MS & Routines: When Olivia Benson Isn’t On

Recently, I’ve come across a pretty rough disturbance in my life. The television network that normally broadcasts Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (SVU) on an almost daily basis has begun showing other programs when it normally airs this wonderful police procedural. While it still shows the crime fighting adventures of Olivia Benson and her elite squad that investigates vicious felonies that are considered especially heinous, it airs it much less frequently than it once did. What does that have to do with Multiple Sclerosis? Well, as I’ve been living with MS for close to two decades now, I’ve become extremely dependent on routine and familiar things in my life. Something as simple as expecting a familiar show to be on and it not being on is enough to throw me off. On the flip side of that, if I’m having a particularly rough day, this familiar show being on can actually help me in ways you wouldn’t expect.

How minor changes can affect me

I’ve written before about how familiar places and routines are important to me, but I wanted to again try to illustrate how what may seem like the most minor of changes can affect me. Talking about a television show not being on may seem crazy, particularly when I explain that I’m not talking about new episodes, I’m talking about reruns. Episodes that I’ve probably seen at least 8-10 times (or more) each. Adding to that oddity, all of these episodes are available on Netflix; if they aren’t being aired on the network, I could easily just pull them up and stream them. However, that won’t work for me. It’s simply not the same thing to me and most importantly, it’s not what I expected.

Expectation is a huge thing for me

Expectation is such a huge thing for me: if there are plans and something changes them, there are days when I simply can’t cope with the change. Which, wow, super ironic right? For someone who always has to cancel or change plans, to have difficulty when someone else does that very thing seems strange. The point I really want to make here, is that these expectations and planning extend to more than leaving the house. Something that seems minor, like a TV show (OK, come on, it’s a great TV show though) not being on when I expect it, is enough to make me feel out of sorts. An unexpected change like that is enough to cause me some serious anxiety. My anxiety and problems may not be about the show not being on itself, but may be caused by the expectation not being met. In addition to anxiety, I also start to have more than normal cognitive problems when a change like this happens.

Routine helps reset my brain

When SVU’s rerun schedule is more regular and frequent, it can actually have benefits for me. Wait a minute, a show about catching serial killers and rapists helps your disease? Yes, it helps me, just hear me out. I know it sounds odd, but because I’ve seen them all so many times, but it becomes extremely comforting to me when I am having a bad cognitive day. When I am having memory issues and feeling confused, relaxing while watching some SVU can be helpful. There have been days when I’ve forgotten what happens in an episode, despite seeing it over ten times. When I sit there, a lot of times it will come back to me or pieces will come back to me. Even if I do remember the episode, watching it again while having difficulty almost seems to help me reset my brain a bit. On top of that, even if it doesn’t help my cognitive issues directly, it’s extremely comforting to me because I’ve watched it so many times. That sounds incredibly odd, particularly given the show. For me, it’s SVU, but for you, it could be something else, maybe not even a TV show. The point is, engrossing ourselves in something extremely familiar is very beneficial when we are having a bad day, whether it’s a bad cognitive day or some other group of symptoms.

Grounding yourself in something familiar

I really didn’t intend to write this much about how Law & Order: Special Victims Unit affects my life with MS, but, here we are. I guess that helps illustrate how something so minor can actually be a big deal to someone with a chronic illness. Whether you are dealing with ramifications that can come with expectations not being met or trying to ground yourself in something familiar, the simplest of things can make a huge difference to someone like me.

Thanks for reading!

Devin

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