MS & Stress: My Wedding Horror Story

Multiple sclerosis and its symptoms can be so unpredictable. You can be feeling fine one minute and then absolutely awful the very next. While the reasons for this can vary, we know that some of us can have our symptoms triggered by factors that are often out of our control.

An extremely common trigger

One trigger that is extremely common for those with MS, myself included, is stress. I thought I’d share a story from my past (somehow I still have plenty of experiences I haven’t discussed here) that highlights what stress can do to someone with MS. This is my wedding horror story.

Let's talk about stress

Increased amounts of stress can have a significant impact on someone with MS. Many people with MS report an increase in their symptoms during stressful times.1

While still being studied, there is also evidence that stress can increase the risk of exacerbations in those with MS.2 A big reason for that is that stress increases inflammation and as we know, inflammation plays a huge part in MS.3 

I could go on and on because there are numerous studies that deal with stress and MS, but the bottom line is that they do not mix well.

The beauty of hindsight

After a decent enough courtship, I decided to propose to someone (who, shockingly, said yes) and get married. Being caught up in the excitement of it all, I suggested we do it at her parent's lake house. A great spot, with a backyard that goes right up to the lake, it was also super scenic and the scene of some of our early encounters.

Suggesting this location may have been my first and a very important mistake on my part. You see, this location was many states away and required a long drive from where we were living at the time. That itself doesn’t sound too bad; however, because of some of my MS symptoms, I have an incredibly tough time traveling.

So not only would I have to travel for the main event, but I also needed to go up a few times in the preceding months to help make arrangements. In retrospect, while my heart was in the right place, choosing a location that required a lot of travel was a huge mistake.

In addition to traveling, the venue was at someone’s house, which meant we were also relying on the help of non-professionals for this thing to go off without a hitch. Perhaps I could have hired some more help, but I didn’t.

Tensions were high

One common thing I write about is how my body has to pay the “MS tax” whenever I’m active. I require a certain amount of rest and recharging after doing just about anything. For me, traveling 8 hours by car is already enough activity that would necessitate me needing to have time to recover.

That really couldn’t happen though, the wedding was over a long weekend, and from the moment we got up there, we had things to do to pull this thing off. There’s a lot that goes into weddings, especially when you are throwing it yourselves with mostly non-professional help.

Helping set up, getting licenses, etc. Add to that, there’s the whole rehearsal and accompanying dinner that takes place before the wedding (at least it did for us, the very night before the big day because we were cramming this into a weekend due to the destination).

It was a lot of activity and a lot of stress for me even before the actual wedding day. I seemed to be holding up well enough though. Well, except having a pretty big argument with my mother-in-law-to-be the night before the wedding. Having the wedding at her house put her under a great deal of stress as well, so as you might imagine, tensions were very high.

An uninvited guest

The wedding day arrived and I seemed like I was doing well. I felt decent and was super amped to marry my best friend. I made up with her mother, we got everything finalized, and the main event started. There were of course hiccups, like the power going out several times, problems with kegs, and a number of smallish issues.

These issues added up though. The actual ceremony went well; however, shortly after, while doing the picture thing and everyone else was in cocktail hour, I started having massive issues. My vision blurred, my limbs were filled with burning nerve pain, and eventually, my legs went numb, then they became weak.

I fell a few times and then I could no longer stand. I just kept thinking “not today, please, not today”. My condition did not improve, by the time the toasts were over at the reception, I couldn’t stand and I felt absolutely awful. I needed to lay down. With much of the house being utilized for this party, my dad and uncle carried me to a friend’s car parked in front of the house and I laid in there until someone could take me back to my hotel.

I insisted that people party without me. I tearfully laid in agony in the back of a car while I could hear the fun being had at my wedding just a few feet away. Eventually, my parents left the reception and took me to my hotel, having to carry me to my hotel room. All while my wedding carried on without me.

A night gone sour

I want to thank you if you’ve read this far, this is a very difficult topic for me. One I still have nightmares about. I do believe this story can help illustrate what stress can do to someone with MS though. Longtime readers know that my marriage didn’t last very long.

We are still very close friends and in many ways, that’s probably what we always were, just the very best of friends, not meant to be married. I confess though, what happened to me at my wedding absolutely affected my marriage.

I had a tremendous amount of problems dealing with what happened to me that night and it definitely led to me putting some blame on members of both her family and my own for how everything went down. At times, that soured relations between me, her, and pretty much everyone involved with the wedding.

Stress is no joke when it comes to MS

I’ve learned over time that it’s the disease that’s really at fault though. I guess, if there’s a takeaway, it’s that stress is no joke when it comes to MS. Also, that you really need to plan around it. Being optimistic that you’ll be able to deal with it is not the right way to go about it, you need to make appropriate plans.

In addition to that, I’ve learned the hard way that this illness is going to cause problems. Not everything will go as planned and you can’t wallow in what happens because of it. I confess that I’m a bit of a romantic, the wedding meant a lot to me, and the way it played out ate me up inside.

It’s so important to be able to move past something like this, to be able to let things go and not dwell on them. I wish I had learned that lesson before my wedding. Having MS means taking precautions against stress, but it also means knowing when to have a short memory too.

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