Like a slap in the face

I keep making a point of how mild the MS has been on me so far. To other people, maybe to avoid getting those pitiful looks and the inevitable stamp of a disabled person, and to myself, probably to comfort myself and convince myself of it. And after all, I’m not delusional. I’m aware of how tough it is on some people and how much of their daily lives are filled by the consequences of this condition. It does affect me in a psychological way in my everyday life though. I think about it every day, about what I eat (I have convinced myself that I can control it through a certain diet) and about leading the calmest life I can, almost to the point of being asocial. And those other things, the tired eyes coping with a previous serious attack of diplopia, and the weird recoiling spasms in my legs when I attempt to tread carefully, yeah, they’re there, but it’s alright. I could cope with these things, and I didn’t realise how much of my body it had invaded, until…

I rarely get ill (knock on wood) and I hadn’t gotten seriously ill since my diagnosis almost two years ago. Just a common cold every now and then. I had read about how one should not stress about old symptoms from previous attacks reappearing during an illness, and I did notice some very mild old symptoms during these bouts of sickness, so I assumed that that was it. I really am not that badly affected, I thought. But then life (or karma?) had been harvesting all those thoughts in bad of thorns ready to throw it at me when I least expected it.

I had just spent the best week with my boyfriend who had come to visit me in this new place, city, country I’m living. I showed him around and we really made the most of our time together. It was good to finally have some company. And then, on the night that he left, I started feeling jittery. I better go to bed early, I thought. It was probably because of all those hectic days.

But when I woke up the morning after, the world didn’t look the same. I was getting up to go to the toilet when I realised that my legs weren’t really obeying. They seemed to have their own agenda, a mind of their own. Thankfully, the corridor to go down to the toilet is sufficiently narrow for me to hold on to the walls step by step, so I finally made it. I then realise that I’m staring down at two toilet bowls that seem to be wrestling with each other to win the dominant position, to no avail. So I sit down. I must not be fully awake yet, I thought. When I go wash my hands, I inadvertently bang my head against the mirror, much like when one gets home terribly drunk, except that instead of being mildly amusing, this was directly unnerving. I do my catwalk back to bed and realise that it wasn’t only more sleep I needed, but more like was a handful of NSAIDs. My fever had gone shooting over the roof and the shakes were still going strong. I kept my eyes closed in a foetal position for the next 5 hours or so, until I felt a certain gurgling in my stomach. Right, food.

When I get up again, all those feelings from before were still there. First the weirdly autonomous legs, then the losing balance so brutally that I slammed my body against the wall, then having to choose between two doors floating around. Except that this time they were real. Or rather, I couldn’t explain them as anything else. I recognised the three elements: tremor, balance, doubleness. That was my MS! It had come rampant to me to show me what it really could do when given the chance. Like a slap in the face, it reminded me not to disrespect it.

And for the next 5 days I lay in bed alone trying to cater for myself and feeling my body slowly return to its regular functions. Two weeks later though, my confused immune system still hasn’t been able to fight it off entirely and is still dealing with immense fatigue.

I hope this can help fellow MS’ers not get caught as much by surprise as me next time they get struck by a bad illness!

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