Thursday, July 14, 2011

Coordination and my sense of “self” goes out the window.

I’m not sure if it’s a lack of practice, lack of exercise or it’s the MS brain screwing up but I’ve noticed something particularly interesting. My coordination and sense of self is deteriorating. What do I mean by sense of self? It’s the idea of where you are in proportion to things, like walls, chairs, stuff like that. I find myself constantly bumping in to walls or pushing things over on accident. This mixed with a lack of coordination can cause a series of embarrassing moments.

I never realized how bad my coordination was until I took up water aerobics. Simple moves that even the most disabled of people would be able to do, I could not. My brain just could not wrap itself around how they were doing it. And I mean literally, four step movements involving arms and legs. Knee up, arms out, other leg out, arms in? See, I still can’t even do it when I think about it and picture it in my head. I just can’t fathom how to replicate these simple movements. I wish I had done things like these before my first episode of MS so I would have something to compare it to. Have I always been this lacking in the area of coordination? I didn’t think so, but possibly?

Perhaps I was just slightly under typical coordination. I always remember being slightly clumsy but my attempts yesterday were borderline ridiculous! It was getting me to the point of frustration and I debated giving up and calling it a day. But I stuck it out and I’m glad I did. While the exercises weren’t enough to cause me to break a sweat, it’s still exercise and it will eventually help my coordination and perhaps also assist me with my balance issues. Besides, what could be more therapeutic than splashing around in warm waters with a pool noodle?

Now, the issues with my sense of self, that will probably never go away and will more than likely get worse as I lose weight. Mostly because I’m used to being larger so I’ve adjusted to accommodating that size. Ah well, you can’t win them all!

What about you? What do you do to help yourself be more self-aware? How about for coordination? Do you exercise? Practice yoga?


Friday, July 8, 2011

If you thought normal dating was complicated…

Dating when you have multiple sclerosis is like your first day on the job, do you tell or don’t you tell? Do you bring it up in casual conversation?

“Oh hey, I bet you didn’t know this but I have multiple sclerosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome. If this date progresses into something serious you might get the pleasure of being my personal caregiver someday and I may never be able to give birth to your children. Isn’t that exciting?!”

It’s like a PSA for dating. It also opens the conversation for all sorts of questions like, “aren’t most people with MS in a wheelchair?” “Well you look fine to me!” “You have MS?? You look fantastic!” The last two always get my goat, as if you can actually visually see the lesions on my brain or spine. I may seem fine on the outside but on the inside my body is taking a beating.

This is my first time dealing with this since I was diagnosed. At the time I received my initial diagnosis I was already married and the phrase “in sickness and in health” was tossed around quite a bit. I think it’s important that your significant other knows exactly what they are getting into and give them a way out. If the person is a decent human being, then you’re lucky, because chances are they’ll stand by you and offer you support. If they are anything like my ex, run, run far-far away. Their anger, guilt and frustration will come back on you and that’s an altogether unhealthy situation to be in.

So now I’m an MSer and PCOser on the prowl. Sort of. I’m actually currently seeing someone who is fabulous. We’ve already had “the talk” and it went pretty well. I was fortunate because we’ve been friends for a little bit of time and he knew prior to our dating, how I’ve struggled with my MS and PCOs. Although he knows about me and my future full of struggles, it doesn’t make it easier. How do you ask someone if they are willing to date you and if all goes well, ultimately take care of you physically, emotionally, financially? How do you tell them that there may come a time where difficult decisions will be made and if they would be able to handle it? You obviously don’t bring this up on the first date, unless you want that person to run away, screaming. But I think it’s important after maybe the third or fourth, when you’re getting quite cozy to be honest about your diagnosis. You don’t have to tell them that you may never get pregnant but you might want to tell them, hey, now that things are going so well, I have MS and PCOs, would you like to ask me questions? Be prepared. Know your stuff. It’s your responsibility to be able to answer with honesty and knowledge about all things MS/PCOs.

For the more serious conversation, I believe it’s safe to save it for when you both exchange those three special words, “I love you.” This is when it becomes important to lay it all out on the table. You both have the right to know, if the relationship proceeds, how things will go down. Once you’ve invested real feelings into it, it’s important to know where and how you stand in regards to them and your disease.

I got lucky with Steven. He’s a super nice guy and is completely willing to do whatever it takes if it comes down to it. I’m pretty sure he’d say it’s because he loves me, but really I think his sense of duty and doing the decent thing outweighs love in this situation. We’ll see how it goes.

I want to hear from you? How and when did you tell your significant other about your diagnosis? What was their response?


Depression and Anger

There’s this dark side of chronic illnesses that not very many people like to talk about. Depression and anger are both significant emotions for those who not only have multiple sclerosis but PCOs as well. It’s as if getting diagnosed with both, you’re more than likely to, at some point, feel the debilitating side effects of depression.

For me, it always starts the same. I’ll be buzzing along, feeling fine when suddenly I’m hit with this overwhelming feeling of anger and dissatisfaction with my life. There’s never an exact cause to these feelings and there’s never one event or person that is to blame. It just happens.

For example, yesterday I was trotting along and feeling pretty decent when this dark cloud moved over me. It started with anger, this overwhelming anger that gets directed outwardly towards whoever is around me. Unfortunately, at that time, I was speaking to Steven. I told him that I had to let him go before I said something I would not only regret later but also something I did not mean. I knew it was going to happen, I could feel it welling up inside me like word vomit.

Thankfully, I was able to push these feelings aside while speaking to my roommates, as it would not have been fair to take this wave of emotional unbalance out on them. It continued, though, once I was alone in my room and alone with my thoughts. This overwhelming urgency to cry came over me, as well as this deep feeling of dread and sadness. I called and spoke to Steven and cried verbally on his shoulder. He was sweet- he listened and was filled with understanding. It’s moments like these that really make me notice the difference between someone who cares and someone who is just “there.” It also makes me thankful that I have the people in my life that I do. With him, it’s easy as he never passes judgment, never criticizes me or tells me that I need to seek therapy, he just listens. It’s exactly what I needed at that exact moment. It made a world of difference. My overwhelming emotional state eventually led to me passing out from sheer exhaustion. The one thing that really upsets me about these waves of depression is it leaves me feeling rather groggy and feeling like I’ve been “drugged.”

Living with these waves of depression is just a fact of life for people with MS and PCOs. I could consider getting it treated with drugs, which I would, if it happened more often than it does, but we’re already fed so many other drugs as it is. Ask someone you know, who has both MS and PCOs, to show you their drug cabinet and you’ll see a rather large assortment of drugs. What’s one more?

A brochure on depression from the National MS society states that “people with MS experience depression more than the general population or people with other chronic illnesses.” In fact, some research shows that people with MS may actually be more likely to be depressed because of the physiology of multiple sclerosis. For women with PCOs, depression is considered one of the symptoms of the syndrome. And since women are more likely to have multiple sclerosis than men and PCOs only effect s women, it makes sense that, as a woman, depression is not something to take lightly. For me, it’s like I’m the cream feeling in this oreo of depression. Eventually, it’s something I will have to consider seeking treatment for.

With that being said, if you happen to be going through the symptoms of depression, talk to your doctor. You have enough things to worry about- depression shouldn’t be one of them. And if you happen to be feeling suicidal, please, get help!

With all my love and encouragement-

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

You shouldn’t let the little things bother you, but they do.

There’s something that happens when I speak, think and write and I’m not sure there’s even a name for it. Maybe you might know? Some sites call it cognitive dysfunction.

My multiple sclerosis and brain lesions have left me with cognitive issues I never had to deal with before. I’m overly sensitive about them and when they are pointed out (like when I use the wrong word or it comes out jumbled) I’m filled with so much shame and then anger that I often direct it towards the wrong people. I don’t tell people about this, because for me, it makes me feel stupid. It makes me feel less than adequate and beneath my peers. Sometimes it makes me so angry I direct it towards others and say the most terrible things.

I honestly don’t know how to deal with not only the emotions- the feelings of loss, but also the anger and resentment it builds inside me. I just wish it would go away. I wish it didn’t embarrass me as much as it does.

I think part of the issue stems from the fact that I used to have excellent spelling and an even better grasp on vocabulary and grammar. I’m easily jealous at those around me who can use their linguistic superiority where I’m left trying to remember words I once knew. It terrifies me that this is happening, that maybe, soon, I’ll have no grasp of the meaning of any word, that when I speak it will come out slurred and jumbled and my memories will just serve as a source of confusion. When I went back to school the easiest thing would have been to finish a bachelor’s degree in journalism. It would have made sense. But I didn’t. Not because I didn’t want to but mostly because I was terrified that my secrets would be exposed and everyone would know that I’m a fraud. Google and spell check have become my best friends.

But yet, I’m overly sensitive about the whole thing. I get offended when people laugh at my confusion over words. I’m hurt but yet I don’t say anything. To say something would be admitting to my shame. It would show my remorse over the loss of these very precious gifts I once had. Even now, my heart aches in such unimaginable ways. If only, when I spoke, my words could match the true depths of my mind and heart instead of being left to scramble in the ashes of a once intelligent person.

I know I’m not an idiot, but the more and more these cognitive issues become present, the more and more I begin to question it all. Who am I if I no longer have the comfort of my words? What will happen to the poet within me? Will I wither away into the silent recesses of my brain, unable to speak my thoughts clearly but know that they are there somewhere?

I’ve tried to explain it to those I love the best way I can, but I’ve never really expressed how it makes me feel. I’m not sure if they understand. I’m not sure I even understand why it is happening. All I know is I mourn the loss of my words. I mourn the loss of my ability to have a conversation with people without getting confused, without losing my train of thought, without words coming out scrambled or wrong. I miss feeling like I’m adequate. I feel like I’m being left behind.

Here's a link that explains it better than I ever could: Where do the words go, when you can no longer remember?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Seeking a doctor who cares enough to listen.

I've been thinking about my appointment towards the end of the month and I'm beginning to have some reservations. I hope this will finally be the one that I can count on to treat the symptoms and not the appearance. So many times in the past I've had doctors who just shrug me off as being overweight and only offer the advice “if you lose weight, you'll have normal periods.” While that my be in part true, there are much more sinister symptoms at work.

I have to know “why.” I will not simply just accept this from a doctor who supposedly specializes in PCOs. I honestly, wholeheartedly believe there is something much more to the puzzle that is my body than a simple “lose weight, feel great,” explanation.

I know there is. There has to be. I spent several months busting my ass on a low calorie/low fat diet only to lose four pounds (in the past, not recently- lol). I've done the whole weight watchers bit. I've even considered surgery (despite my MS). I know there is a missing link in the puzzle. Why?

Because the only time I've had a period in the last four or so years is when I've been on steroids. I'm not sure if it's the solumedrol (IV) or the prednisone that is responsible, but something is. Each time I've been on steroids I have one cycle and then as soon as I'm off them, I don't have anymore. There has to be something there. Some sort of explanation hidden in the recesses of my adrenal or pituitary glands. Something isn't working right and the steroids only help to kick it into gear.

There has to be another connection. Has there been a study done on the number of women who have MS that also have PCOs? Three quarters of the 400,000 people who have MS are women. According to, “between 1 in 10 and 1 in 20 women of childbearing age has PCOS. As many as 5 million women in the United States may be affected.” Of the women who have MS there has to be women out there that also have PCOs.

Studies have shown that some women who have PCOs are deficient in a hormone called estrogen. This same hormone has been shown to, if given at a steady flow (especially to pregnant MSers) actually help women with MS (some researchers state that the best treatment for women with MS is pregnancy). There's also the connection between women with PCOs taking corticosteroids in order to lower their androgen (male hormone) levels. This is the hormone, when at a higher level in women, results in a lack of menstruation, weight gain, acne and hirsutism (excessive facial hair).

So would an effective treatment be something like, estrogen and prednisone, as well as my rebif? If it doesn't work, what does it hurt? If it does work, maybe some doctor out there will get a research paper on PCOs and MS published. Who knows? The bottom line is that all I want, right now, is a doctor who will actually listen to me. I don't make excuses for my weight, I know it has a lot to do with poor diet and lack of exercise but I also know there are other factors at play. Will this new doctor finally be the one to listen? Will she order the proper tests? Will she do an MRI of my adrenal and pituitary gland? I'm not sure, but I'll keep hoping.


Friday, July 1, 2011

To tell or not to tell, that is the question.

Now that I’m employed as a permanent employee, I’ve begun to toy with the idea of whether or not I should disclose to my employer as well as my coworkers that I have MS. In my last position at the newspaper I was met with understanding from my coworkers around me but it was upper-management that I would constantly butt heads with. This has left me with a feeling that maybe I should keep my mouth shut.

But something also tells me that this place is different. One of the strongest attributes of this company is that they embrace our diversity and there’s a definite level of acceptance here. I feel like there may even be the slight possibility that some may join in a cause or two if I approached them with it, for instance, participating as a companywide team in an MS walk.

What are your thoughts? Did you tell your employer and coworkers? If so, how was the news received? I’d love to hear your feedback.

The way things were.

I’ve been rather terrible at keeping this blog updated despite my promises in the past to be better at it.

The reason? Recovery.

I’ve been working at embracing my life and pushing away all the stress. I’m really, quite honestly, living life one day at a time.

The good news: I’ve completely recovered from my last relapse. Thank goodness! I have no lasting side effects, except for random bouts of major fatigue. I know I’m very fortunate and I’m thankful for all of your prayers and kind words during my ordeal.

The other good news? I landed a job, was hired on as permanent after only a month and was given insurance at the beginning of my third month. Unfortunately, because of my relapse in January, I can’t get treatment for my MS quite yet but I’ve been told I will be able to in November. So I just have to hold out until then. I’m sure wonky things are going on in my brain and spine but I’m just trying not to worry about that right now. Stress never does us any good, no matter if you are healthy or not.

I’m also in the process of trying to change who I am as a human being. In the past I’ve let stress rule me, I’ve been bossy and I’ve just been unhappy. I think embracing the idea of living life one day at a time is really helping with this. I do have my moments where the depression pulls me under, but it’s so rare now it’s like a blue moon. Moving to Portland really was the best decision, for me. Some might argue that that decision was selfish but after spending five years or more taking care of others instead of myself I think I get to be selfish! Now, I’m happy. Not the pseudo happy where you plaster a fake waxy smile on your face but the deep down, ray of sunshine kind of happy. I’m grateful for the life I get to live now and all of the wonderful people I’ve surrounded myself with. I’ve decided that if you make me unhappy, if you are overly negative, chances are I’m going to cut you out of my life. It may be a slow and painful process but negativity only breeds negativity and I, for one, don’t need that in my life.

Despite not being able to take charge of my MS at the current moment in time, I am going to tackle my PCOs. I have an appointment with a OBGYN/endocrinologist/fertility specialist who has gotten some great reviews on PCOs websites on the 29th. I may have to reschedule it due to a previous engagement but I at least have put my foot in the door.

The next step in my life is filing for divorce. Right now I’m trying to get the funds together to make this a reality, but in all essence, it’s something we both want so when the money is available it will be a really simple process. I’ve also started seeing a really great guy who just wants me for me. There’s no pressure and he makes it easy.

Life with Jan and Chrissey is also perfect. We have our moments now and then but otherwise we get along splendidly. Chrissey is like the sister I never had (no disrespect to my actual sisters, but the age difference between didn’t really lend itself to you being a positive influence in my life). I call my lovely ladies out here my “Oregon” family and I love them all dearly.

I’m off to put the positive karma out into the universe. You all take care and don’t be a stranger!