Choosing Not to Drive with MS

The first memory for me of independence brings back the memory of the day I got my Driver’s license, the keys to my car and the road of possibility was endless.

It is hard losing a possession that gives you some control over your own life.

The freedom to wander about shrinks when this one little piece of plastic is taken away.

Friends and family don't understand

Well, there are those of us that are in the middle. The ones that still have the capability of driving. Have not had accidents or required a D.O.T. review but have restricted our own freedom.

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This is so hard for friends and family to understand because they see me behind the wheel and don’t understand when I decline an invite because “I don’t drive.”

Let me break down how MS affects your ability to drive

So, let me break this down for those who do not live with multiple sclerosis or any other chronic illness that can affect your ability to drive.

Fatigue

Fatigue is a term thrown around in our society when someone just had a bad night’s sleep, or maybe they had a big meal. But the definition of fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness. No amount of sleep and rest clear up fatigue.

Fatigue can not only cause me not to drive but can be one of the biggest factors in mobility in general.

Mobility restrictions

Mobility restrictions can be many different things. For me, I lose feeling in my right side. It is the reason I use mobility devices such as cane, walker, an scooter. Over the years I have practiced driving with my left side. Yet, there are some things you just cannot plan for.

Brain fog

Brain fog - this is probably the 2nd highest reason I don’t drive. When I stated above that there are things in driving you cannot plan for, this is what effects that ability.

Just a few weeks ago I had an appointment. Several exits past my exit I realized that I had not got off! I got back on the interstate going the opposite direction and passed the exit again!

If my brain fog is that bad, had someone pulled out in front of me I would not have had the reaction I needed to avoid the accident. I wonder how far I would go if I was driving more often. I have decided to put my doctor’s office on my GPS not because I do not know how to get there but to remind me where I am going.

Most days feeling that foggy I would have not driven, but it was an appointment and I had to be at.

Sleepiness

Sleepiness. You may wonder, isn’t this fatigue? No, it’s different. Have you ever been reading a book or watching a movie and you really wanted to finish it, but you just couldn’t keep your eyes open and fall asleep?

This is the kind of sleepiness that hits out of nowhere. I keep items in my car so I can sleep when I feel like this. I refuse to place anyone’s life in danger. I will call someone to come and get me and my car if this happens. Often a 10-20-minute nap I will be fine other times I am done for the day.

Incontinence

Incontinence. Be it bowel or urinary, driving from station to station praying to make it is self-explanatory. We all have had to find a restroom for a child that could not hold it, we are now that person.

Eye problems

Eyesight is probably the most common reason in even healthy people that I hear they don’t drive at dusk or dawn. With different chronic illnesses, your eyes can have different issues. I see far signs before I can see a sign that is right next to my car. The sun, the snow, rain, traffic lights, other car lights all are an issue for me.

The list is never-ending with eye issues. Bad eyesight is hard enough on its own, but it often leads to the next issue.

Vertigo

Vertigo is an internal or external spinning sensation. When you live with vertigo and have eyesight issues and get into anything moving, you can be left with migraines, nausea, vomiting etc.

Driving is an ongoing conversation between my doctor and me

My physician and I have an ongoing conversation about driving at every appointment.

This list is just a shortlist of things that can cause someone to decide not to drive but driving itself takes energy and we must weigh how it will affect our overall health.

How the activity will affect us and how all the other factors weigh in.

It's not an easy choice

Keep in mind if someone is electing to hand over one of their greatest freedoms, they are not doing it because they wanted or asked to one day not be able to drive. They do it because they understand that life is precious and that they don’t want to hurt you, your loved ones, or themselves. It is not an easy choice.

One of my favorite past times is to jump in my car and listen to music and just drive. My mom did it with my sister and me when we were young, I did it with my kids. I have driven across country by myself. Alone with my babies and with others.

Driving is one of the biggest things I miss

Driving is one of the biggest things I miss about my freedom to do as I please.

So please don’t think for a minute if I say, “I don’t drive,” but then you see me drive that it means I choose the task I am doing.

It means I had to weigh all the things above. What would happen if I “didn’t” drive? (A missed doctor appointment?) If you want to ask me how I chose this task over the 100 others I could have done, I will be glad to walk you through my thought process.

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