Adjusting to a Slower Pace of Life With MS
Years ago, I went on vacation to Key West. Each night, I headed down to Mallory Square to celebrate the sunset, as was the custom. The palette of colors nature put on display as the sun disappeared on the horizon was beautiful beyond compare.
The street performers always stole some attention from the setting sun with acrobatics and various musicians. One performer in particular always got my attention; he spun several ceramic plates on the tips of poles held high in the air. He could not afford to let up on any given plate or they’d certainly shatter to the ground, silhouetted by the striking orange sunset.
I was something of a plate spinner myself prior to multiple sclerosis (MS). The random challenges of balancing my high-energy career while stepping up to family obligations and everyday occurrences kept me on perpetual high alert. I was always in control with just enough time to do laundry.
With MS, it seemed as if everything I was about took a nosedive. I could not keep up with the lifestyle and demands that came easily not six months before. Plates were falling uncontrollably to the ground all around me.
I went from 150 mph (literally my nickname for years) to a practical full-stop. No matter how hard I tried to keep everything going, ultimately, the spinning plates would fly out of control, smashing to bits. In many ways I gave up trying and succumbed to my illness.
I went from the balanced edge of living well, with a strong sense of place and self, to tumbling into an abyss of depression, isolation and alcohol abuse (when I do something, I sure go all the way). I became ambivalent and withdrawn, mourning the loss of the things that made me, me. Where I used to have so much to offer the world, now I felt as if I was erased off the map.
In the midst of this self-pity party, I learned the prevalence of depression in MS is high, even when compared with other chronic illnesses. I took a long hard look at the path I had been on and realized I had allowed both the symptoms of MS and the label of being “disabled” consume me.
Counseling, appropriate antidepressant medication, and a willingness to see my situation in a new light soon followed. I worked with my doctors and my husband to climb up out of the pit I was in. “This is not life ending, this is life altering” became my mantra.
I am in a much safer, more introspective place now. I look back at this tumultuous period with gentle reflection. I use it as a stepping-stone from which I am building and restructuring a lifestyle and mindset that fits with my MS.
The first deliberate step toward embracing this new life with MS was to take an inventory of where I was at, both physically and emotionally. I took a hard look at what I thought was vital to my existence and identity.
Clearing the Cobwebs
I cleaned house, both literally and figuratively. I did away with clutter, organized my closets and had heavy items, especially in the kitchen, moved to lower shelves. I made things I use every day, including my scooter (my main source of independence), easy to get to.
I even had furniture moved around to make our home less of an obstacle course. All these small changes were liberating.