I go to my MS specialist every six months. At each appointment, we go through the same routine: check my strength, test my reflexes, finger to nose, have my eyes follow the doctor’s finger, walk heel to toe, etc. I do pretty well on most of these tests, but walking heel to toe gets me every time. No matter how hard I try, I can never quite do it successfully. And by the end of each neurological test, I can’t help but think that if I’m ever pulled over and given a standard sobriety test, that I will probably fail. It won’t matter that I haven’t had any alcohol, but MS can make us all have symptoms of drinking. Not to mention, when I get pulled over I get incredibly nervous, so I’ll probably already look suspicious! Has anyone else ever realized the similarities of our neurological testing with field sobriety tests?
Horizontal gaze nystagmus test
The standardized field sobriety test is three tests that they perform during a traffic stop. The first test they administer is called the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. Primarily, they look to see if you can follow an object with your eye smoothly and without jerking. It is much like the eye test we do when we go to our MS appointments, where we follow the physician’s finger with our eyes, keeping our head still.
Walk and turn test
The second test is the walk and turn test. Again, something we do at our MS visits. This is the one I know I would inevitably fail. In this test they look to see if you can keep your balance while taking nine steps, touching heel to toe, in a straight line. Just call me drunk already, officer, I can’t do this one. Heel to toe gets me every time. The third and final test is the one leg stand test. In this test, you are to stand with one foot in the air as you count aloud until you’re instructed to put your foot down. Again, I probably wouldn’t be successful. All of these are identical or very similar to things we do at our MS appointments. All of these things are done to see if we physically pass the test so they can assess if things are progressing or not.
Moments that mimic being drunk
I’m not a huge fan of the saying, “I’m not drunk, I have MS.” I don’t feel like we all look like a bunch of drunks. However, I do think that we have moments that mimic when we are drunk. Like for me, sometimes I stumble for no reason because I get off-balance. Or I stutter, and I’m unable to get my words out right. That’s ok though, now that I’m “out” with my MS, I don’t mind telling people, “Sorry, I’m having a rough MS day today” if necessary.
I know the truth
They can judge me all they want, and they can think I’m drunk, but I know the truth. We may stumble around and slur our words, and we may fail every test necessary to pass a field sobriety test, but we aren’t at fault - MS is. Honestly, I would take being blackout drunk and risk the worst hangover of my life just to get rid of MS. At least being drunk can be fun! Unfortunately, that’s not the case though, so I’ll just keep trying, and if for some reason I fail a field sobriety test due to MS, I’ll just hope and pray they don’t take me to jail! Ha!! What do you think, would you pass one?
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. We want to check in. How are you feeling?