On the Move with MS: Yet Another New Normal?

Note: This advice is mostly for ambulatory people with MS. If you use mobility aids, you’re better off making others do the heavy lifting!

My husband’s mother grew up in Germany. Both have been known to say immer etwas Neues —“always something new”— during times of change or stress.

The stress of relocating

Relocation doesn’t end with the flattening of that last cardboard box. Even after the last load drops at your new place, the changes and stress persist.

Living in a new place generates a fresh set of feelings, fatigue, and forgetting (see my plan for this in part 2!) for people with MS.

Always something new to adjust to

Some surprises I’ve encountered:

The new heating system's impact on my core temperature

We all know that people with MS must manage a healthy core temperature. I often say my thermostat’s broken (sound familiar?).

Well, we went from manual whole-house heat pump and air conditioning to a digital ductless system in two main rooms with wall heaters elsewhere and a gas fireplace.

Let's just say: it’s been a learning curve. Sometimes I sweat profusely and don’t know how to shut the heat off. Other times, I awaken to rooms in the high 50s, with floors ice-cold and tomb-like, something my MS and RA-affected feet don’t appreciate.

It’s a trial and error process, but it’s getting better.

The new flooring's affect on my feet and gait

My previous home was carpeted, with a few hardwood floors. Now it’s mostly tile and vinyl planking — beautiful, but hard on my body. I can’t stand anywhere for too long before my feet start barking.

Having really cold flooring doesn’t help either (see "New heating system"), but slippers are, well, slippery, and they mess with my gait, and then I really feel it in my hips and neck.

Thick socks with bottom treads on the bottom (like you get in the hospital?) seem to be doing the job now.

Different healthcare provider access

I must travel at least 30 minutes to see my doctors now. I missed my neuro checkup last week because of a snow-and-ice event. He won’t return to that satellite clinic until July. Instead, I must go into the Big City: a five-hour round trip, not counting the actual doctor visit.

That’s going to take some adjustment. Have you ever driven in Seattle traffic? (Scared face emoji!)

Exhaution of unpacking

When I see unpacked boxes stacked in my office, I dread facing yet more decision-making. This exhausts me. So I've instituted the “one box” entry in my daily Google calendar. One box simply means, “go unpack one box.” Unpack and click the task complete! Slowly but surely, the stack is shrinking.

I can’t find anything (Albertson’s edition)

When I hit the grocery store, I can’t find things easily anymore. I stand in the aisles, exhausted, the sheer load of sensory stimulation exacerbating my fatigue. I’m back to using a shopping cart as a walker, but it’s all good. I know this, too, will get better.

You already know about the "New Normal"

We of the MS tribe may be resilient, strong, and capable of great things! But we aren’t superheroes — we’ll need help and self-care for the emotional, physical, and cognitive challenges we might experience while moving.

I’m glad I survived the carrying and lifting portion of the moving process — thanks to a TENS unit, baclofen, Advil, and a massage therapist. Please don't "power through" your move; I had help and practiced self-care and highly recommend both!

As you sift through the flotsam and jetsam of moving, you’re going to be tired, cranky, and unsettled. It’ll take time to find that "New Normal". But remember, after diagnosis, you probably didn’t discover your New Normal for a while. But you eventually did.

After a move, you’ll find New Normal again.

Trying not to stress about what's out of my control

We still haven’t sold our house, but I won’t obsess over that. I’m here, now, in this lovely new place. That’s where I’ll spend my energy. After all, some things in life aren’t within our control. In this case, it’s the winter, with snow, ice, and rain and, now, landslides in today’s forecast. If someone even looks at our house right now, it’ll be a miracle.

My tips for reducing anxiety

To reduce this anxiety, I:

  • Put my fate in the hands of the universe and simply do what I can.
  • Celebrate mastering an unfamiliar produce section at the local store.
  • Applaud every time I unpack a box!
  • Smile at the new blooms on the camellia plant just outside my office window.
  • Remember that, seven years ago, I said immer etwas Neues while adapting to my MS diagnosis.

I wish you luck with your move and hope I’ve helped in some small way.

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