there is not too much I can do about that in this situation other than carrying a bunch of hand sanitizer with me and apply it every time I touch something.
Making the sacrifice to see a good movie
So even though the experience of going to see a movie at the theatre is somewhat unpleasant now and usually results in me feeling utterly exhausted, I still try to just suck it up and go every now and then. Usually it’s because someone invites me to go with them, but sometimes it’s because a movie I have just been waiting forever to be released and I am dying to see has finally hit the box office. I mean, there are just some movies that have to be seen in a theatre, right?
How going to the movies has changed
Movies that are worth all the undesirable experiences I now associate with a movie theatre thanks to MS. Or is it just me? Am I the only one who will opt to see a movie while it’s in theaters instead of waiting for it to be released on DVD/Blu-ray because I feel this way about certain films? I can’t imagine I am, so share in the comments below how the experience of going to the movies has changed for you since being diagnosed with MS and what you have found to help you deal with any of the ill effects going to the movies may cause you, because in just a couple of weeks I’ll be off to see a movie that I have been waiting and waiting for to come out! Nothing will stop me from going to see this one, not even MS!
I have the hardest time with my MS during the following season: