On the Move with MS: Plan for the 3 Fs

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!

Tips for relocating

I relocated over the holidays and want to share insights for those with MS facing the prospects of relocating in the near future.

I still haven’t relapsed, thankfully! I've dealt with the “hug,” fatigue, some mood swings, bladder/bowel issues, cognitive fog, tinnitus, and spasticity, but nothing out of the ordinary.

I was scared of relapsing

I definitely feared a relapse, however, once we put money down on the new place and put our house up for sale in October.

But planning for certain realities ahead of the actual move did make a difference. When I hit an MS-related roadblock, my premeditated “3 Fs” self-care plan kept stress from clobbering me and I was able to stay on task.

F1: Feelings

So. Many. Feelings.

Emotional ones:

  • Sadness, after leaving the home we raised our children in for 20 years.
  • Anxiety, that this house won’t sell (and it still hasn’t).
  • Remorse, that I’m leaving behind a lavender garden, a labor of love, along with my resident garter snake friend, who I’ll miss dearly.
  • Anger, because fall open houses are snoozefests because of FOOTBALL.
  • Dread, of the unknown (Will I relapse? Is moving a huge mistake?).
  • Excitement! I love my new place… it offers me new possibilities—like gardening! But anticipation meant daydreams and distractions, ugh!

Physical ones:

  • Packing and carrying boxes to the garage for storage.
  • Moving furniture around to stage.
  • Pain in the lower back, shoulders, hips, neck? Check, check, check, check.

And this doesn’t account for day-to-day MS pain.

Dealing with poor sleep

Poor sleep magnified all these feelings. I’ve had more racing thoughts and disrupted sleep in the last three months than I’ve had in years.

Poor sleep means daytime fatigue (see below), but also, higher pain perception during the day.

What to do? Be a girl (or boy) scout

For emotional feelings, talk out your anxieties. Breathe. Expect to grieve. Share joys and hopes with loved ones. Burn negative energy through yoga, walks, or trips to the gym.

For physical feelings, keep a stash of pain relief at the ready (whatever that looks like for you). Book a massage or PT visit in advance (trust me, you’ll need it).

F2: Fatigue

It wouldn’t be MS without fatigue!

Throw in moving stress, and no wonder you’re exhausted the moment you get out of bed during this transition! It’s not just MS fatigue, but also the garden-variety fatigue from schedule shifts that demand more physical and cognitive activity.

Plan to think about a lot of extra things during this time. That cognitive demand alone will cause fatigue. So will the added physical activity.

I needed a break

I remember hitting a wall and told my husband I needed time off. I stayed in my pajamas all day and slept it off between screenings of HGTV.

Also, simplify ordinary tasks… we dined off the grocery store hot, salad, and sushi bars a lot. I also paid a cleaning service before the MLS photographer showed up to snap our images for the realtor.

What to do? Simplify!

  • Rest whenever possible.
  • Ask for help.
  • Pay someone to do the heavy-duty stuff, if possible.
  • Listen to your body.

F3: Forgetting

I’m a consummate list-maker, so I relied heavily on notes in a dedicated journal for relief from the organizational nightmare of moving.

The details of buying, selling, and moving can overwhelm.

You’ll never remember everything. I customized moving to-do lists found online to manage these tasks:

  • How to stage your home without spending thousands, like brighter lightbulbs and fresh flowers.
  • Things learned about the new place (differences in utilities, garbage and mail pickup, shopping, services, etc.)
  • Transitional tasks: address changes (especially for mail order meds), finance paperwork, communications with service providers at both locations.

Note: I moved within the county but 30 minutes away; my tasks may differ from those necessary for a cross-country move.

Hint: Keep your lists both printed and uploaded to your phone. The power fails a lot here, taking Wi-Fi and cell service with it! Access to both lists saved me many times over.

You’ll survive

Planning for memory issues, exhaustion, and physical or emotional pain doesn’t mean you’ll actually experience them, or that it’ll be worse than normal. I cleave to the old Pacific Northwest adage: If you don’t want it to rain, carry an umbrella.

In truth, it rains whenever it darn well pleases here, but planning for it seems to prevent its arrival. I’ve lost many umbrellas this way, but gained sunny days in the bargain!

These 3 Fs helped me when my best-laid plans were … not so much! I hope they’ll help you, too.

Next time: Packing and unpacking strategies

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