Constantly changing MS, three updates…

Update number one
My life with multiple sclerosis has been ever changing. Five years ago I did not have the arm strength to get out of even a wet paper bag. This weakness did not allow me to maneuver in and out of a simple sedan without great struggle. I lacked the know-how and the skills needed to transfer to and from my wheelchair and a car correctly. Sadly car manufacturers still have not accepted my idea of a slingshot device for help with this. This mechanism would shoot me into an SUV from my wheelchair. A catchers-mitt would help catch me on my way out.

At that time the only vehicle that I physically could enter and exit easily was a small SUV. It was because my legs could hold my bodyweight steadily. I merely stand next to the SUV grab the handle above the passenger side window. Holding the handle, I simultaneously hop up and pull. This procedure would land my rump on the seat where I physically grab my legs and swing them into place.

This situation might sound like an odd thing to celebrate, but sometimes it’s the little things. Now that my arms are much stronger I can get into most sedans with ease. I also have the skills to know where to place my hands and when to launch my derriere into the drop zone. There are of course caveats to everything in life and I occasionally still struggle a little. However, with my new upper body strength, it is easier to properly place my posterior.

Second update
Now I can swim a significant amount without any detrimental dilemmas. This improvement is the result of the way that I approached my swim training over the years. From the beginning, I moved cautiously and deliberately s-l-o-w. I started by doing two years of languid regimented movements. I would continually alternate between ten minutes of a light leg work out and a ten-minute chat session with a classmate.

After a year of that light training, I began attempting to walk in the pool slowly. Two ladies in my class started helping me walk ten yards to keep my legs from losing strength. I walked with the assistance of these women two times each class for another year. This walking was in addition to the slow leg exercises that I was doing on my own.

Every step that I made in my water fitness training was with planned patience and purpose. I was aware that my MS made it necessary for my growth and gaining to be gradual. Yes, I went from zero to sixty, but it was over a three and a half year timeframe. This slow exercise regimen progression helped my body adapt and overcome the fitness training.

Final update
I took several real hits from MS during my swim challenge. These hits were a persistent weakness of my legs, arms, and hands. The same day that I swim, I am much weaker, but the next day I recover 90% of my strength. I did this MS swim not to impress anyone except myself as multiple sclerosis stole nearly everything from me. This challenge was a way for me to stand up (so to speak) and say “Not this time
MS! This one is mine!”

I do not know how many-if any-of these physical challenges I will want to do. I have now done both a 5k and this swim challenge with my MS riddled body. I hope that my body will recover from this swimming challenge, but it will likely take time. I understand that these new difficulties are a result from my own doing. However, the pride of saying that I did something that I never thought that I could is life-altering. I will not sit on my laurels to rest but will reduce my workout intensity immensely. Only time will tell what the future will hold for me, but I plan to keep moving forward. I will continually do whatever is needed not to let multiple sclerosis control my life any more than necessary.

Challenges are what make life interesting, overcoming them is what makes them meaningful.

Hey Cupid, come back you missed!!!

Having to say those dreaded words: “table for one please” is the worst feeling in the world. The issue of romance and MS has been a significant topic of discussion for an extremely long time. I have never done a blog on the subject because like a schoolgirl watching a horror movie I fear it. Since I am as confused as most on the topic of love I thought I would discuss it from my perspective.

The meaning of love is subjective. I have seen arranged marriages or even people who wed out of convenience. Both couples say that they genuinely love each other. I have heard some couples say that they eventually came to love their significant other. I also saw someone who was asked if they love their spouse and this person just said “sure.” Neither of the last two examples sounds like love to me, but who am I to judge.

The idea of love for those of us with many medical conditions is a twisted torturous topic. This concern of finding our forever love depends on one’s personality. It also is dependent on how visible their symptoms are to the outside world. It may be easier to discuss less apparent symptoms with a date. It could be as simple as you wobble and need to sit down occasionally.

For me, my MS is more impactful like my visible-to-everyone wheelchair. However, it could be my less obvious distance vision concerns. On the other hand, I am not sure how else my MS will impact my life since I rarely get out. I have always been a little shy, and my multiple sclerosis and wheelchair have pushed my trepidation to heights unknown.

A major concern of mine is that I do not drive. The idea that I must ask a date to pick me up for our dinner is difficult. Like if I was asking my partner to cut up my steak for me, it feels awkward. It is annoying enough requesting a date to deal with a guy in a wheelchair. Society is now beginning to accept the disabled in everyday life. Coping with wheelchair life is not for the faint of heart. That being said, I fear to have to put that burden on anyone else especially a date.

I do not get out and experience very much in life. I go to doctor appointments at the local veterans medical facility. That is not a place to meet the ladies unless you are a boldly confident extrovert. I do go to church once a week and occasionally to an event that they hold like trunk or treat. Most of the women that I interact with at the church are married or much older.

I spend much of my time at the pool in the hours that most individuals my age are working. During these work hours, I rarely see people let alone women my age. Occasionally when I do see a woman my age at the pool, she is there only once. I do not have the confidence to ask these women out the first time that I see them. After they are gone, I often say to myself “the next time that I see her I will ask her to dinner.” At that point, all of the courage in the world means nothing as I never see them again.

I tried the anonymity of online dating and found that I do not have the right words. I do fancy myself as a budding linguaphile, but I do not possess the verbal skills needed to attract even a starving dog with food. I thought that being anonymous during my online search, in the beginning, would allow them to see me first and not my chair. I assumed that if they heard the fumbling and bumbling guy that I am, I would sound normal like most guys. Sadly I did not get a chance to talk to them at all because they never replied to my messages. Apparently, I am not an internet dating guy.

They say that love is hiding behind every corner. Sadly, I must be walking in circles. I am pretty sure that I will not be single forever. Others often tell me that I am a good looking guy with a great smile and that I have a lot to offer. I wish that this dating thing felt less like swimming in quicksand and more like swimming at the local pool.

When I was on the assembly line for my creation “confidence” was on backorder. They decided to upgrade my smile and my personality to aid in my dating life. Sadly it is not the same and has not helped at all.

“One day someone will be 100% honest with you and will love you forever, so don’t give up trying to find them, they’re looking for you too.”

Two friend conundrums same low price…

I would rather walk three miles in the dark with a friend than one mile in the light alone. There are many types of friends, and they all have their specific place in one’s life. We have good friends and not so good friends, text friends, and best friends. There are phone friends and lone friends, school friends and cool friends. There are work friends and camp friends, church friends and nerd friends.

Each of these friends has their strengths, and they tend to stick with those characteristics. They can move from one zone to another although it does not happen often. A work friend can become a best friend, and a lone friend can become a cool friend. Most days I feel like life is a soup and I’m a fork.

I feel that it is essential to have a variety of several types of friends at all times. It is crucial to have good friends in all aspects of your life. For example, I have swim class friends and church friends, but I seem to be missing a few other types. Yes, those friends are important, but I am lacking game or movie night friends. I have a deficit of “let’s get lunch because it is Saturday” friends or “let’s hang out cause I need a new pair of shoes friends.”

Some people may say that if I had a wife much of my friend deprivation would be resolved. I understand and sort of agree with this hypothesis. I look forward to the day that I have a wife. Although I will not rush into a bad marriage just to fill the echo chamber within. However, there is a critical twist to this conclusion. It is good to have time apart from your wife meaning I am still in need to somehow fill this void.

When I swim, it is during daytime hours. This means that meeting people my age is a rarity at the pool where I spend a huge part of my life. I am betting that most people that are my age are working. I am not sure what the solution is to this dilemma. This complicated conundrum will cause my continual contemplation.

Switching to my second situation

I find myself in an interesting circumstance as I continue to swim laps. In a word: lonesomeness. It is different being home and alone as opposed to being in the pool and in a solitary situation. When I am alone at home, I have things to do like work on my blog or even do laundry. Some days there are people in the pool and many times not. The previous shows how it feels when the pool attendance is low like being in the emptiness of space.

In the class area, I can hear my fitness group. I wish that I could join them in their reindeer games. I will be swimming laps for my fundraiser for a few more weeks as I am at the halfway point. I will be extremely proud of this accomplishment like I was when I did the 5k in my wheelchair. However, I am bored out of my mind of the continual solitude that I feel. Humans are social creatures and even though I am shy I too enjoy palavering with the best of them.

Strangers can become best friends just as easily as best friends can become strangers

Plenty of pains can I get some gains???

The further that I get into the swim for MS challenge the more that I get hit with physical difficulties. So far these struggles have not been significant enough to make me want to stop swimming. I have spasms in my legs more often than I used to. When my legs spasm now they look like they are in a river dancing competition. My routine of standing exercises that happens at home hourly has been happening less often because of a few falls. I find myself cautiously slowing down my transfers to eliminate the chance of tumbles.

I try to do squats in the pool as it is safer to exercise in the water. It is imperative to make sure that my legs can continue to bear weight. However, these leg building exercises have not been as successful as I had hoped. Since I have had MS for seventeen years, I am more willing to take some risks. I now keep all of my movements deliberate preventing possible problematic perplexities.

When I first began doing laps in my swim class, it was after two hours of exercising. I soon saw severe physical problems at home. I quickly lessened the intensity of my workouts to help aid in my recovery. It seemed that I recovered from most of those rapidly. However, there were some ineradicable issues.

I do not have to worry about my physical challenges impacting anyone else. I know where the stopping point is and will not cross it as there is no one at home to aid me if I take it too far. Think smarter not harder.

We all make daily decisions that could change our lives. These choices can take us down a sunny or even a dark path if we make the wrong decision. Sure there are the less impactful simple queries such as do I want to use a paperclip or a staple. Then there are the more significant options that can alter our lives forever. Do I want to tell my boss off and quit my job? Or do I bite my tongue and make the changes that he requested of me once again?

My final goal is to swim over six and a half miles. The debate that is currently going on in my head is: will I lose or gain more from this swim challenge. I do feel that in the long run, I will get stronger. I may have a few setbacks, but I believe that they are setups for what my future has to offer.

The struggle that you are in today is developing the strength that you need for tomorrow.

The Inconspicuous side of MS…

I occasionally deal with those that see me in my wheelchair for the first time and talk to me like I am five. “Hi, and how are you doing today?” people ask. I answer like they are two. “Wow look at the grown-up clothes that you are wearing today” I comment. That usually goes over like a lead balloon at first. After a few minutes, some people smile sheepishly and apologize in embarrassment. I believe that when non-wheeled individuals see someone in a wheelchair, they make many incorrect assumptions.

The following is difficult for me to talk about because my MS issues are more evident than other MSers. Many with multiple sclerosis have symptoms that are not visible. These hidden symptoms cause many who are not sick to distrust MSers. The ill sometimes will say that they are too weak to do something. At that point, the word liar gets tossed around like a ball in a dodgeball competition.

Wheeled individuals do not deal with the same disbelief and distrust from the unseen MS symptoms. The majority of my MS issues are conspicuously on display for all to see. I do remember my early years of dealing with the doubt that comes from some non-MSers. That being said, those of us in wheelchairs have our battles with to contend.

MS has many symptoms that are common yet invisible. Many multiple sclerosis patients battle with a lack of trust, because some individuals who are not sick have more assumptions than facts. The fact is that a MSer can be negatively impacted quite rapidly by unseen symptoms stirs doubt in non-MSers. Many times people with multiple sclerosis have abilities that vanish without announcement.

Take fatigue, for example. This symptom has no outwardly visible signals. Fatigue is a feeling and not an apparent issue. It is not merely tired from staying up too late or working too hard. This deceptive creature can cause a mental or physical lack of energy. Fatigue is a prevalent symptom that is experienced by nearly 100% of multiple sclerosis patients.

Poor sleep is another deceptive symptom of MS. This restlessness can either be the cause or the effect of issues like fatigue and depression. Sleep concerns in its many forms are common in those with multiple sclerosis. Poor slumber can negatively impact the quality of life by affecting most parts of one’s existence. This severely debilitating problem affects both physical and mental abilities. I never understood how lousy sleep could impact my quality of life until MS.

Depression is a term commonly applied to a wide variety of emotional states. These can range from feeling down for a few hours on a given day to severe clinical depression that may last for many years. In its various forms, depression is one of the most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis. From the NMSS website: “in fact, studies have suggested that clinical depression—the most severe form—is more frequent among people with MS than it is in the general population or many other chronic illnesses.”

Depression is also an imperceptible symptom to others. This unrelenting sadness can have catastrophic repercussions on one’s existence. Doctors have said that depression has the most significant adverse effect on quality of life (QOL) in MS patients. It has more of an impact on QOL than disability status, fatigue, or reduced sleep quality. Neurological damage associated with MS can cause this deep sorrow. The list of causes for multiple sclerosis depression is exceptionally lengthy.

These are just three of the most common unseen multiple sclerosis symptoms. Hidden symptoms have caused doubt of many individuals living with multiple sclerosis. Some of the non-sick believe that they must see it like a rash for it to exist.

I have spoken to individuals who have had family members not believe the struggles of the MSer. This distrust is after the strength of said MSers disappears entirely over a short period. I have experienced my energy drastically weaken in only a few minutes. However, I often wonder how a family member can call any loved one a liar.

The bottom line is this: just because you cannot see a symptom does not mean it is not there. Also, do not assume anything about an illness as you will likely be embarrassed in your ignorance. Do not be ashamed but respect what you do not know or do not understand.

“It’s better to keep your mouth closed and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt.” Mark Twain