Man looking like Frankenstein with a cane and pins in his legs

Struggling With Stability

As I stroll into my local brewery, I’m greeted by a ton of friendly faces. I stop and say hi to many of them, going through the usual pleasantries and getting that social interaction that I so desperately need. However, as I run the gauntlet of friendliness and social responsibility, there is part of me that is counting down and screaming in the back of my head, 'GET TO A SEAT'. While I look like I am standing and even walking with no difficulty, that’s far from the truth. Despite my appearance, my body is struggling with stability.

Unsteady as he goes

When it comes to walking and standing, I’m pretty good, but only for short distances and periods of time. If I can’t sit or lean against something, I feel very unsteady on my feet. I pretty much always feel like I might fall over at any moment. There isn’t any single symptom that causes me to feel this way, rather it’s several of them combined that make me feel unstable on my feet:

  • Weakness - From my very first exacerbation, I have struggled with weakness in my legs, particularly my right leg. I have many days where it feels considerably weaker than my left leg which, in addition to feeling like it may give way, makes my walking feel unbalanced.
  • Numbness - I also suffer from numbness in my legs, which makes me feel like I don’t have a real grasp for the ground below me. I’m taking a step, but it doesn’t quite feel like I’m taking a step, which causes me to feel like I’m not really on solid ground.
  • Pain - I often experience burning nerve pain in both my legs; when it comes to walking and standing, this mostly makes me feel uncomfortable. It also causes me to lose focus on what I’m doing.
  • Spasms - I occasionally experience spasms in my legs - jolts of uncontrollable muscle movement which at times have caused me to fall.
  • Spasticity - I will often have one or both legs become extremely stiff, which ends up with me walking like Frankenstein’s monster. At least that’s how it feels to me.
  • Foot drop - A very common issue for me is drop foot where I have difficulty lifting the front part of my foot. Despite my brain telling my foot to lift off the ground, it will often stay down or only lift partly.
  • Balance - I tend to suffer from a lot of balance issues, which, as you can imagine, makes it difficult to stay on my feet.
  • Fatigue - The everyday lassitude I experience with MS makes every movement a struggle like I’m walking through wet cement.

Fighting for stability

While I am supposed to walk with a cane, I rarely use it. For my cane to be most effective, it requires me to use it with my left hand which is affected by symbrachydactyly, making holding the cane extremely difficult. As you can see though, even using a cane or other assistive device wouldn’t necessarily help me feel stable because of the types of symptoms that I experience. So I’ve adapted the best I can.

I minimize the distance I walk and the time I spend trying to stand. I’ve actually become used to feeling unsteady on my feet. Honestly, sometimes it feels like I’m walking on the deck of a ship being tossed and turned in heavy seas. Like an experienced sailor, I’ve gotten used to it, but occasionally a big wave will still land me on the deck.

Another invisible struggle

Feeling stable while standing on your own two feet is something that I think most people take for granted. As so many issues with MS tend to be, this lack of stability is something that people can’t really see. It’s something you would never suspect if you saw me in person, but it’s there and it’s a huge issue for me. With so many different symptoms playing a part in feeling stable on our feet, this is an issue, not only for me but for many people who suffer from MS. So please remember no matter what someone looks like, or how they act, they may be struggling below the surface.

Thanks so much for reading and feel free to share! As always, I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!

Devin

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