Random thoughts while waiting for my car to de-ice

My actual face after sitting in my actual car for literally 43 minutes.

You know my constant debate…

Go to the outside world, play the Old Me (who walks really funny but I don’t walk that much or that far, so it’s cool) and visit with some of my favorite normals in my downtown office? Or stay home and be uber productive in the relative safety of my home.

It’s never easy, this whole game I play with should I stay or should I go now, but the benefits are huge so I keep myself motivated to keep on keeping on and walk out the damn door when I physically can to get myself to the office. It’s important to me.

The weather hasn’t been on my side lately. I discovered this winter that the cold messes me up nearly as badly as intense heat. Color me informed. The extreme cold turns me (and some others from what I’ve been told) into what I like to call the Tin Man. The Tin Man before Dorothy came along with her trusty oil can, I mean. My whole body feels solid. Stiff. It becomes hard to move. Like, at all. You feel frozen in space which is fine except for you feel this way while out in the world full of fast-moving, often impatient people.

So lately when it’s single digit cold, I stick by the home office connected to the world by a bunch of letters (VPN, WWW, IM, ATT…) I could go on, but I won’t. It’s warm at the home office. But not too warm! Because we all know what happens when we get too warm…liquid squid body. Everything feels liquid, melty, fluid. Again, not bad things to be unless you’re out in the world full of fast-moving, often impatient people. People have substance. They like to move their substances quickly.

Anyway. I’ve spent a few long days at home doing meeting after meeting on the phone or via webex or whatever and I really needed to get out of the house. I have an amazing office to go to! I really wanted to be in that office, talking to actual people’s actual faces. I was determined to get my butt out there and do the things. All of the things involved in getting out of the house (all completely necessary). Plans must be made.

It had snowed the day before. But before the snow started, it sleeted. Then it snowed, again. Then it got really, really cold. Ergo, the entire outside world full of surfaces and steps and other sneaky hazards is now covered with a thick layer of ice, covered by a twinkly white layer of snow. Oh. And look at that! My snow shoveler-guy used up the last of my ice melt and didn’t tell me. I have nothing with which to melt the icy world outside.

I think to myself…”Self,” I say, “Just drink that bullet-proof cup o’ joe, put on some clothes, douse your head in dry shampoo and slap on something that looks like makeup and see how you feel when that’s all done. You can wear Uggs! Nobody will judge.”

So I did just that.

I sat, rested, vaped a bit more and lo! My anxiety decreased and I thought I was ready to go…I would just walk really, really slowly and I would hang on for dear life to anything nearby be it a railing or my beloved cane, Stanley. I’ve grown to love him, reluctantly. He matches all of my clothes (he’s also black like my soul) and he doesn’t get mad when I forget and leave him behind in strange places. Who could resist that?

A couple of things I learned today (in no particular order):

  • Uggs – while flat, warm and oh so very basic – are not very good on slippery surfaces. Like steps. Like the cement steps down from my porch. The more you know.
  • While I have always been terribly ungraceful, uncoordinated, un-anything that means I have any locomotive skills for doing anything physical at all…It doesn’t really matter that I now have an excuse to be such a klutz. When faced with certain cement-filled death, miracles do happen! That expensive wrought iron railing I bought oh so long ago…totally worth every penny.
  • I walked gingerly across my snow covered grass to the driveway, clutching Stanley for my very life.
  • Freezing rain must pool around vehicles, or something, because my car was encased in ice and surrounded by what looked like small speed bumps made of ice.
  • Clinging to your brick house, your car, your cane and your backpack are all very reasonable when faced with speed bumps made of ice.
  • A miracle occurs. The car doors will open.
  • The entire car is caked in snow on top of ice on top of snow. I can’t brave the icy speed bumps to go back outside to scrape the car clean. I could easily perish by falling and sliding UNDER the car. I could run my own self over.
  • Sitting in the car with heat blaring at 82 degrees for 43 minutes may or may not be what one does when one is facing the reality of possibly running ones self over.
  • The ice eventually melts. EVENTUALLY. While it’s melting, one might sing the entire score of Jesus Christ Superstar while sweating off the makeup one took five precious minutes to apply.
  • As I am driving into town, it starts snowing. Again. Because of course it does.
My view from the red light as I drive into town on a gorgeous, balmy Thursday. The bridge. It looks ominous, doesn’t it? It might just be me.

Where was I?

  • I arrive in town and prepare to disembark at the valet at the hotel across the street from my office. We have an arrangement. Thank sweet baby Jesus, we have an arrangement. At the hotel across the street.
  • There is ice all over the place where it probably wouldn’t be an issue for even the average MS’er but it may or may not have required the assistance of two valets and an old woman to get me out of my car and into my office building…across the street. Yes. You read that right. ACROSS THE STREET. Wanted to make sure you got that.
  • I had a pretty great day in the office. I remember people! People are so awesome. Someone ordered Vietnamese food for lunch and got me some and…wow, I had no idea how much I’d love Vietnamese food. I’ve never had it before. How have I never had this before? So good.
  • I’m loving today!
  • I may or may not have vaped CBD in my office when the reliable MS back burning pain kicks in. Nobody cares, right? Right.
  • I had such a great day being with actual real people, I forgot to take my 4PM meds.
  • Two of my 4pM meds are pretty much required for any amount of locomotion. Ampyra (the walking drug). Baclofen (the muscle relaxer drug that lets my body actually move around a little).
  • I am stumbling out of the office clinging to Stanley and Sandy around 6PM. Sandy is a real person, and not a walking device. She’s my best friend and we work together. How lucky am I?
  • Sandy allows me to cling to her when we’re walking together in the outside world. It reminds of that thing that happens at every single Italian wedding you’ve ever been to. That thing where two old ladies dance with each other on the dance floor because their husbands are long gone but they straight up have the music in them so they dance with each other.
  • I’m not a big toucher. Neither is Sandy. But we’ve come to call this odd clinging behavior of mine cuddling. Clutching would probably be a better description, but whatevs. We cuddle all over town.
  • I actually have to lift my left leg with my arms to get it (and me) into the damn car. Sandy pays the valet for me. THANK GOD because those extra five steps would have put me on the sidewalk as sure as god made little green apples.

(As an aside, this is a very god-filled post for someone on the fence about the actual big guy himself…go figure. Nothing brings out the god in a girl like a degenerative disease. Amirite?)

Where was I?

  • I get home. By a miracle of the lord, again, and via my nephew Alex, all of the icebergs have been melted by the time I get out of my car in the driveway again.
  • I stumble to the front door thanking god (again) that I hadn’t forgotten Stanley in the office again. I am stymied by how badly I am walking. I mean, I walk funny! This is not in dispute. But I don’t walk THIS funny. Usually.
  • It is at that moment, I remember…my 4PM meds!!! I forgot my 4PM meds.

One tiny adjustment to my schedule (leaving the house) threw me for such a loop that I plum forgot the actual magical beans that try to turn me into a real girl. OK. I mixed up a bunch of Disney movie imagery there but you get me. I shouldn’t skip my 4PM meds.

Ever.

Tomorrow is supposed to be 43 degrees. The ice will melt for real this time. At least for a little while. Forty-three is almost within my range of workable environmental temps for ultimate body operation. I have determined, via a very scientific method (not) that ideal temperature to be between 45 and 55 degree Fahrenheit.

I will set myself an alarm on my phone as a reminder to never, ever again forget my 4PM meds.

I survived the icy, cold outside world on this day by the (sheep) skin of my damn black Uggs! But, it was worth it. I love Vietnamese food.

Remembering to say…for now, for today, for the moment

Sometimes, I forget to make the best of (sh)it.

I think I’ve had my first bout of actual writer’s block. It’s been almost two weeks since my last post and while this bothers me intensely, I think it might also mean that I’ve found some new ways of coping. So, yay me?

Kind of.

The thing that keeps occurring to me, this past week, is how hard it is to roll with whatever is happening in this moment. Right now. At THIS time.

For example, as I wrote in my last post, I’d discovered a new way to manage my pain. That’s been a huge change for me, an astronomical shift in how I can get through the pain of every day life with MS. Here’s the thing, though.

You still have shitty days. I still have shitty days.

I literally can’t rely on myself from day-to-day. And by myself, I mean my body. For the most part, my mind seems to remain mostly intact so there’s that. Thank the universe for that. But my body? My body is fickle.

Some days I feel so good it’s almost like I’m inching closer to pre-MS me. I am talkative. I find myself laughing. I sleep soundly and wake up feeling almost ok. When those days happen (and they don’t happen that often), I have to force myself to not go flying over the rainbow on my glitter unicorn singing, “IT’S OVER! IT’S OVER! I’M GONNA BE OK!” Because chances are within 24 hours, or even less, I’m going to feel completely differently and wonder where the good went again (I’m a bit obsessed with Tegan & Sara, but you guys already knew that).

Some days, I am halfway up the stairs to my second floor before I remember to hold on. Other times I go to stand up from sitting and my body literally won’t budge. Some days I wake up in the morning before my alarm and I don’t feel like I need 10 more hours of sleep. Other days I wake up and feel like sleep was a big fat freaking lie and I cannot conceive of getting out of bed. Some days my legs operate as legs should, for the most part, and I find myself feeling silly for walking with Stan (my cane, my one and only man) because he’s become somewhat irrelevant (kind of like some of my last boyfriends). Other days, I lean on him like my life depends on him. And sometimes it does.

Sometimes these changes don’t even take an entire day. Sometimes things change moment to moment.

When I was diagnosed with relapsing/remitting multiple sclerosis, I thought the spans of times when I would be either relapsing or remitting would be big long times. Weeks at least. Months even! I was led to believe that I’d have symptoms at times, at other times they would be worse, but I’d eventually level off again and get back to “normal.” Remitting means “cancel or refrain from exacting or inflicting (a debt or punishment).” Canceling or refraining is not what I’m experiencing. Waxing and waning maybe? Always on until it’s off? Firmly off before it snaps back on again without warning?

“Relapsing and remitting” might be the most deceptive term I’ve ever come across related to a medical diagnosis. It should be called “Constantly Changing and Keeping You Completely Off Balance MS” but I think CCAKYCOBMS doesn’t roll off the tongue so well, so they voted against it when choosing MS names.

The thing is, there is no normal anymore. One cannot become “accustomed” to having multiple sclerosis because one cannot ever get used to any one thing.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because my MS friends and I have been riding the roller coaster together. We text. We message. We talk online. We talk a lot and thank god for that because damn, it feels good to be 100% understood.

The day usually starts with “what kind of day is it for you today?”  Sometimes the answer is, “eh, not so bad.” Other times, the answer is, “Woke up with non-functioning legs.” Or, “Took a fall, feeling crappy, here we go again.” Or something similar.

We always forget to say “for now.”

Because it could be hours, days or weeks until your current state changes again or it could be minutes. This works in both directions, good and bad. Some days I wake up thinking I can’t. I just can’t do anything. Hours later, I’m grocery shopping and things don’t feel all that bad with a cart to hang on to. Other days I wake up thinking, I can and wind up flat on my face with dishes flying through the air and a purple-ish bruise blooming across my nose. You just never freaking know!

It’s a challenging way to live. My entire life is supposed to follow a schedule of some kind. I’m employed full time running a business. Meetings are a perfect example.

I used to plan meetings and feel nearly 100% confident that I’d be able to be where I needed to be when I needed to be there. I’m a reliable kind of gal. I like to do what I say I’m going to do. Consistently. Period. Now? Chances are 50/50 at best. I’ve nearly killed myself trying to keep to some kind of regular work schedule, in some kind of reliable way (either in the office or not in the office) but the fact is, I have to roll with what my body can handle on any given day and that’s just how life is now.

I might want to be there in person, but you might also get my tinny voice on a conference line instead. I might want to plan a trip to the home office to spend some much needed time with my colleagues down south – but I can’t tell the airlines I may or may not be able to make my flight and I won’t know until I’m walking out the door which it will be! I can’t tell my colleagues I may or may not be coming to see them in person, so just hang tight and free up some time for me just in case, because that’s not how the business world works!

But it’s how my world works. Thank the universe, once again, that I’ve somehow had two of the best years of my professional life these past two years since I was diagnosed with MS. The universe has a perverse sense of humor. But the constant threat of “what if I can’t?” takes a toll on us. Being a person with MS means never getting to really plan a goddamn thing.

The obvious up side to all of this is that we have to constantly remember, or rely on one of those trusty fellow MS buddies to remind you that whatever it is that feels so horrible now probably won’t always feel so horrible. It might last months (like after my first big relapse) and you might even start to get used to your new limitations, when all of the sudden something changes. You feel better. Or you just feel different. You will never see it coming but you can rely on one thing. It will change.

Sometimes I laugh to myself and think that MS is trying to teach me the secret to inner peace by proving to me that all we ever have in life is right  now.

Just as I type those words I got another right now but I might not have. I, of all people, should know that fact from my experience with young widowhood. But you forget! Time passes by and you start to feel normal again and you allow yourself to believe that there is such a thing as normal! You find yourself falling into a new routine and thinking it’s real but it never really is.

It is all about to change (or not) at any given second of any given hour in any given day (and so on and so on and so on). Or not.

It’s a universal truth and it’s universally ignored because there is truly no easy way to live without holding on to the delusion of control and remain a functioning member of our society that is built on plans, expectations, commitments and other silly things that are absolutely meaningless to me now.

I try to remind my friends (and at the same time myself), when we’re having shitty horrible terrible MS days that we have to remember to say to ourselves, “This really sucks balls…for now.” Or, “Fuck this…at this moment.” Or, “I love feeling so awesome…today.” Because good or bad, you kind of can’t count on any of it. And you have to be ok with that. Otherwise, you will straight up be in misery every day of your life and who the heck wants to live in misery?

I have to tell you…not me.

I’ve nearly gotten to the limits of my ability to wallow in misery. I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for me to reach that place, finally, and stop bitching constantly about how much I hate this entire experience! I was beginning to be concerned it would never happen myself. But there is a limit on how long you can feel hopeless and still find the energy to wake up each morning and play along. There is for me, anyway.

Reminding myself to put a shiny pink bow on a shit sandwich is important. It’s all gonna change! It’s not worth the energy it takes to believe any of it will last forever – now that could be your crappy legs, the rainy day or the month of January that seems without end. But it always comes to an end. And something new begins.

Now I’m not going so far into my commitment to misery-free living as to think I’m going to have more good moments than bad ones from now on. My experience of the last 24 months has not proven that to be the case. It’s just not true.

Yet. It’s just not true YET.

The search for peace (or pain relief…I’m not picky)

It’s been a little more than two full years since I was officially diagnosed with multiple sclerosis on December 1, 2015.

The contents of this entire blog are a summation of my struggle to accept or even understand what that information actually meant for me and serve as a kind of proof that this crazy shit is actually really happening. Let’s face it. These have been two rather shitty years. I got my diagnosis. I began to go downhill. It made me wonder if the mere function of knowing somehow made my body kick into disability mode. Like ignorance was my friend, and now that I was enlightened, my body was throwing a disease party and my entire central nervous system was invited.

Limbs were useless. Fatigue made me a living zombie. I learned, for the first time in my life, what real anxiety feels like. I changed into a completely different person almost over night. I stopped recognizing myself when I looked in the mirror. I stopped going out at night almost entirely. It was just all too hard. All of it. All of the life I had before December 1, 2015 became too fucking hard.

You guys already know all of that, but it’s important to understand the mental affects this disease unleashed on me to understand why these last few weeks have felt so downright amazing.

Formerly outgoing, see-and-be-seen Beth, the girl who could handle anything turned into home-bound, never-want-to-be-seen Beth who lived in mortal fear of somehow not being able to think let alone walk. Sometimes this was a physical thing. Most of the time if was a physical thing but I’d been ignoring the entire mental side of what was happening. I tried and failed to look at the bright side. I swung back and forth between dire despair and insane denial. Cheryl, my therapist, and me just keep reassuring each other that we just had to believe it would get better. We just had to.

Then the pain started.

I was just getting back on my feet after the Great Relapse of Summer 2017 (I call it that in my mind, like a title of a movie), when I was trying to get back into some kind of routine with my life. Getting myself to the office at least a few days a week. Trying to function. Trying to try harder. In the middle of all of that, I started to feel this intense fire in my body. I’d never felt anything like it before. I think I have a fairly high tolerance for pain, but this was something different.

I would feel it creeping up my spine around 3PM while I was sitting at my desk. I would begin to feel desperate knowing where it was heading. I knew I could rely on Sandy, my BFF who also happens to work with me, to help me get to my car but then I had to get in my house, do my daily cat chores. Get myself to bed. The mere physical effort it took to get me out of my house and to another location rendered me basically useless because my body was riddled with fire. I got a fancy new ergonomic chair! It’s amazingly comfortable but it didn’t help with this newfound pain.

I’d drag myself home. Drag myself up and down and down and up a bunch of stairs. I’d lay in bed in tears, my entire body on fire from the base of my skull to the bottoms of my feet to my fingertips. I was eating 800mg of Ibruprofen every four hours or so (way too much). It didn’t help me even a little bit. I’d start to think about how the next day was likely going to be more of the same. It was becoming pretty consistent. Sometimes I woke up in the morning with the pain already in full force.

I was starting to feel desperate. If living any kind of “normal” life led to this kind of pain, I was beginning to panic. How could I do this? I do pretty well acting normal in the real world, but I’m not that great of a pretender! I was toying with the idea of asking The Great Scott if there was something I could take for pain.

The minute that thought crossed my mind I shuddered. NO MORE DRUGS. Those words echoed in my head. I cannot take a single additional prescription medication. I mean, there has to be some point of diminishing returns, right? I take so, so many meds. I’d list them here but you’d probably have a hard time believing it. Also, pain medication just scares me. I’m definitely the type of person who would be inclined to abuse medication like that. If one pill helps, I bet two pills help so much more! I just know myself. It’s not a good idea.

I started to feel pretty dark. I think you could probably tell from the posts throughout 2017. I tried to keep my humor about me. I always reminded myself that there are people who have it so much worse than I do. That I should be grateful every minute of every day. Thinking those very true things didn’t really help much. Knowing other people are suffering doesn’t make your pain go away when your pain is a physical, menacing presence like a fire burning inside your skin that nobody can see but it feels like it might consume you. It just doesn’t help.

Friends I’d made online suggested to me that I consider trying cannabis for my pain.

I mean, I’ve read and researched a ton about this possibility and I truly believed it had merit. I already used some homemade cannabis edibles to help me sleep at night (I will never reveal where I get them but suffice to say, the person who makes them for me is a literal angel on earth).

Then there’s that one small detail I couldn’t get around. Cannabis isn’t legal here in Pennsylvania. I know we’re in the process of legalizing medical cannabis but that’s a process that takes a lot of time. I’d heard a bit about how hard it was to not only get the card you need to become a patient but then to get supplies from a very limited number of dispensaries. Oh. Also, as you might suspect, The Great Scott (my MS specialist) is 100% against medical MMJ across the board. Shocker.

But there is more to this struggle than those very factual, legal hurdles.

There is the fact, proven over 50+ years of life, that I freaking hate weed. I hate how it makes me feel. I hate how it smells. I hate smoking anything (except for that very short spurt with menthol ultra lights in my thirties when I was drinking my face off five nights a week…that was fun). I found weed basically repellent. It had a terrible effect on me.

It used to be a thing between my husband and I, when he was alive, because he smoked pot every day of his life. He knew I hated it but not because of any ethical or moral reason but simply for the fact that as soon as he took one hit of a joint he instantly became repellent to me. I can remember telling him, “You know, they call that shit dope for a reason. Gross.” And he would laugh and laugh. But I digress. Suffice to say, me and marijuana are not friends. I couldn’t really see it becoming a fundamental part of my life.

I watched how much it was helping some of my MS’er friends. Meg, in particular, inspired me. Watching her joyful face as she chronicled her daily walks on Instagram – noting that this new found joy for walking had been something she feared she lost forever! But not anymore. Meg credits cannabis with giving her her life back. You should read Meg’s blog. She knows so much more about medical MMJ and MS than I could ever share here. Check it out. But the smile on Meg’s face was making me really happy and haunting me all at the same time. I wanted to smile again. I wanted to smile again without the smile feeling like an internal grimace.

I remember telling some of my MS friends, “I wish I could get the benefit of the relief without the high! I’d do that in an instant.” Um. Guess what?

You totally can!

We’ll stop here and I’ll admit that I’m not entirely comfortable writing about this. I haven’t told many non-MS friends about this. It makes me feel funny – even though I’m doing something completely legal and non-psychoactive, it still bothers me. I haven’t broken this news to my mom or members of my family. I’ve told my closest friends, the ones I trust the most, but I’m not sure why this feels like such a dirty little secret.

I’ve been using CBD to relieve my pain and it’s hard for me to admit this in writing but it’s starting to really change me in all the very best ways. I started this whole exploration looking for relief from the pain and I indeed found that relief.

But I got a lot more too. Let’s start at the beginning.

I started with CBD oil from CW Hemp in Colorado. I had seen a story about these guys on CBS Sunday Morning years ago. Here’s a link to an excerpt from a CNN documentary that tells the story of Charlotte. This kid was having 300 seizures a week. The story is heartbreaking but it had a very interesting and happy ending. The CBD oil made by the Stanley Brothers in Colorado changed Charlotte’s life (hence the name of their company in her honor). It was worth squirting some pricey, nasty tasting oil under my tongue a few times a day to see if it could help my pain. AND IT DID. It took a while to come over me, but about a half hour after taking the oil, I felt the pain get quiet. It didn’t disappear immediately, but it got better. I started with their “everyday” product but it wasn’t strong enough for me. I progressed quickly to “everyday advanced” and that was much better.

Better was enough for me to dive into more research.

I discovered that for my kind of pain, the degree and severity, ingesting CBD oil is not the most effective way to get the Cannabidiol into your blood stream. By the time the oil is ingested and processed in your digestive system, through your liver etc. it’s down to something like 15% CBD. I’m fudging numbers here a bit but the reduction in concentration was distinct. I had to find another way to get the cannabidiols into my system without using the oil as the mechanism so the cannabidiol concentration would be higher.

This led me to another (100% legal) product called CBD shatter. Shatter is crumbly. A clear solid that breaks up into little pieces. To get the CBD into your blood stream most directly, I had to get a vape pen to use with it. Here was another hurdle! I know I had that short stint as a smoker in my thirties but it sucked. Literally. I hate smoking anything. I know I’m vaping (not technically smoking) but it feels essentially the same to me. I inhale vapor that comes from heating the CBD shatter in my vape pen. It looks very much like “dabbing” weed concentrates – but this is devoid of THC so there’s no psychotropic effect. I had been really skeptical about that so when it turned out not to get me high, I was super relieved. I found another form of even more highly concentrated CBD in the form of a wax.

Here’s the thing…I will share info with anyone that wants it in messages or emails, but I don’t want to do that here. I’m obviously  not a doctor nor an expert on anything related to CBD vaping. But I am here to tell you that I’ve felt happy for the first time in a months these past few weeks. I haven’t thought about taking a pain medication of any kind in over a month. I was buying Advil liqui-gels in bulk! Not anymore.

There was an even better after-effect of my new practice. That constant churn in my head. The fear that nothing will ever be the same. The constant “what ifs” that fly around my head quite literally 24 hours a day, even finding their way into my dreams. The ever present and sometimes crippling anxiety about what my future could hold…it’s quiet. It’s so very quiet.

That anxiety voice is still there, I know it is. It will probably never go away completely. I mean, when you have a disease that is chronic and degenerative that’s kind of the deal. Especially one as unpredictable as MS where literally things can change from day-to-day, even minute-to-minute. Having that yoke hanging around your very unstylish neck is a difficult business. Things that make that voice quiet have eluded me completely. And I’m a therapy expert! Ask Cheryl.

CBD vaping is helping me. It’s helping me a lot. I hate doing it. It still feels wrong to me even though I know it’s not. I hate how it tastes (some people actually love it! Go figure.). But I’m doing it three to four times a day to help me maintain my calm, quiet mind. To help me keep the fire in my body at bay. Even to help me loosen up these ridiculously spastic muscles that prevent me from moving around in a more natural way. It helps…nearly everything.

So there you have it. My dirty little secret. It’s really not dirty at all! I wish I knew why I’m so judgey! Mostly of myself. Maybe Cheryl will cure me of that some day but until then, I’m just trying to learn to accept things as they are.

And yes, I will be discussing this entire development with The Great Scott and I am already steeling myself for the medical debate that will surely ensue.

But here’s the thing. I’m on the mac daddy of MS drugs right now (Ocrevus). It’s not been the life changing experience I had been told it would be. It’s been just…meh. If something else helps me want to open my eyes every day, maybe leave the house a bit more, embrace the damn cane (sorry Stanley) and perhaps shower a little more often? I’m down with that. In all of my research I can find very little down side to vaping CBD. I’ve experienced exactly zero side effects. None.

It might not work forever. So I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts. I’m going to deal with the fact that I can’t really carry it around with me – it might be legal but it doesn’t LOOK legal – so I can only be pain free for several hour intervals but hell, that’s more than I had before! I’ll take it.

I feel like that little tree, up there in the picture, a lot of the time.

I try to keep things light and airy but I don’t often feel light or airy. I make the jokes and brush off the badness. But I feel dark and alone so much more of the time (even while surrounded by people who love me, both near and far).

A little ray of light seeping in is most welcome! Even if I have to suck it in through my lungs. I’d eat rocks right now if someone told me they’d make me feel better. You can bet on that.

The effects of being broken

While watching one of my favorite Sunday morning shows, CBS This Morning, I always find something to inspire me, educate me or just widen my mind. We should be clear, right at the get go, that I record this Sunday morning tradition and watch it most often on Sunday afternoons when I finally wake up. Today was no different in many ways but the source of my inspiration this time came from an odd place.

It was an interview with Sharon Stone. Sharon Stone of all people! I think I had an impression of Sharon Stone in my mind that positioned her squarely in the place of noted kook, beautiful older woman, famous mostly for THAT scene in that movie where she showed the world her personal, uh, situation in that particular interrogation scene. I thought of Sharon Stone as a privileged, rich celebrity with an awesome life. This particular interview with Sharon Stone taught me some things and blew me away with how much I relate to this woman who is a movie star and completely unrelated to and entirely removed from anything in my decidedly non-celebrity life.

You can watch the whole segment here. I recommend watching the show in general, really, because today’s segments were so especially good, but we’ll focus on the segment about Sharon Stone. She said something, many things actually, that hit me squarely in my core but mostly this one thing:

“…Others are not that interested in a broken person,” said Stone.

She was referring to the time after she experienced a health crisis, a stroke that rendered her unable to walk, or talk or act in anything at all. She had to re-learn how to live. Then she had to figure out how to re-enter a life that seemed impossible to break into (again) even with all of her obvious advantages. The segment made me think differently about Sharon Stone but it spoke clearly to me of things I understand, now, since diagnosis with multiple sclerosis.

First things first, working in advertising has nothing on Hollywood but you might be surprised how much of what we do when we work in advertising is about appearance, performance and showmanship.

I always tell people that I can tell when I interview someone if they’ll be successful in advertising within five minutes of talking to them. There is something you can’t put your finger on or name really, but you can feel when someone has it. It’s that need to put on a show. It’s the need to command a room or want to be the center of attention. The ad business attracts creative people who revel in creative things but excel in leveraging creative ideas to persuade groups of people to do certain things. Believe something. Do something. Buy something (usually whether one needs that something or not).

But our ability to do all of those things relies on a basic theme: Confidence that you CAN. Confidence that you can do this better than someone else can. You love being the alpha (even if you hide it on the outside). You need to be in the room, have a say, share an opinion. You have to believe that you make a difference to a situation just because you and your brain happen to be sitting in the room. You have to believe in yourself as a problem solver. Someone people want to listen to. Someone people believe knows how to make magic happen.

It’s all a bunch of blowhard foolishness. We all learn that eventually, as we get older and wiser in this industry, that what we do is not quite as noble or cool as we once thought it would be but sometimes, other times? It still feels pretty cool. I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that. I’m like the quintessential ad guy (girl). I need to be in the room where it happens. I need to be pulling the strings. I love my job even when I hate it.

Once, when I was really young in the business, I had a boss/mentor guy who said lofty things to me that were pithy and generally sounded true most of the time. One of those things that stuck with me was when he said, “You know what kid? The bottom line is, 90% of success in this business is just showing up.”

Christ, how that haunts me now!

Showing up is really hard for me now. It’s not only because of my mobility challenges, it’s the combination of the MS trifecta of challenges including intense general pain, trouble concentrating and crippling fatigue. All of those things contribute, oddly, to my ability to move my legs.

Imagine my anticlimax when I finally figured those things out recently! It’s all inter-related just like my nervous system controls everything in my body from top to bottom, inside and out. It’s all connected! It all keeps me from feeling whole. It leaves me feeling broken much of the time, while also feeling completely frustrated that I know in my literal cells that I am still me and that I can still do what “old me” used to do. I know this. So completely! I just have to figure out how.

I told the ‘showing up’ story to a colleague recently when we were discussing my inability to be physically present at times when I feel that it would be ideal for me to be so. I explained to him how this notion haunts me. It haunts me so much, in fact, that I have movie-like nightmares on the regular about terrible things happening to me in work situations.

I vividly dream about people I trust implicitly betraying me horribly in medication-induced detail and vivid color.

These dreams are so real, I wake up feeling shaken and unsteady. I wake up feeling sick. I can see the rooms, I can feel my legs struggling, I can remember facial expressions and what clothes people wore. On top of making me feel sick at the mere idea of something like my dreams actually happening to me, I also feel sick because I know for certain, 100% certain, that something like what happened in this particular dream would never happen. I am surrounded by people who want me to succeed. People who literally not only respect me but also love me. I am 100% certain about this, as well. So I wake up feeling sick and also guilty! How ironic.

Last night’s dream was a vivid representation of an event that will happen in real life tomorrow night. My boss’s boss (my boss’s title starts with a “P” and my boss’s boss starts with a C and ends with an EO), is coming to town to join me for dinner with clients. Tomorrow is actually a company holiday so I will be off work all day but it was the only day we could find that worked for all parties, so dinner on a day off it shall be.

This dinner only involves minimal effort. I need to get to the hotel where our CEO will be staying, pick him up, drive to the restaurant and eat dinner with people I genuinely like and respect, drive him back to the hotel, drive myself back home. Easy peasy!

In my very vivid dream last night all of this started in a blizzard.

In my dream, I was upset that I had to wear my winter boots to dinner instead of something more snazzy. That was the first sign that things were going awry. The second hit me when we arrived at the restaurant for our reservation to meet a large group of colleagues. I had never been to this restaurant before so I had no idea what to expect. As we approached, I saw what amounted to a multi-level tree house-like structure that had wooden steps, covered in snow mind you, circling all around the structure. Kind of like fire escape stairs? But wooden and running from floor to floor in a five story structure. The stairs had twinkle lights on them.

Our table was in a room at the top of the tree house, because of course it was. In my dream scenario, there weren’t clients at this dinner but people from my team and from our home office. They smirked at me as I clung to the wooden railings, dizzy and weak. I asked where the bathroom was and was told it was on the third floor (I’d have to go back down and back up the stairs again). I remember how painfully cold it was and how afraid I was of falling. I made it back to the table, out of breath and dizzy, and sat down but I couldn’t see anyone. My eyes had gone all blurry. I could hear people snickering. I heard someone say, “Yep, this is what we get now.”

Guys, it was so vivid! Wood grain on the stairs, sparkles in the ice where the twinkle lights hit the snow on the stairs, the numbness in my feet and legs, the tingling in my hands, the fact that my hair was sticking up in the back in the wrong direction and how embarrassed I was that I hadn’t been able to take a shower before my dinner meeting. I remember my panic thinking about driving home in the dark, in the snow, when I couldn’t really see anything.

I woke up shivering. I’d thrown the covers off in the middle of the night and I was actually cold in real life. I actually DID have to go the bathroom so I stumbled down the hall to pee. I shook my head to get the images from that crazy dream out of my mind.

This was the second similar vivid dream I’d had in a week about being “outed” at work for being useless. What is happening in my brain for heaven’s sake? I started to question my additional dose of baclofen that I’m now taking at night because that shit makes me have these crazy, movie-like dreams that freak me out. I know it will stop eventually as the side effects from the increased dose settle down but, damn. Dreams that vivid are scary as hell.

It occurred to me, then, how stressful it is for me to keep trying to figure out new ways to “show up” even when I can’t actually, physically show up. What doesn’t come out in my daytime thoughts finds a way out in my medication-fueled epic intense dreams. It’s me, again, not giving myself a damn break but subconsciously preparing myself to fail.

Here’s the thing. I do show up. I show up now more fully than I ever did before my diagnosis because I have to try harder now than I’ve ever had to try.

I used to do this job effortlessly, with barely a thought. It comes that naturally to me. I’m a born performer (hidden inside of a secret home-body). Now, I can’t always be in the room where it happens physically but I work really hard to be present, to make myself known, in other ways. I work harder. I talk on the phone a LOT (and I truly hate talking on the phone). I do my best to physically show up when I can and when I can’t, I do my best to prepare others to show up in my place.

It’s been working like a dream, to be honest. Things at work are still working. Our office is still successful. We’re still making money. We still do great work. I still show up. And even more gratifying is watching so many people I trust show up in my place and perform like the pros they are. It’s working!

Listening to Sharon Stone talk about how she is coming back to performing after years of working hard to physically come back, but this time in an entirely different time of her life, in an entirely different head space, spoke to me. I relate to that. I also work in an industry that worships youth and appearances. I’ve only been dealing with this come back of mine for a little over two years so I can’t really claim it to be a success. Half the time I sit back in awe wondering who’s life this actually is! But listening to Sharon Stone, of all people, made me believe that coming back is actually possible. Even when you think it’s way too late to even consider such a thing. I mean, Sharon Stone is over 60 and a woman in Hollywood. Those aren’t good odds even for someone that looks like Sharon Stone with all of her obvious financial advantages.

I know my real experience of this dinner meeting I have tomorrow will be nothing like my dream experience.

For one thing, I’ve already showered and we all know that’s half the damn battle. For another, I know exactly where I’m going because I took the time to Google that shit this afternoon, just to be safe. It’s weird to have a client dinner on a day off but even this detail actually works to my advantage! I get to rest all day, giving myself the best chance of holding my shit together for a few hours after dark, when I’m usually safely at home in my jammies.

This might be the best case scenario possible for someone like me to have a client dinner with corporate bigwigs. It’s all going to be fine! I will be fine. I will do what I always do and hold myself together while others are looking. I will show up physically and mentally this time. And it will be good. Nobody but me will know how hard it is. This is also good. It’s part of how I show up, now.

Oddly, the weather is calling for snow showers tomorrow night. I couldn’t get that lucky, could I? But I won’t be alone. I will have a supportive person with me and I will be dining with even more supportive people. I am almost as lucky as Sharon Stone (though I don’t live in her fabulous house with her fabulous wealth, but I do OK for a regular person). I’m pretty fortunate in more ways than those in which I am not.

I will keep showing up in as many creative and unusual ways that I can because I love my job, I love my colleagues and clients, and I need to hang on to as many parts of myself as I can, for as long as I can.

And that’s that.

Here’s an image I relate to right now, maybe more than the one above of the broken thing.

This is a very, very old ceramic tea pot. It belonged to my grandmother, I think, but I can’t really be sure. To be honest, I can’t remember. You might be able to see that it’s been broken several times and glued back together several times, as well. I keep it because I love it. I can’t explain my penchant for tea pots (and salt shakers) shaped like other things. I’m weird that way.

Now I will keep it for another reason.

New year…new me?

My new/old obsessions.

I’ve had a lot of time to think this holiday season since I took some left-over vacation days at the end of the year to allow myself to actually rest instead of just “pretend resting” which is what happens when I am working. When I’m working, I never turn off even after actual work hours because I’m too afraid of falling behind. When I’m really and truly off work, my constantly churning brain allows itself to slow down a bit. This only happens on those rare occasions when I’m off and my entire company and most of my clients are off too. Our offices close the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. It’s like the best gift anyone could give us. Time off when everyone else is off too! Brilliant.

It’s all over now, the holidays are past and life goes back to normal for normals and back to something else for us non-normals. But while I was in that holiday limbo, I got to thinking about lots of things. One of those things I thought about was putting some serious effort toward finding my lost joy.

You guys won’t be surprised to hear that I’ve had a hard time this year thinking about anything but how horrid this disease is and how it was more or less ruining my life. It crept into every corner of my life, every hidden nook and cranny, before I knew it, it had become everything. Everything in my life was tainted by MS. I let it happen, sure, but I think we all find ourselves there sometime when the lows get really low, lower than you thought they could go.

Your ever shrinking list of goals gets smaller and smaller. At one point, my only goal was pretty simple. REMAIN EMPLOYED. All efforts were focused on that goal because it is the foundation of everything else in my newly complicated life. My first goal was to function with limited travel (my HQ is in Atlanta, my job often requires in person meetings with clients not in Pittsburgh). I told myself it was no big deal and I could make things happen from my office in Pittsburgh no matter what it took. Then that stopped working – my new office created new problems. I had to cross the street (harder than one would think while dizzy). I had to get myself to the office but then once I was there I was good for nothing because I was so exhausted by the time I arrived, it felt sometimes like my brain stopped working (to say nothing of my body). That isn’t good. I get paid for my brain. I had to think of another plan. Again.

I decided to do my best to keep things moving, rolling and functioning but I would try to do that from my home office instead of my actual office. My body didn’t work so well but my brain still does! I could do what I do without putting my life at risk crossing the damn street. The only way this would work is for me to make 150% more effort to make sure I stay involved, relevant, impactful and useful. I had to build relationships over the phone – not as easy as actual face-to-face interaction. I had to support behind the scenes (direct, tweak, re-focus, support) to enable others to do what I couldn’t do. It works, it really works, but holy crap is it tiring. By the time I got to the extensive holiday time off I had planned (a little over two weeks off) I was depleted. I looked back at the last six months and felt very demoralized.

This didn’t leave much time for joy. I couldn’t remember what made me happy. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt actual happiness. I didn’t want to admit it to myself. I thought surely, this too, is normal and I just need to ride it out until happiness comes back some day! But maybe that wasn’t right. Maybe they were right.

“They” were two people, primarily, that I interacted with over holiday break.

The first was a woman on the internet. She read my Christmas blog and took the time to comment on the post. Her approach was new to me – I haven’t gotten much negative push back on my writing so far, mainly because I think I attract like-minded MS’ers. I try to find people who aren’t motivated by what I call the “sunshine and roses” blogs – “the MS-doesn’t-have-me” crowd. I know that whole thing works wonders for many people, but I think it’s obvious that this disease took me to some places where thinking on the bright side became impossible.

The woman commented on my blog and said (I’m paraphrasing here) that my real problem was that I always think negatively and I feel sorry for myself. She told me, with all good intentions I believe, to always remember that there is someone out there who has it worse than me. Huh. OK. I thought on that a minute or two, debating a few snappy come backs, and eventually decided to leave it be. Her intentions were good. I knew that. This is the price I pay for putting so much of my emotional baggage out there for the world to read! I let it go.

But it nagged at me. I wanted to explain to her that I knew what she said was probably true, and yet focusing on people much worse off than myself as a means to make myself feel more positive didn’t really work for me. It gives me no joy to think about how bad other people have it. In fact, it makes me even more sad. I want to fix things for all of those people. I want to make them better. And I can’t. So it’s just not that easy for me. Not yet anyway.

Later in the week, another interaction, this time a positive one, got me thinking about my approach to my lost joy again.

We had a post-Christmas get together with some dear, dear family friends. My mother’s friend Norma from childhood has two daughters and a son who have been part of my life for literally my entire life. As we got older we got closer and our moms remain dear friends to this day. We have an annual holiday get together that we call MMDDSS (or “mother mother daughter daughter sister sister) usually hosted at one of our homes, usually involving much laughter and a most excellent white elephant gift exchange. You may remember it as the night I stayed out past midnight! Of course I had to post that accomplishment on Facebook based on it’s sheer remarkable wonder.

My sister is a fan of tradition. She has always been the one that holds all of our family traditions together to the point where I jokingly refer to her as Tevya (Fiddler on the Roof? Anyone?). This year at MMDDSS, my sister wanted to start a new tradition. The thing is, we’ve all had some pretty shitty things go down in our lives this year. Our mothers both lost their husbands. We’ve all had relationship challenges, health challenges, challenges on challenges you could say and we all felt kind of over 2017.

My sister’s new tradition idea was inspired by the notion of people using sage to rid their environments and their lives of bad juju. Saging, or smudging, is a way to remove negative energy from your space and essentially your life. My sister’s plan was that each of us would write down the things that sucked about our 2017 on a sheet of paper. We would sprinkle our sheets with sage, fold them up and toss them in the raging fire in my sister’s living room. By doing this, we would ensure more positive energy for 2018.

I loved the idea but it stumped me too. My struggle was showing on my face…My mom’s friend looked at me and said, “You could probably write just two letters on your sheet to cover a whole lot of things, right?” And she was right. I was stumped because throwing my saged sheet into the fire couldn’t really change a goddamn thing about me having MS. I got a little twisted up trying to generate some actual positive thinking but I wrote my list and I sprinkled my list like everyone else. Actually, we sprinkled our lists with oregano since my sister didn’t have any sage, but as Italians we talked ourselves into the idea that oregano is probably good enough to erase our negative Italian juju. So oregano it would be!

I had a great night that night. Not physically. I felt like crap physically and I was worried I’d put a downer on the entire gathering by having to bust out early or sitting in a corner scowling like I usually do at holiday parties. But I did neither. I rode the wave of the laughter surrounded by people I love and I had a really good time. I felt happy. I thought I was just playing along, throwing my list into the fire, but it worked. I found myself vowing to try harder to feel happy more often. I vowed to try harder. I might not be able to rid my life of negative energy with a bit of oregano on a list thrown in the fire but I could try to change the way I think.

I’ve tried a couple of things to make it happen, some of them (photo above) are presents to me. Little things that make my life easier or that give me some kind of small happiness – whether big or small. I procured myself a little pile of happiness in the mail (presents for me! hooray!) and I remembered what it was that I used to love about my quiet, rather solitary life…

First, a new pillow. I am physically not able to resist advertising for the perfect pillow. I’ve tried them all. I’ve bought them, slept on them and subsequently stacked them in a closet when I eventually hated them. And yet, I still succumb to the idea of the perfect pillow that will lead to pain-free sleep.

This time, I bought myself a Talalay pillow. I would make 2018 the year of comfort, just like the ad said! You might think that I would be immune to outrageous claims in ads, what with being an advertising professional myself, but you would be wrong. I am the ideal target for these kinds of claims. I cannot resist them. The pile of supposed perfect pillows in my linen closet are proof of that! Talalay was going to be my ticket to a year of comfort delivered directly to my front porch.

Next…I might not dress fancy or work very hard on my “look” like I used to with glamorous makeup and high-effort fashion but I love to smell good. Smells make me happy. One in particular is as close to perfect to me as a smell can get. A small whiff makes me feel happy. People ask me all of the time what scent I’m wearing. Sometimes, in elevators, people tell me I smell like cookies. I mean, this might mean I use way too much perfume on the one hand but on the other hand, who doesn’t want to smell like cookies? Exactly.

Vanilla-based perfumes make me happy. I scour the web to find the best of the best. I use perfume every day – even when I don’t leave the house. It’s not for anyone else. It just makes me happy. I got myself two new ones to try, pictured above, at my favorite perfumery Lucky Scent. They sent me a bunch of little new vanilla perfume samples in the box, too, so it’s like a double dose of happy.

My next love to come in a box was from Barnes & Noble. You guys know I’m a huge reader. When I was dizzy all of the time late in 2017, watching TV made me nauseous. I was stuck in the house. A lot. But TV and computer work made my head swim so I dove into books even heavier than usual. In 2016, when I started to spend a lot more time at home after diagnosis, I challenged myself to see how many books I could read in a year. I read 30 books that year.

My goal in 2017 was to beat that total and with the health year I’ve had, it was pretty easy. I read a LOT. My grand total for 2017 was 35 books. I’m looking to beat that again in 2018. Since I’m a lover of actual books, a new stack like this gives me actual joy. Reading can go back to making me happy now, if I let it. It’s not going to be that thing I do because I can’t do anything else…it’s gonna be the thing I do because I freaking love to read. Thinking = changed. Boom.

The little item in the front, the magnetic mirror tag for my handicapped car placard was inspired by my friend Kara’s post on one of the MS Facebook pages I follow. I’m always worrying about ripping my placard. It’s crazy! I know. I pull it off and put it on a bunch of times in a day and it gives me actual anxiety. I can’t stop thinking about what I would have to do to get a new one should mine get destroyed. Yeah. This is a good example of my over-active brain over-thinking every little thing about every single action in every single day. A magnetic, plastic handi-capped placard holder? Why, yes, yes I will thank you. One less anxiety in my life for a mere $11.95!  It totally counts. Not all joys are big joys. They still count.

Next, there is my begrudging acceptance of the Ugg boot. The poster-shoe of basic bitches everywhere (those pumpkin spice latte loving, velour sweat pants with a word across the ass wearing girls with bouncy pony tails in colorful scrunchies and big hoop earrings). The Ugg short boot, is an eternal and likely permanent force in my life. I have denigrated the Ugg boot every time I wear them. They’re so…ugly. They’re so…NOT fashiony. They are so…for people who’ve given up on life and don’t care enough about their footwear, thinks Old Me. (I also love sweat pants and hoop earrings so I’m a total hypocrite, too.)

Guess what? Uggs are horrid but they are also comfortable, flat, furry and freaking warm as hell during a bomb cyclone. My black Uggs have seen better days so I got myself a new pair. I still don’t have a slogan across my ass, but I wear the crap out of my Uggs so I got myself a pair with bows on them. Bows make me happy! Even if nobody ever sees them. I see them.

I know you can’t buy happiness. I know that joy cannot come in a box. What this is really about is me giving myself permission to stop being so judgemental about what and how I should be living my life. I’m going to try and stop beating the joy out of every aspect of my existence.

I will smell good. Be comfortable. Read many books and protect my placard. It’s not much. But it’s a start.

P.S. I didn’t love the damn pillow. My eternal quest for the perfect pillow goes on! I will not be thwarted.

Tegan & Sara, concentric circles and failed resolutions

One time, quite a while back, I had my heart broken pretty badly. Correction, that one time in particular, I had my heart crushed to smithereens not by being left abruptly (which I was) but by the words uttered to me when I asked my then-boyfriend how he could just leave me for someone new after all we’d been through together.

The begging for an answer went on for weeks! I couldn’t stop myself beating myself up, beating him up even more, with incessant need to know why. “How could you?” I whimpered. “How could you leave me for her?” And then one day he said the fateful words I never needed to hear…

“She was just too good to pass up,” he said.

Wait a minute. I thought I was the one who was too good to pass up but apparently suddenly I’d taken a turn into pass-up-able territory without anyone ever clue-ing me in. I was mistaken. I wasn’t too good to pass up at all! SHE was. Well, shit.

The words don’t pack the same punch they had almost 20 years ago, of course, but they pop into my brain sometimes at the oddest moments to remind me that there are, indeed, some things one can never really forget but that doesn’t make those things right or true.

Sometimes the thing that jogs these words back into my mind is a particular song, that I happen to love, that sums up the flat-out flummoxed feeling I was left with once I was actually, suddenly left:

“Where do you go with your broken heart in tow
What do you do with the left over you
And how do you know when to let go
Where does the good go,
Where does the good go?”

That’s from the song by Tegan and Sara called “Where Does the Good Go” and if you’ve never heard it, check it out. It sounds sad, but for some reason, it always makes me feel happy when I hear it. Perhaps because it’s right in the sweet spot of my vocal range and I can really belt it out in the car when it pops up on shuffle?

Whatever the reason, it keeps popping up on shuffle again and again in these last few weeks and it’s starting to mean something different to me now.

It’s not so much about an age-old heart breaking memory to me anymore. It’s more about life now. My life. Your life. Life in general that is always changing, always knocking us on our collective asses only to surprise us with unexpected joy before it knocks us on our collective asses again, then back to joy and repeat. The stanza that speaks to me now is this one:

“It’s love that breaks the seal of always thinking you would be
Real, happy and healthy, strong and calm
Where does the good go,
Where does the good go?”

I used to believe there was nothing I couldn’t do, nothing that could really ruin me. I knew that even when my heart was broken, I was strong, happy and calm. I was healthy. That thing we tend to take for granted while wishing to be thinner or prettier or stronger or more talented or able to run faster. Health is the thing I never questioned. I believed somewhere way down deep that nothing could break me.

Along the way, these past two years since my diagnosis with MS, I lost that fundamental belief. It threw me for a serious loop because if there is one thing that makes me who I am – not the way I look, what I do, where I’ve been, how much money I make, how successful I’ve been, the car I drive or even how many cats I have – it is my fundamental belief that nothing can break me.

That’s how I used to feel. That unrelenting optimism in my own heart protected me. I would always be happy, healthy, strong and calm, no matter who broke my heart or what might make me feel otherwise for a short period of time.

Lately, I’ve been haunted by the notion of concentric circles.

I guess it’s somewhat obvious but I see my life in a series of concentric circles that once were wide and varied and full of new and exciting colors, lately the circles have gotten smaller and smaller, more focused and built of fewer colors than I’m used to, a lot like my predominantly black wardrobe. I think this notion about life as a series of concentric circles began in 2015 right after my diagnosis when I was freaked the hell out but still not fully aware of what my new life would be like. As my health started to go downhill, the circles started to get smaller, but in tiny increments. Nothing too scary. Then with my first big relapse in mid-2017, the circles were suddenly so small, that sometimes they threaten to suffocate me.

And yet they don’t. I’m still here.

There’s always a time period, a date or line in my mental sand for when I am expecting to feel somehow better. Those dates come and go without feeling better and it gets the better of me. It makes me feel like the good up and went. It makes me wonder, in the great words of Tegan & Sara, “what do you do with the left over you.”

Like everyone else in the world at this particular time on this particular night of the year, I’m sitting here on this last night of 2017 wondering which resolution I will fail to achieve this year (last year’s was so good! And also a dismal failure…it made for a great blog post, but it never did stick).

I’m going to try a few things with the left over me, and see if any of them stick…This is my honest attempt to kick myself in the ass and start focusing on the center of the circle – I think that might be where the good actually goes.

I’m in the center. The center of my circles is me.

So for this, the last day of 2017 looking ahead into a brand new set of 365 random days, I’ve made some commitments to myself. They’re not complicated:

I will try to remember that some pretty crappy shit has happened to me in this life so far and none of it has killed me yet. This disease is not likely to do it either (not even death by embarrassment).

I will stop judging myself and my abilities (or lack thereof) so harshly. It’s not the world that is ashamed of me, it’s ME that’s ashamed of me. I need to stop doing that. I walk funny. I stay in my house a lot. I wear pajamas a lot. I read a whole lot & go out a whole lot less. So what?

I need to give myself a break from all the judging.

I do need to try walking a little more. I do need to stop thinking of myself as no longer good for anything I used to be good for (I could make a list but some of those things would be pretty embarrassing so I won’t). I’m still good for a lot of things! The good hasn’t gone. It’s just gotten more inwardly focused and to be honest, closer to my center is not a terrible place  to be.

In 2018, I will listen to more music, laugh with more friends (either physically or virtually), try harder to be nicer to myself, stress less about how hard it is and how funny it looks when I walk around…I will allow myself to just be instead of wishing for how I used to be. I will eat more ice cream. (I figured I should give myself one easy resolution just to be safe.)

I will be where the good goes, for me, on good days and bad days.

I wish all good things for you, too, dear readers. My wish for you on this new year’s eve is that you find your good, wrap your arms around it and never let it go.

A very bright and dark Christmas

Some of my favorite memories of this very bright and dark Christmas holiday.

I’m sure it will come as no surprise to any of my readers that I was not looking forward to the Christmas holidays this year.

I mean, I’m not terribly subtle for one thing. I’ve been quite outspoken about the open struggle that has been my 2017. It seems like this year, that was supposed to have the promise of a new miracle treatment and a new lease on life for Bethybright, has been one disaster after another. I’ve gone downhill so fast, its left me dizzy. I can count on one hand the number of truly good days I’ve had since going off of Tysabri in January 2017. This Christmas was going to be the one when I could look back on the time that has passed since I was diagnosed just before Christmas in 2015 and say to myself, “Wow, these past few years have really sucked but it was all worth it because now I feel so much better and I feel hopeful for the first time in a really long time!”

Yeah. Or not?

Christmas is usually one of my most favorite things. But like many of my reliable favorite things of the past, it’s complicated now. Just like everything is complicated now.  I want to feel festive. I want to help with preparations. I want to enjoy time with those I love most but the simple truth is that just the act of leaving my damn house is a major issue these days and it’s really starting to get old.

It snowed on Christmas eve. I woke up to a white Christmas morning and it was beautiful and lovely and quiet. I lay in bed snuggly warm enjoying the simple pleasure of the overnight snow outside, the warmth inside, a cozy bed warmed by four furry creatures who are generous enough to share their body warmth with me. It was early, really early because that’s when those furballs wake me to be fed so I got myself out of bed, down the stairs and fed the kitties. Scooped litter downstairs and before heading back up to bed for a little longer to rest up for the festivities ahead, I peeked out the front door to look at the pretty snow.

I noticed, the lid had flown off of my tub of ice melt on the front porch. I  opened the door thinking I better get out there and put the lid back on before the thing blew away when I noticed that my front porch looked shiny. It was a solid sheet of ice, rippled, like tiny frozen waves, made by wind that blew through the night. I gingerly stepped outside in my outside slippers, carefully grabbed the ice melt bucket lid, very slowly tossing some ice melt across the porch and down the steps to my sidewalk below, shivering all the while because I’m still in my pajamas. I crunched back to the front door being a little less in mortal fear for my life and went back to bed.

It dawned on me, though, that I wasn’t going to be able to drive myself and my mom’s to my sister’s house where Christmas day brunch was to take place. My sister lives high atop the world’s steepest driveway, affectionately dubbed Mt. Doom. Any snow at all makes the approach to my sister’s house nearly impossible without 4-wheel drive. I was supposed to pick up my mother and head up to my sister’s but I knew if it was icy at my house, it was definitely icy at my mother’s house. I realized that I’d be basically of no help whatsoever for getting my 77 year old mother from her house to my car while also carrying the homemade danish pastry she had to bring to the brunch, across sidewalks made of ice. The truth is, my mother is almost more capable than I am but neither of us should be out traipsing around on icy sidewalks.

Change of plans. We needed transport. My sister has a Suburu that would have no trouble getting us up Mt. Doom, safely and with the precious danish pastries intact. Alex, my nephew, came to pick us up and get us safely to the Christmas feast. All good! Disaster averted. Having an amazing family willing to drop everything to make things easy for you is kind of awesome. And yet, there I was sitting in my funk, thinking to myself how much I hated the entire situation.

Something as simple as the weather can fuck up my entire day. I’m so unsteady on my feet that even a little snow or ice renders me basically useless. When it’s too hot, I can’t function. When it’s too cold, I can’t function. Low-key stress-free holiday fun all delivered without my help or support should have been perfect (and in many ways it was) but it bugged me that I wasn’t able to help with any preparations at all. I didn’t hang one single ornament or bake a single cookie. I didn’t do more than wash a few dishes, and barely a few. I did nothing. Nobody asked me to do anything, of course, because they all know that it will probably be too much for me whatever the ask might be. Hell. My only job was to get my mother to the brunch and I couldn’t even do that because I needed help my damn self.

Earlier in the week, I had a hair cut appointment in a busy part of town during the holidays. I was feeling ok that day, not great but not terrible (otherwise known as my general state of being), so I headed out not at all worried about the task. How much easier can it get? Drive to the salon. Park. Get into the salon. Sit. The end.

But it was the Friday before Christmas so people were everywhere  scurrying about getting last minute gifts or meeting friends for festive holiday drinks, doing what normal people do during the holidays. I couldn’t get a parking spot in front of the salon like I normally do. The only handicapped spot on the street was an entire block away but it was my only option. I hadn’t brought Stanley, my cane, because I’m still not accustomed to the fact that I’m likely to need him if I have to walk any distance at all. I stumbled the one block to the salon. I was dizzy and shaky. I could see people looking at me drunk walking down Butler Street trying to pass me because I was moving so slow I was barely moving at all, feet occasionally dragging. I made it to the salon but I was on my last legs. I knew I had to repeat the whole thing in the opposite direction again once my haircut was over. I sat there wishing my hair cut could take longer. I didn’t want to go back out there again. I felt so far away from safety. It was unnerving. Safety was literally less than a block away.

I love that people make things easy for me. From work colleagues to family members to friends and neighbors – I am surrounded by people who want to help make things easier for me. I am truly #blessed (and I’m not even being remotely ironic this time). I just want so badly to go back to being useful, a helpful, fixer of problems, solver of challenges, someone my people can count on. Not someone who my people need to worry about, cater to, work around.

It strikes me over and over again over this holiday break how my mother and I are oddly in the same boat though we are nearly 30 years apart in age. Neither of us can do what we want to do all of the time. Both of us move pretty slow because both of us are likely in some kind of pain. Both of us want to be able to do more and we’re both pissed off at the world about our current circumstances. My mother, a new widow learning to live on her own for the first time in almost 60 years and me, the 50 year old woman who woke up one morning feeling more like 75, has been consumed with anger every minute of every day since.

I want to have an answer when someone I love asks me, “What’s new?” My answer this year was probably better kept to myself but instead when my niece asked me that very question yesterday at Christmas brunch my answer came spewing out of it’s own accord, “Oh, you know. Not leaving my house a whole lot. Different body parts stop working every day. I haven’t showered in almost a week and I haven’t been around actual human people in weeks. I didn’t bother putting on makeup today because I knew I’d be too tired when I finally got home later to take it off. I look like a fatter, older, uglier version of who I used to be…so. I guess that’s what’s new.”

Geez. That was a lot. Nobody deserves that but there you have it. It’s very possible I should keep those kinds of responses to myself. They slip out. As if they demand to be heard and acknowledged. As if doing that might take their power away. Saying things out loud makes them not as scary, right? Not always, as it turns out.

Every year on Christmas morning before I head out to my family’s annual brunch, I watch A Christmas Carol alone at home in my jammies with a cup of coffee. I like the George C. Scott Scrooge the best. I cued up the movie on demand and enjoyed it again this year. It hit me about halfway through. I’ve been visited nightly by my ghosts of Christmases past, present and future and I want to be a changed woman much like Ebeneezer. Alas, I just keep being visited by the very same ghosts over and over and over again. Like they’re lost or caught in some kind of loop where everything bad is on repeat. And I keep waking up broken, slow, pained and angry.

My family went out of their way to make this first Christmas after my father’s death as good and happy as it could be. I am literally in awe of what my sister is capable of doing. She puts up like 5 Christmas trees! Thank goodness because I haven’t put one up in almost 14 years. My mom kicked butt too with her cooking, preparing, and generally doing more than any recently widowed woman should. My nephew Alex continues to be amazingly helpful and a source of actual joy. That kid is hilarious. Everyone was a joy to be around. I am so very lucky I am ashamed by how much I hate this entire experience. I want it to be over. It will never be over.

My mom had a tough time this holiday season. It broke my heart. It broke my heart even more to know that I am yet another thing she will continue to worry about. I am another reason why her mind can’t be at peace.

I had a wonderful Christmas. I really did and I am deeply grateful for all that I have and for the wonderful people I am surrounded by (including all of you, my readers). Yet, I am simultaneously also grieving. I’m grieving for my mother but I’m also grieving for myself. I’m grieving for what I lost, which feels like most of me, things I can never get back. I’m not sure what to do with that reality.

So, yeah. I’m a big holiday downer with a side of desperation. I have a trip to make for work in late January. I have literally no idea in the world how I’m going to make it happen. It’s lurking back there in my mind taunting me, telling me I can’t expect people to be patient with me forever. Hell, I’m not even patient with me! When am I going to finally wake up and laugh about this horrible dream I’ve been having?

When will I finally stop being so angry? 2018…you’re facing a lot of pressure. 2017 set the bar pretty damn low. Don’t let a girl down, 2018, ok? Don’t let a girl down.

Been there, done that (and I’m so grateful)

You have. Not me. And I’m so grateful for the wisdom.

Here’s the thing.

We call multiple sclerosis a snowflake disease and with good reason. MS is never the same for any two people. Things that are major issues for me, may not affect your friend who has MS at all. And I will be the first one to tell you to shut your damn pie hole when you tell me about your cousin’s friend’s grandmother who runs marathons with MS because…just shut it. We can still be friends that way. But I digress.

Things that have never gone wonky for me, may drive you crazy on the daily. There are many symptoms I haven’t yet had the pleasure to meet. And no. I’m not stupid enough to actually write down a symptom I do NOT have. That’s terrible MS karma and I’ve fallen victim to it before. Fool me once! You know how that goes.

The thing that amazes me lately, though, is not how unique and special my disease might be but how utterly normal and mundane my MS is in almost every way. The problem is that nobody of the medical professional variety has ever told me, warned me, or talked to me at all about some of the weirder things that can happen, therefore I spend a lot of time with this soundtrack flying around in my mind…

“Is it MS if I’m in pain all of the time? Is it a muscle pain or a nerve pain? When I put my head down and get that tingly feeling down my spine, is that my MS? It’s not a pain, it’s more like a tingle, but people call it pain and I don’t call it pain, so maybe it’s something else entirely…Is it crazy that (fill in the blank) is happening to me or is it just my MS? WHY WON’T ANYBODY TELL ME ABOUT THESE THINGS?!?!? WHY MUST I GUESS AND GOOGLE UNTIL I THINK I MAY GO MAD?!?!?

This soundtrack is the background music to my life. It started even before I was diagnosed.

My ever-patient BFF and fave sidekick in life had to listen to me say things things like this out loud constantly in the year leading up to my official diagnosis. The one instance that is most vivid to me was when we’d be getting out of my car to walk into our bar for what we called “happy time.” I started to notice that when I stood up after sitting for any period of time, my legs would do a little shake thing. Like a tremble. Before I took a step toward the bar.

In fact, I know I said something really close to this because my BFF does this awesome thing where she writes down crazy things I say over the coarse of a year and then prints me up a book full of them each year on my birthday. I guess I say a lot of crazy things? Go figure. But one day as we went to walk into our bar I actually said something to her like, “I wonder why my legs do this little shake thing when I want to walk anywhere. I’m like a shimmy waiting to happen.” Or something to that affect. A quote something like that went into the book that year among other equally weird things I might have said in that 12 month span. It was like a foreshadowing of shimmies yet to come.

I suppose the doctors don’t tell you what to expect because they don’t want you looking for things to “blame” on MS. It’s kind of a mind-screw (to be polite) really. They make you guess what might be your MS until you can’t stand it anymore and you ask then they say, “Well, Maribeth, that can be very normal for people with MS that presents like yours with lesions in the blah blah blah area and blah blah blah…” I actually hear the blah blah blahs because I’ve gone mad with rage just thinking of the time I could have spent not agonizing about the symptom du jour.

That’s where you guys come in, really.

I knew this blog was helping me, mentally speaking, just to have a venue for the overwhelming feelings that bang around in my head, bouncing into each other growing larger like molecules turning into evil compounds along the pathways of  my broken central nervous system. Those thoughts have to be released somewhere if anyone is even remotely capable of dealing with the hot mess that MS turns our lives into sometimes. But there’s been a surprising and awesome upside I never predicted.

As it turns out, you guys are much better at the advice giving and symptom checking than Google or The Great Scott (all due respect to the Big G, and the TGS). You guys knit together random posts and thoughts and things I share, then you come up with a pretty damn good explanation and send it to me via IM or on a Facebook post and I feel instantly more calm knowing that I’m not actually losing my mind.

The most recent example was when one of my personal MS-gurus, I call her Joda (the Yoda of my MS). Joda and I have never met in real life. We didn’t even meet in one of the many MS-related forums and groups. We met completely randomly through a mutual friend on Facebook. The serendipity inherent in this “meeting” kind of blows my mind more than a little.

So, Joda knit together a few things that led to a place I’d never even considered before related to how my body functions (or doesn’t) in the outside world. Those seemingly unrelated but probably related things are as follows:

  • When I make it to work, I now require a special chair for supporting my head and neck because I’m in so much pain at my desk I can barely function. This chair has a neck piece and makes me feel like I’m the commander of the Starship Enterprise (or “just like that really smart guy in the wheelchair? What’s his name?” said my friend at work. “That would be Stephen Hawking and probably not the best comparison to make to the sometimes crippled girl.” And we laughed and laughed).
  • The new chair helps, quite a bit, but it still doesn’t alleviate the phenomena that occurs where by at the end of any day (even a good leg day!) when after a few hours in my office, I’m practically dragging my legs across the street to the valet, praying I don’t fall down before I make it there. Like clockwork. Weird.
  • Then there was the day I posted about how my trip to Target nearly killed me, as I pretty much became Frankenstein about 1/2 way through the store. I couldn’t keep up with my mom (who was with me and getting more and more concerned the longer she watched me lurching around). And again, by the time we were walking back to my car, dragging my legs behind me like big stupid wooden logs instead of my formerly functioning legs. It was a good leg day or I wouldn’t have even considered a trip to Target in the first place!

These things can’t possibly be related. I clearly am trying to make connections between random things that have nothing to do with each other, I tell myself. Not everything is about my MS!

Until it is.

Joda, amazing font of MS wisdom that she is, happens to mention very casually that there could be one thing connecting these phenomena that I never knew was even a thing! This one thing that might explain why my home is usually the place where my body feels the best (which isn’t saying a whole lot lately but you get me).

It’s the lighting! Joda tipped me off to the one thing all of these places have in common. The lighting. The damn bright, jarring, previously unpleasant but never energy zapping, light that is pervasive in all public places.

This artificial lighting, fluorescent and otherwise, in public locations can cause symptoms to flare up temporarily. Well shut my mouth and get me to Google…and lo, there were stories among the thousands from people who have similar experiences. People who are forced to wear tinted lenses or actual sunglasses at all times in artificial light. People who suddenly can’t walk halfway through Target (they actually refer to it as “the Target effect!”). People who have trouble with bright lights when driving after dark (ahem). This isn’t something new! People have been talking about the Target effect for years and years all over the interwebs and yet nobody thought to mention that to me at any of my visits to The Great Scott. I guess they don’t want to “suggest” symptoms you might never have?

Whatever the reason, every little bit of time that I can save trying to puzzle out if I’m crazy or if it’s my MS, every little bit of that time is critical because feeling like you might be losing your mind while you’re simultaneously losing some pretty important physical functions is a shitty, horrible place to live. Feeling like you might be losing your mind is one of the worst things about having a disease that is such a snowflake, sometimes, but at other times, not very snowflake-like at all!

Just tell me I’m not crazy and things get instantly better.

I know this is a big ask. Clearly, if you know me at all either digitally or in real life, you are well aware that my sanity has been pushed to all new levels of delicacy. I nearly lost my damn mind during my first relapse. I literally thought if I stayed one more day in that hospital bed, I could be certified insane and put into another, entirely different, kind of hospital. I can go a little batty trying to figure out what time to shower is the safest for me on a particular day because there are so many goddamn variables that my mind bends a little just trying to think through how to take a damn shower.

Telling me I’m not crazy, and not lying, is a stretch on pretty much every single day. But as soon as Joda shined the light, Kara jumped in and corroborated and then Google verified the masses and masses of people with MS who struggle with the very same thing, I felt a million times better. I know that’s also not saying much lately, but any better is still better.

On the downside, I’ve discovered yet another thing that I have to plan around. Maybe I don’t go to Target so much anymore. I’ve got Amazon Prime for most things anyway, right? I sat in my office in my Stephen Hawking chair in the dark last week and you know what? Even though there is bright glaring light all over that place, sitting in the dark with just the glow of a desk lamp actually helped my pain. It does bring up concerns, of course, that I’m now not only going to be the girl who looks funny and walks funny but now I’m also going to be THAT person. The one wearing sunglasses indoors.

Maybe it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that part of the reason I love being home so much of the time is not only that I can hide from the outside world of normal and very fast walkers. It is also because home is where I feel, physically, the best. I am in control of nearly every aspect of my home. Except the damn steps, of course, but I refer to those steps as my daily workout, so there’s that.

I mean, I keep wondering when it will be that I can entertain the idea of air travel again what with it involving so much of every little thing that is bad for my MS. I think sunglasses will be a must for travel to occur. Also, at my super brightly-lit giant corporate campus in Atlanta I will now likely have to be Sunglasses Girl with the Draggy Legs, but hey. My brain still works pretty damn well and I have always enjoyed being the center of attention before it was a medical thing, so maybe it’s OK?

Nah. I will hate everything about that scenario. But I can force myself to remember the many times one or a bunch of you proved to me that I am not entirely crazy after all, and I will feel a tiny bit better.

I’ll take any kind of better I can get these days. I’m so amazingly grateful for this network of wise MS friends I’ve made over the past two years since my diagnosis in December of 2015. I get kind of misty just thinking about it.

The Great Scott may be great, indeed, but you guys are the real miracle workers.

MS Life is Chock Full ‘o Irony

You probably already knew that. MS is a mean, relentless, ironic disease. It’s actually one of my most obvious observations since this whole wacky ride began almost two years ago this month. Well, two years ago in December anyway but close enough.

The things I’ve hated on about myself or thought were critical to my state of mind are the things aggravated most by my multiple sclerosis. So in essence, MS is working to make my worst fears actual realities. Here is but one of many examples…

My looks have always been way too important to me. I took vanity to some dizzying heights in my twenties and thirties. Hell, even into my forties, who am I kidding? It was the thing I always clung to as necessary for my happiness and sense of well being.  As a result, the second I’d been wronged or jilted in some way or when things happened to me in life that presented unpleasant challenges, I would immediately focus all of my energy on hating the way I looked. It’s my standard stress reaction, according to my Precious, Cheryl my therapist. Cheryl is rarely wrong. Because this reaction of mine is pretty much guaranteed. Something stresses me out? Something hurts me? Obviously, it’s because of all of my flaws.

There’s quite a few of those pesky perceived flaws. I’m not pretty enough, I’m not thin enough, I’m not stylish or cool enough, I’m not the kind of girl guys like, I have major hideous physical flaws. I catch glimpses of myself in any reflective surface and see what I believe is a real-life monster. I believe this to be actual truth (though Cheryl often reminds me that I have “broken eyes” that see things that aren’t really there when I’m stressed out…whatever, that’s just crazy).

In circumstances like this when I’m in that reliable downward spiral, when I become the monster-girl, there is one perceived hideous monstrous flaw that bothers me a LOT. It is the area of my upper back that I affectionately refer to as my hump.  It’s part of an entire upper-body focused twisted obsession wherein I’ve convinced myself that my neck is too thick, my posture is terrible and as such I’ve developed a roundness in my upper back akin to good old Quasimodo.

I refer to my hump often. My hump really ruins any dream I’ve ever had of being perceived as graceful. It’s round bumpy humpy-ness utterly ruins my profile. I loathe my hump. It haunts me.

Lately, since my relapse from hell I’ve developed some odd symptoms. I’ve been having a severe, burning pain in my hump which has never been attractive but had yet to have actual feeling associated with it. Now it burns like hellfire that requires me to ice it for any kind of relief. Pain relievers have zero effect on my burning hump.

The next weird thing I’ve been experiencing is an overwhelming thirst. Like, ten days in a desert without water thirst. I’m woken up in the middle of the night nearly every night with a mouth and throat so dry I can barely swallow. I’ve been drinking a lot more than a gallon of water a day. I’ve had to increase my 5 gallon bottled water delivery from 4 per month, to 5 per month and most recently I’m up to six 5 gallon bottles in a MONTH. That’s just insane. I live alone!

And finally, I have noticed a very strange, uh, re-organization of where I carry weight. I’ve never bothered much about my belly because comparatively speaking, it wasn’t anything to really worry about. Now I have a gut. I have a round ass face and a thick neck. My skin is weirdly dry. Try not to be jealous. I know it’s hard.

I was worried I might have developed some kind of serious condition like diabetes or thyroid disease (or worse). Isn’t one disease at a time enough?

My primary care doctor, Dr. Mackey, ordered a bunch of blood work for me so we could figure out what was going on before I saw her today for my annual visit. We talked about my hump pain, my amazing thirst, my roundness in unwanted places…and then we discovered something even more mysterious. My blood results were amazing. No blood sugar issues, lowest A1C in my life, thyroid levels normal. Normal. Normal. Normal.

And yet…searing pain in my hump, debilitating thirst, dry skin and all the rest. Even Dr. Mackey (kind woman that she is) said, “You do seem to have developed a roundness at your upper back that concerns me.”  A roundness?!?! She was medically acknowledging my biggest fear.

MY HUMP IS REAL! It’s not imaginary and it has been getting worse and guess why? Come on, I’m sure you’ve guessed by now…It’s likely to be due to something called Cushing’s Syndrome that is sometimes caused by long term use of high-dose steroids. You know long-term like over the last six months of my life. I’ve been on steroids 5, maybe 6 times? That includes my IV Solumedrol in the hospital that time. I get a small hit of Solumedrol with each of my Ocrevus infusions.

“Will it go away?” I asked her, feeling utterly desperate. “How do we get it to go away? Or make it stop growing?!?!?” I think Dr. Mackey could hear the desperation in my voice. I mean, I’m less than subtle as a general rule.

And then she said, “Well. You can avoid being on high dose steroids as often as you have this year but that’s kind of impossible seeing as your MS has been so incredibly active in the past 6-8 months.”

Um. Ok. That little piece of information is a giant chunk of suck. I can’t avoid steroids! Unless I somehow miraculously stop relapsing every few months, I have a future chock full o’ steroids. Unless the new goo suddenly kicks in and I suddenly start feeling like a real girl again (as if that’s likely to happen).

F.M.L.

MS, it turns out, is trying to ruing everything about me. My physicality, my appearance, my general ability to do basic tasks – and now, NOW, it’s going to mean I’ll likely be in constant adrenal suppression that will make my hump even humpier than it already is. Just when I was trying a new era, one where I try harder to  love-my-broken-body! Goddamit. I want to be nicer to my body, I want to stop resenting it so actively but damn if it isn’t really hard to love your damn hump. Humps are inherently unlovable. Trust me on this.

I’ve read that Cushing’s Syndrome is reversible. According to the Cushing’s Support and Research Foundation, “This process of weaning and wakening of the adrenal axis may take up to a year, and should be monitored by an endocrinologist or physician who has ample clinical experience with the process.”

Another specialist? Another “process.” When I see that word anymore I shudder. I’m not asking for a whole lot of instant gratification, people! Just a teeny, tiny twinge. Why isn’t there some speedy method of hump reduction? Is there ANY JUSTICE IN THE WORLD AT ALL?!?!?

So me and my burning hump will be trying to figure out how to wake up our adrenal axis (whatever the hell that is). Until such time that “process” is completed, prepare to listen to me complain about my damn firey upper back “roundness.”

Dr. Mackey is such an amazingly nice woman, but I cannot deny that I wanted to punch her in the throat when she used that word.

Maybe MS is trying to cure me, finally, of fatal vanity. Maybe MS is trying to help me re-focus on more lofty things like trying to feel good instead of trying to look good. Maybe it’s trying to force me to accept that it’s always been what’s inside that counts (even though I thought that was actually a thing people would say to unattractive girls when they felt sorry for them).

I’ve made a vow, a solemn vow, to try and love my hump (and all of the other objectionable things about this body these days). I don’t know if I’m up to this challenge.

But it’s either that or waking up my adrenal axis and that sounds kind of intimidating. I’m sure it involves a lot of kale.

Post Script:

Here are some good things that happened today to me and my hump…

– I went to the doctor AND to my office today, meaning I walked more steps today than I’ve been able to walk in a while and also remain upright. (1,701 to be exact…I’ve made it clear before that my expectations are really not that high.)

– I ate a giant healthy salad for lunch AND butternut squash soup. I’m so healthy! I also walked to get said salad and soup all by myself. Not very far, but still. It counts. I didn’t need a walking companion.

– I made some serious progress on experiencing life on the outside today, more than I’ve been able to accomplish in a good while. I guess that’s progress.

 

 

I’ve got nothing

So let’s try this thankfulness thing…

Usually my blog posts start as thoughts that I can’t get out of my head. I noodle and I roll them around until I virtually have to sit down and get it out before it drives me insane. Lately, though, my mind has been a bit dark. The truth is, I’ve got very little to say lately about my MS and how it’s generally screwing up my life, continuing to do so well past the deadlines I’ve imposed on myself like so many fake lines in the sand. The deadlines come. Then the deadlines go. Nothing seems to change. And the world keeps turning. Who wants to read about that?

I don’t even want to write about that (even though this blog would indicate otherwise).

I discovered recently at my second full dose infusion of Ocrevus that The Great Scott told my infusion room friend Marci that the magical superhero of DMTs that is supposedly the new goo can often take longer to “take” for those of us over 40. Well. I’m staring down 51 and I’m here to tell you, that shit is true. I actually felt worse after my last  infusion. It seems to be lifting this week but I had a weird bout of Frankenlegs today as I attempted to get myself to my first manicure in…months? I think it’s been months. So, there’s that.

I’m terrible at the gratefulness thing in the middle of this hot mess that my life has become. I chastise myself constantly. I tell myself it could be so much worse. I know this to be a fact and yet it doesn’t help me get all full of hope and light like it should. It just doesn’t. Maybe I’ve sunk a bit too low but the funny thing is, I don’t feel depressed. I feel some kind of weird apathy starting to grow that maybe I just need to stop fighting it so hard and start realizing that this is my life now. It just is! It’s mine and I should learn to love it, not be resigned to it, as I often feel I am.

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday (where we celebrate the false story of pilgrims sitting down with the Indians all friendly like when in fact there was a whole lot of pillaging and killing native peoples by the thousands going on), I’ve decided to try harder at being less apathetic.

I like turkey. I like getting together with my family. I’m going to focus on this impending day as a chance to focus on my own little twisted form of gratitude.

Things I am thankful for…MS Edition

1. My amazing family, friends, co-workers, neigbors and various others who help me to actually live some kind of life that includes laughing, love and kindness. Without these various people…I’d be sunk. Thanks for keeping me afloat.

2. Nothing fills me with more gratitude than things being handled and thus no longer something for me to think about. Something for me to do. One example of this is the giant package of toilet paper that my wonderful sister got for me at Sam’s Club recently (even the thought of going to Sam’s Club makes my legs feel funny). She delivered it to my house. Every time I look in the upstairs linen closet I feel an intense sense of calm. Yes, you read that right. Massive amounts of toilet paper represent one tiny thing I do not have to deal with for a very very long time. Toilet paper has given me peace.

3. I’m grateful for my grocery store that delivers. I almost kissed the woman who dropped my bags inside of my door with nary an ounce of effort on my part. She was frightened. She was wise to be frightened.

4. I’m grateful for great health insurance and a great job that allow me to fund this insanely expensive disease. Drugs and doctors costs money, people. MS drugs and specialists cost even more. Thank god I am generally able to deal with that web of crazy as a result of this very important fact – I remain employed in a job I love. That’s huge.

5. I’m incredibly thankful for Cheryl my therapist who is attempting to keep me sane through this whole thing. Sometimes that takes the form of just giving it to me straight, like this past Tuesday when I said, “I’m trying really hard to see the silver lining here.” She replied, “Well, you should stop that because there isn’t one. This sucks. If anyone says it doesn’t I will fight that person.” And I instantly felt peaceful for the first time since toilet paper delivery day.

6. Dana B. my incredible hair girl is a gift in my life. I get an appointment with her, and I immediately feel better. I know that I will feel human again once she does her magic to my short-haired head. She will spin the chair away from the giant full length mirror that the chair sits in front of, when she notices me squirming at the mere thought of having to look at myself in my current condition for even five more minutes. Growing my hair, even a little bit, created a situation where my unwashed bedhead looked exactly like unwashed bedhead. This could not stand. Dana cleans me up and makes everything right again. I have workable bed-head hair again that some people even think is (dare I say it) cool! For that, I am incredibly grateful. Somehow, Dana makes even bedhead look amazing. Also her salon is one of my happy places. She just gets me.

7. I am thankful that I finally found the perfect pair of black leggings (thanks Universal Standard) as well as the perfect slippers that won’t kill me (thanks Glerups…yep that’s a thing). Also, since I spend a lot of time in slippers, I’m grateful for my Halfinger kitty slippers too (also not deadly). I can never have too many non-deadly slippers with kitties on them.

8. I’m grateful for Old Navy for making my favorite fold-over-waist yoga pants for years and years and years. Now that I wear them almost daily, and laundry involves many steps, I was most relieved to make this discovery. While we’re thanking clothing stores a big thank you shout out to American Eagle for my favorite uniform top the “soft and sexy t.” I do feel very soft (but not very sexy) every time I wear one of the 8 or 9 long sleeve black t’s I now proudly own.

9. I’m grateful that people write amazing books that I can read and forget about things for just a little while. I’ve read 32 such books so far this year and there’s still time for more.

10. I’m really grateful for the lovely woman who did my microbladed eyebrows. If not for this talented wizard, I’d be walking around eyebrow-less on days I don’t wear makeup which is most days these days. Nobody wants to be a picture without a frame. Some days, those eyebrows give me actual joy…I am shallow. And vain. This has long ago been firmly established but that was the best money I’ve ever spent.

11. I’m really grateful for all of you, out there, my digital MS family who are sometimes the only reason I don’t lose my ever loving mind on a daily basis. Your guidance, your stories, your advice and life hacks – your mere existence makes me feel less crazy. Someone else out there has pretty much experienced everything I have, often times all at the same time, and survived it. That is the only thing that can make me feel better sometimes. Plus, you guys are funny as hell.

12. I woke up this morning (already a win). I spent the day making yummy things with my mother, my most favorite person in the entire world (and I have a lot of favorites). She never fails to make me laugh. And we move at about the same speed these days though she is much more ballsy than I am. Nothing holds that woman back. I need as much of that in my life as I can get right now.

13. People that love me, enough of pretty much everything (too much of most things), a home I love, a bunch of kitty cats to keep me busy and calm all at the same time…

Ok. As it turn out, I am incredibly grateful for a whole lot of things. My life is awesome. Even with MS. Even with my funky walk, dirty hair and random dramatic falls. I am incredibly fortunate. I will try to remember that more often.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. May tomorrow be a good leg day, a great food day and full of all of the things that you’re grateful for.