A Walk in the Park?
The initial options on my own personal buffet of MS (the hors d'oeuvres if you like) were pins and needles and a dragging left foot. Both these things continue to… well, not plague me, more ANNOY me to this day. The pins and needles are what they are but walking anywhere is frequently a physical and mental battle.
I walked to work for the first time in 3 years
Last year I walked into work from our house for what was the first time in three and a half years. Not a big deal – except that, according to Google Maps, our house is a seven-minute walk from my workplace.
Before that I had been either taking taxis (paid for by a government scheme, Access To Work) or driving in and using my disabled driver’s parking badge.
Walking to work had become a THING for me
The walk into work was one of the things I talked about a lot in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy sessions following a relapse. And it had been starting to become A THING.
Y'know - one of those things that, the longer it goes on, the worse it seems in your mind. By way of an example, my Mum stopped driving when she had my brother and me and didn't start again for about 10 years - by which time it had become a terrifying monster of massive proportions.
Making a conscious effort to go out for little walks
So I was determined that this wouldn't happen to me - which is why over a period of a few months I made a conscious effort to go out for little walks. Sometimes just me and my daughter, just for a quick walk to the shops, which was lovely.
The walk to work loomed large in my head
Eventually, I realised that some of these 'little walks' added up to distances far beyond the walk into work. But still it loomed large in my head - what if my leg gets all draggy and heavy? What if I'm exhausted by the time I get in?
One Friday I did the walk (with some preparation) - and although it was hard, I found that I actually had more energy throughout the rest of the day. And I felt pretty proud of myself.
My most popular excuses
A happy ending? Well, not quite – this little walk continues to be A THING. I can come up with many, many reasons why I shouldn’t bother – here are some of the most popular excuses, in a terrifying true-to-life representation of the voices in my head:
- I had a bad night’s sleep – whatever, suck it up, baby.
- Looks like bad weather – as your dad said, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. (This is actually true on SO many levels)
- I’m already late, it’s quicker for me to drive – if you’re already late, what does it matter? The people you work with know the deal.
Physical exertion can help battle fatigue
The thing is, I know that I feel better when I walk into work, and I’m also smarter and more efficient. It still seems counter-intuitive that physical exertion can help to battle fatigue, but we all know these things to be true.
My main worry is, I don’t want to be a kind-of present-but-absent father, and I don’t want our horizons as a family to get narrower if I can help it.
I can feel my legs getting weaker
Increasingly it’s almost a “use them or lose them” state of mind – when I drive into work for a few days, I can feel my legs getting weaker. When I walk they feel better and so do I.
The main thing that stops me walking into work is fear of unlikely events happening which I talked about enough in my CBT sessions a couple of years back.
Fighting the unhelpful thoughts with the truth of the benefits
Knowing how unlikely these events are doesn't mean that I can switch my brain off. The old drip-drip-drip of unhelpful thoughts can keep any of us indoors.
I know the benefits. I KNOW the benefits.
I just need to get on with it. And posting this to you is - in a sense - a way to embarrass myself into doing it.
Does listening to music help lower the severity of your stress or MS symptoms?