One of the first things my neurologist told me when I was diagnosed was that I needed to alleviate stress in my life. Seriously? I had a 4 year old and a 6 year old at the time. My husband is a golf pro which means that he’s not home much. He works everyday except Mondays – and he only has Mondays off sometimes. So – how exactly am I supposed to alleviate stress from my life, doc? GREAT QUESTION. It was answered for me rather quickly when the fatigue hit so hard that all I could do was go from my bed to the sofa. I felt completely at the will of multiple sclerosis – probably because I was. Still am, really – but I digress.
So – after the initial attack, I did a 1/2 marathon as a warm up the weekend before I did an MS Challenge Walk of 30 miles to raise money and awareness. Yep. I did. Oh, and the following week, I started a new, full-time job. I had been a stay-at-home-Mom for 8 years, but now is the time I decided to go back to work. What was I trying to prove? Well, I guess that I could do it – whatever “it” was. I did surprisingly well with the run/walk, and even found a way initially to make working work. I found ways around the fatigue and pain. When I was really hurting or tired, I’d either just pull over on the side of the road and put my seat back, or, several times, I went to a big retail store here in the states, Best Buy, and pretend I was looking to buy a big screen TV so I could stretch out on their recliners for a bit. I drank coffee like crazy to try to beat the fatigue. I distracted myself from thinking about the reality of MS – what I felt like now – what might happen in the future. And it worked – right up until it didn’t. All this trying not to be sick was making me sick. I ran myself ragged. I tend to put my heart and soul into everything I do. Seems a running theme with MS’ers. There are studies showing the majority of us are Type A personalities.
I couldn’t turn off work – even when I was home. And, I couldn’t turn off home – even when I was at work. I was “on” 24/7 and it wasted me. The fatigue, the pain – and eventually the nail in my career’s coffin – that “cog fog”. One day, while driving at work, I forgot which side of the road I was supposed to be on. It was really scary. I had enough presence of mind to just stop and figure out how everyone else was doing it and make my way home by repeating over and over “right is right, right is right, right is right.” I was in 3 minor car accidents in 6 months. I got “lost” a few times. I got confused on which pedal was the gas and which was the brake. I’d forget what I was doing, where I was going, what was next in my life. The word-fishing became a daily ritual – as did the fight against it and the rushing to cover it up so no one would notice. The stress of all of that plus the worrying about how I was letting everyone in my life down – at work, at home, etc. became too much. I didn’t want to admit it, but between the MS symptoms increasing and my blood pressure rising, I needed to step back. I don’t know if it was arrogance or just being stubborn, but I thought I could handle it all, despite what my doctors were telling me. I give you all of this background to tell you of my surprising and exciting realization: they were right, I was wrong and dialing down the stress really helps. There I said it. But it’s true. I left my job, sadly and begrudgingly, at the end of May of this year. Here we are, a month and 1/2 later, and I’ve been feeling so much better it’s really unbelievable. I’ve been clearer than I’ve been in years and my fatigue has abated. The pain is rare and usually centered around when I give myself my shots. Simplifying works. Rest works. Finding peace, works. There was even a study this past week that shows it: http://www.rttnews.com/1921923/stress-management-therapy-linked-to-reduced-ms-lesion-formation.aspx.
What’s your stress less story? Has it worked for you? Have you seen a difference when you’ve taken a step back. What’s helped you the most? Let’s help each other in our fight against the MonSter.
Deep breaths, my friends. “It seems to help the stress, just to say F-U-M-S”!!