Exiled: Life With MS During The Summer
That time of year is upon us again, when the temps begin to warm up and the sun begins to shine. A time that most people look forward to, when vacations, trips to the beach, times laying by the pool, and attending outdoor events become commonplace.
Exile and isolation
While most people take advantage of the warm weather every chance they get, it’s also the time of the year when many of us who have multiple sclerosis begin to feel a bit more isolated. As more and more people opt to enjoy the warmer weather, we become exiled because of our intolerance to heat. The summer can be an extremely challenging time for those with MS. While it’s true the physical challenges and increase in symptoms come along with this time of the year, so do extreme feelings of isolation.
With everything MS-related, warm temps aren’t a problem for everyone with MS. They weren’t even a serious issue for me until many years after my diagnosis. Now, it makes every symptom I’ve ever had come to the forefront. Which makes sense, the heat is making the electrical signals that travel along my damaged nerves move at a different speed then they normally would. I try to fight this by keeping cool, spending as much time as I can in air conditioning and using cooling products like vests and a migraine hat. All of the cooling products out there still can’t help me though, if my friends want to do something outdoors for an extended period of time, like go to the beach or an outdoor concert. That’s when my problem with summer begins to focus less on my physical issues and more on my mental and emotional well being.
A depressing time
I’ve talked at length about my MS and depression, it’s an extremely common and consistent issue for many people who suffer from the disease. For me, it becomes even worse during the warmer months. Being forced inside while everyone is outside can have a pretty profound effect on your mood and state of mind. I have no ill will towards anyone that loves taking advantage of the warmer weather, I even encourage them, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel like I’m missing out though. Social media makes it all much worse, and I sit in my air-conditioned cell...I mean house and see all the fun that everyone else appears to be having. Talk about feeling super lonely, even my dog will go spend some time on the porch sunning himself!
Keep up the good fight
It’s important to recognize how this time of year can make you feel. Remember, stress is bad for MS, and if you allow this time of year to get to you, what seems like mental anguish will translate to physical symptoms pretty quickly. I try to get through the warmer months by taking advantage of the times that I can. If there is a day when the weather cooperates with my body, I try to make the most it. I also try to stay off social media a bit more in the summer, which is difficult, especially if you are trapped inside and everyone else is having fun. I set up goals for this time of year, goals that I can accomplish while cool and alone like reading a certain book, checking out a series on Netflix, or building a LEGO set.
You are not alone
It’s important to remember that you will get through it. This time of year is always a good time to connect with others who have MS or a similar chronic illness. There is, after all, a whole community of people in the same boat as you, stuck inside due to the weather, but also easily accessible via the internet. The most important thing to remember is that the weather will eventually change, you will get through this, you aren’t really missing out on anything, and you are most certainly not alone.
How well do people around you understand MS?