On the Move with MS: Let the Confusion Begin!

Over the holidays, we relocated from our home of 20 years to another about 30 minutes away. We’re empty nesters and found an ideal home to enjoy in retirement last October and jumped on the opportunity.

A slow process

Instead of hiring movers, we commenced a “slow move,” going back and forth between homes—occasionally pulling a U-Haul—on December 2. We’re about 85 percent done with moving. It’s saved us a lot of money to do this, but even for a healthy person, living between and inside two homes at once can prompt confusion, stress, and fatigue.

Hitting a wall

These challenges only intensify for those of us with MS, thanks to ongoing deficits in executive function, strength, and stamina. It’s no joke to say I “hit a wall” more than once during this time.

I have no illusion that, after 90 days, we’ve completed our transition. I expect another 90 days to pass until we’re fully “home.” However, remarkably, I didn’t relapse during the move and exacerbations were minimal.

Some MS symptoms acted up

Sure, I experienced periods of MS hugs. Memory issues (where did I pack that Advil?) and “cog fog” cropped up now and again. I didn’t have the energy to decorate a Christmas tree until the 23rd; even then, I needed help. And I mistakenly double-purchased one gift, which I chalk up to being overwhelmed.

Prepare for the stress of uncertainty

Questions about when, where, and how begin the moment you make the decision to relocate, but they come with no hard and fast answers, only the free-floating anxiety of uncertainty.

Whether you’re buying or selling a home or changing addresses between rentals or live-in arrangements, external forces and demands for making this big life change will impose themselves on you.

Talk about stress! Ultimately, I’ve opted to roll with the punches. Life doesn’t stop just because you’re moving… and neither does MS. Don’t give it a chance to move in on you!

Tips to manage stress when moving homes

I worked to manage stress during this time as a strategy for fending off relapses. For instance,

  •  I pre-packed (or purged) items to declutter my home. That’s less stuff to move later!
  • I kept regular massage appointments, stuck to a ruthless sleep schedule, ate right, drank extra water, and took personal time away from work to reserve energy and free up brain space to stay focused.
  • We didn’t slack on housework in the event of last-minute realtor showings (and there’ve been several). I’d rather make my bed every day than stress about an unmade bed 15 minutes before prospective buyers walk through the door… wouldn’t you?
  • I rested whenever tired. Whether physical or mental, I took signs of fatigue as cues to slow down. An MS flare is the last thing anyone needs while moving.

Control what you can, let go of the rest

There’ll be a lot of things you’ll want to do, but can’t do, during the pre-moving stage. Shopping doesn’t make sense, for instance, because it’s just more stuff to move.

You might have to do a lot of “hurry up and wait” tasks when dealing with banks, realtors, and other actors in the relocation business. And social plans (already hard to keep, thanks to MS) will fall through in order to meet a cleaning crew today before tonight’s meeting with the realtor to prepare for the MLS photographer’s visit tomorrow.

Meticulous plans still fall through

Still, all the organizing in the world doesn’t guarantee you’ll achieve your best-laid plans.

In my case, the question of who would host Thanksgiving 2019 wasn’t truly answered until the Wednesday before! We’ve cooked the entire meal for 8 to 12 people since 1999. This year, we begged off early, unsure where we’d be by then. Through a series of unexpected shifts in family plans, we still ended up hosting what turned out to be a fun, if nontraditional, holiday pot luck… despite the fact that our holiday wares were already boxed in the garage. Luckily, we still had chairs, tables, and plates available.

Stay tuned

We've now settled in the new house. Granted, I’m still unpacking the odd box or hanging a random picture. The garden furniture and piano still roost at the old address, and birdfeeders remain empty on the porch.

(As for moving during the winter, I’m glad we did it because I love my new place! But I wouldn’t recommend it!)

Learning about my limitations and strenths

I’ve learned a lot about my limitations (and strengths!) while undergoing this transition. In future posts, I’ll share tips here at MultipleSclerosis.net for planning, packing, unpacking, and settling in while living with MS.

One caveat: My MS mostly strikes me with fatigue, cognitive symptoms, and spasms, but I can walk, lift things and drive. If you need mobility devices, have balance issues, or can’t operate vehicles, please hire professionals or ask friends for help every step of the way.

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