Multiple Sclerosis (MS) can be a disease stacked high with so-called invisible symptoms — things that happen to our bodies that no one else can see. These maladies can range from (but are not limited to) fatigue, pain, numbness, and cognitive dysfunction to bladder and bowel issues.
There are also, in the wonderful world of our stupid commonality, symptoms that can be even more frustrating to explain: phantom symptoms.
We’ve chatted before in this column about one example of the phantom symptom: “the cold hand of MS.” A new one woke me recently in the early hours before the rooster down the lane made his morning announcements, and so I thought we’d talk about them again.
My Whole Left Side Was Vibrating … Except It Wasn’t
By definition, a phantom sensation is something we experience that isn’t really happening. The creepy-crawlies that feel like bugs on our skin are a perfect example. I will often get an icy-cold drip falling onto my thigh that feels like water or wax splashing onto my leg. Many of you have chimed in over the years with some of your own not-really-there experiences.
On the morning in question — so early it was still almost night — I awoke lying on my left side to a vibration in the bed that was so very real that I thought maybe someone had put a washing machine on the spin cycle under our bed. When I was awake enough to analyze the sensation, I eventually understood that it was something related to MS and that I wasn’t really vibrating.
First, the bed was not moving. That was pretty easy to ascertain. Next, I came to understand that only the left side of my body was feeling the harmonic, bodily hum.
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Still, the sensation was so real that I placed my right hand all over my port side to see if I could feel any movement. None was to be had.
It Feels Crazy to Experience Something That’s Not Happening
It’s one thing to have a tic or twitch where I can say to my wife, Caryn, “Can you feel (or see) this happening to me?” and she can experience the oddity as well. To feel something that really isn’t happening is a whole other level of crazy.
Whatever lesion on whatever part of my electrical system that was causing the formidable rumble was affecting only my left side, but it was the entirety of that side of my body — from the center of my spine to my sternum, and from crown to heel. It lessened when I rolled to my back and became even fainter when I continued to my starboard beam, but it didn’t disappear altogether.
Later, as I sat waiting for Apollo to make his daily chariot run across the sky, I still noted a faint vibration in every part of my left side. My teeth, my ear, fingers, buttock, toenails … it was just there.
But it wasn’t there, for nothing was really moving. This thing that I could feel from the inside couldn't be experienced by anyone else or even the part of me intimate enough to share the same skin and organs.
Weird disease, this multiple sclerosis thing; weird indeed.
Wishing you and your family the best of health.