So, what’s it like living with Multiple Sclerosis? That’s one of the most asked questions I get from people. And it’s a question that’s not that easy to answer. Trying to describe the physical and mental difficulties and limitations that I experience is met with some very unique responses. I’ve been told to “take tylenol” for the pain in my feet, to “eat more potassium” for the cramps in my legs, and to “take B12 and energy pills” for the exhaustion. When I explain that those things simply don’t work, they look at me like I’m crazy. After all, it works for them. Some people just don’t seem to understand that I’m not like them. I have a damaged Central Nervous System due to more than a dozen lesions in my brain and spine that have totally wrecked my nerves in those areas. Some have healed well. Some haven’t.
The pain I experience is not because I’m in real pain like someone stepping on my foot. I’m in pain because my nerves are misfiring and sending pain signals to my brain when there really is no existing pain in the first place. No drug can remove that kind of pain. You would have to stop the communication process, not the actual pain. There are some medications that help, but I haven’t found one yet that works for me.
The numbness in my legs is not something that goes away by uncrossing my legs like someone does when their foot falls asleep. My legs are numb, experience that “pins and needles” feeling, and cause pain to shoot through my body every minute of the day. No amount of foot elevation or exercise will wake them up.
The exhaustion I experience isn’t because I didn’t sleep well the night before or that I’m not eating nutritionally. It’s a debilitating symptom of the disease that is not remedied by natural herbs or better sleep. Although those things can help, it’s not a “fix”. Making it through one day without having to take a nap is a good day.
I also deal with vision problems that can’t be corrected with glasses, dizziness, muscle weakness, and of all things, heat makes everything worse. That hot shower most people enjoy, I can’t take one or my muscles will seize up. That hot tub soak, an impossibility. That day at the beach, even in the shade my symptoms are hard to deal with. That trip to the mall, within thirty minutes I’m done. Just walking across the parking lot of the grocery store presents a challenge that some days I just don’t want to face.
MS, by many, is called a silent disease because so many people who suffer from the disease that still have the ability to walk look perfectly healthy on the outside. Most of us try to hide the pain and the struggle, but as we go about our day, we deal with all the things that you can’t see.
Yet even with all that I am going through, I’m thankful for the family and friends who stand by me, who listen to my frustrations and fears, who try their best to understand my struggle, who continually pray for me, and who love me regardless. I’m thankful for a pastor and a church family who are a true example of Christ’s love in action and have blessed me greatly. And most of all, I’m thankful that God is holding me up and walking me through this time in my life. I am able to go through this with joy in my heart because I know that God will use this experience for His glory. My life belongs to Him and as long as I have breath in my body, I will encourage all those He brings into my life with the same hope and joy that He has given to me. There is nothing, not even a chronic disease, that can stop me from being used of God and sharing His love with others. It makes living life that much sweeter.