Let’s face it: Multiple sclerosis (MS) can have us spinning in more ways than we’d like to admit.
One obvious example is one-sided weakness, which can find us favoring the stronger side for support and can make walking in a straight line tough if not impossible. Sometimes the resulting MS drift makes me think that if I walked far enough in an open field, I’d end up back at my starting point because of all the sideways motion in my forward progress.
For those using wheeled mobility devices — such as walkers, rollators, and wheelchairs — any misalignment in the wheels can have the same effect. For those who don’t use such assistance, you’ve likely grabbed a grocery cart with a faulty wheel once or twice and found yourself doing laps of the produce section.
While not directly MS-caused, this sort of spinning is surely MS-related when it comes to mobility aids.
Vertigo Causes Its Own Variety of Spinning
Ah, and then there’s vertigo!
When our balance system is directly affected by an MS attack (or we have vertigo as a persistent symptom of the disease), the world spins around us, rather than us spinning in it.
In my case, vertigo has had me crawling — eyes tightly closed against the sensation of being in a vortex — to vomit, rinse, repeat.
One Task Per Day Usually Keeps Me Centered
The MS vertigo version of spinning is, thankfully, not the one I’ve been experiencing of late. None of these previous examples are, in fact.
I have been spinning in the figurative (mostly) sense, as if one foot has been nailed to the floor with an NBA defense closing in on me with no teammates to whom to pass.
I have structured my days and weeks over the past couple of years to allow for success as well as flexibility. Mondays are for task A, Tuesdays for B, and so on.
By making such plans, I can get all of one thing done and feel like I have accomplished something for the day. Not then taking on something from the next day allows me down time to either recover from the day’s work or move on to something more enjoyable and relaxing.
It's a technique I learned from my friend chef Brian McDermott as he learned to deal with both health and business challenges that would have even the most centered people I know reeling.
It has worked well for me. Well, it worked well for me until MS got in the way, and then it stopped working well.
MS Can Disrupt Even Sensible Plans
A course of a few rough days turned into a rough patch. It’s the sort of insidious creep that many with progressive forms of the disease will know too well. We’ve gotten used to not having attacks, per se. Our disease now nibbles around the edges and takes its thimbleful most days.
When, however, it takes a few spoonfuls at a time over a course of weeks, it’s almost like an exacerbation in slow motion. Things from Monday slipped into Tuesday and from one week into the next. As I tried to pick up the pieces from yesterday, tomorrow already had its foot up my backside.
The emotional spin that I’ve been in for the past three or four weeks coincided with the ending of one project and the beginnings of another. As with airplane flight, the take-offs and landings are the most difficult parts. I was trying to land one plane while getting another airborne. Thankfully for all involved, this is just another analogy.
Though not directly caused by my MS, like the example of the bad wheel on a walker, I would not have experienced this task-revealed spinning had it not been for our stupid disease.
Getting Back on Track
I’m (mostly) back on track now. I’ve been cleaning up the little messes that my vortices have created.
In picking up the pieces and trying to move in a (again, mostly) forward direction, I have learned yet another unwanted but appreciated lesson: When it feels like the world is about to come crashing down, it may very well be. Asking for help in either holding it up or getting out of its way as it comes down is the best course of action.
Once again, noted and tucked away for next time — because there always seems to be a next time.
Wishing you and your family the best of health.