The invisible disease. The silent struggle. Unlike other diseases, Multiple Sclerosis can largely present only internally, mainly as pain and fatigue. This, in turn, creates an entirely new kind of pain—the pain of being alone in suffering. When others don’t know what is wrong, or can’t fully understand what it is like to live with MS day in and day out, most living with the diagnosis often forgo speaking up, and instead, learn to cope quietly.
In a recent article posted on MultipleSclerosis.net, author Kim Dolce describes her first appointment with her neurologist upon receiving her MS diagnosis. The doctor began questioning her history of childhood illnesses—and this caused the floodgates to open. She realized she had been living with MS for decades. Suddenly, the pains she suffered in her legs at age 8, and the loss of balance that caused a bike crash at age 12 made sense.
Looking back, she could see that these previously inexplicable problems were no longer inexplicable. This disease had been part of her life all along.
Learning this doesn’t necessarily change her treatment plan, but it does bring Dolce some clarity along with some peace. Her past makes sense.
We recently posted her article on the MultipleSclerosis.net Facebook page, and asked if you related to her experience. More than 100 of you reacted to the post, and many of you commented.
Here’s what you had to say.
“I can remember the aching legs from age 8.”
For many of you, Dolce’s article brought clarity to your own pasts, making sense of events and experiences that otherwise went unexplained. Because you didn’t receive the diagnosis until much later in life, you went through childhood and early adulthood with pains and aches that didn’t fit with what the doctors said. At the time, the pain brought confusion and frustration.
“I was diagnosed at 59, but when reading the above article, I can remember the aching legs from age 8 or so every night, sobbing my heart out and the doctor telling my mother that it was growing pains. That could very well have been the first sign that I was a candidate for MS!”
“I fell often before doctors knew what the problem was.”
“I’ve had undiagnosed symptoms for 40+ years.”
Unfortunately, this scenario seems all too common: That many of you lived with symptoms for decades. As challenging as the physical symptoms were and are, the problem was exacerbated by the not knowing. There’s no community of people to relate to if you don’t know what you’re dealing with. Often, there’s less empathy for problems that don’t come with a diagnosis. Many people find it hard to understand or relate to pains and problems that aren’t named. And only when there is a diagnosis can people understand what is happening to you.
“I’ve had undiagnosed symptoms for 40+ years. I was only recently diagnosed in 2016.”
“I was diagnosed back in 1987 couple flare-ups then and one about 25 years ago. Nothing since but extreme bouts of fatigue!”
“Now that I know what’s going on, it’s a lot easier to accept what’s happening.”
Although getting the news of your diagnosis is never easy, for some of you, the diagnosis was a turning point that brought some relief. The diagnosis meant that you now knew what you were dealing with. There was suddenly a map—a direction that others had taken, so at least you knew how to handle this place called MS.
“Wouldn’t have helped knowing early in because there was no treatment. Soon as I was diagnosed, I began treatment, which helped immensely.”
“Now that I know what’s going on, it’s a lot easier to accept what’s happening with my body. I may not like the diagnosis, but I can now get the proper treatment for my future.”
We want to say thank you to everyone who participated in this ongoing conversation about MS. We hope that this post, as with every other one we share, serves in shedding light on the experience of living with MS, and fosters a sense of connection and community among readers.
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We posed a question Continue reading
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Most invitations sound great when they come, but for many with MS, it’s simply impossible to predict the way one might feel the day of the event. Symptoms can change, flare-ups can occur, and/or exhausting fatigue might set in. The desire to go may still strongly be there, but the physical strength and wellbeing are not. A response of “maybe I’ll be there” is often necessary for those living with MS, and sometimes, it’s the Continue reading
MS and some of its related symptoms, such as numbness, dizziness, weakness, loss of balance, tremors, and more, can lead to an increased risk in experiencing falls for those living with the condition. One of the MultipleSclerosis.net contributors, Devin, recently posted an article about his life with MS-related falls, and how he copes with these potentially frustrating or embarrassing situations. After this article was published, we received an incredible response from our community on their experiences with falling, and how they cope with this often-scary situation. Below are some of the amazing responses we received. Continue reading
For most people living with MS, summer does not bring feelings of excitement and joy. Rather, it’s a time of strategizing, planning and being careful to avoid the heat, which tends to worsen symptoms.
To start a conversation, we at MultipleSclerosis.net asked our Facebook page for tips and tricks to avoid summer’s worst. More than 500 community members reacted to the post, and 34 offered their strategies for staying cool and comfortable all summer long. Here’s what they had to say! Continue reading
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For some, saying the words, “I’m tired”, may indicate a lack of sleep, or perhaps the end of a long, exhausting day. However, for those living with MS, these two words can mean so much more. Fatigue is one of the most common, and one of the most life-altering, symptoms of MS. Of the many issues associated with MS, fatigue is one that can have the greatest impact on daily life and an individual’s ability to do the things they love. We recently published an article titled, “What I Really Mean When I Say, ‘I’m Tired’”, where our contributor, Calie Wyatt, compared MS fatigue to sinking in quick sand. Cali vividly describes her ‘biggest demon’ as her unrelenting tiredness, and how it brings her down every day. She also tells us how difficult it is to get others to understand what it means when she says she’s tired.
In response to this article, we asked our community members to help explain what their fatigue feels like to them, and the response was overwhelming. Continue on for some of the great responses we received.
Mental and physical exhaustion
Feelings of extreme mental and/or physical exhaustion are some of the most common descriptors of MS-related fatigue. Many of our community members shared how debilitating this experience can be each day.
“Living with fatigue is grueling. I have days where trying to form a thought, let alone a sentence, is nearly impossible”
“I try not to put myself into situations where I get fatigued, because it can be dangerous because I can’t think straight and get anxious”
“I am tired 24/7. It has become my new normal”
“It is a weight pulling you down! Mentally and physically”
“It feels like your body is shutting down and it’s too weak to hold you up”
“I try so hard to forget my fatigue & be active & fun, but it ALWAYS drags me down. My mind knows I’m fun, but my body just won’t let me. I must constantly fight my body & pick my battles to do the most important things”
“I would often say it is like I am being dragged to the ground which eventually swallows me up”
Others who aren’t living with multiple sclerosis, or who don’t have fatigue that comes from a chronic condition, may struggle to understand MS-related fatigue and the ways it limits activities. This lack of understanding can be incredibly frustrating. Not to mention the frustration that already comes with the fatigue on its own.
“Trying to explain this tired we have is almost an exercise in futility. The only ones who get it, are those who have experienced it! Nothing ticks me off like saying I’m tired and having someone say, ‘me too’. What I wouldn’t give to be their kind of tired!!”
“I am frustrated by my fatigue. For me, fatigue affects my ability to think straight as well as being tired. The hardest thing for people to understand is how much effort I put into NOT getting fatigued.”
“Sometimes I want to scream, if I wasn’t so fatigued! My fatigue and exhaustion consume me. I also have fatigue that alters my daily activities for many months at a time. Stress doesn’t help. A description I’ve often used to describe the fatigue is that I feel like my batteries have been depleted, removed, and I’m just running on empty. And I can’t find any way to recharge them, and there are no charged batteries to be found”
“The fatigue is dominated by frustration and some anger; compounded embarrassment”
“It is frustrating to try to explain to people that yes, I look tired but getting more sleep won’t fix it and is harder than it sounds!”
Physically cannot move, talk or breathe
MS-related fatigue can be so intense, that it may feel like quick sand physically pulling the body down. This feeling can impact a person’s ability to carry out basic functions, such as moving, breathing, or talking.
“I’ve felt like I am too tired to even breathe”
“I say I feel like a melting ice cream cone”
“I would often say it is like I am being dragged to the ground which eventually swallows me up”
“There are days that I feel like I can’t move. My extremities feel as if they are made of lead and my head feels all fuzzy”
“I have days that I feel too “tired” to breathe, talk, move…. it’s gotten bad though, I know, when I just don’t feel like it’s worth trying to say anything. It just seems like the thought of talking is overwhelming…and I take constant big breaths because I don’t feel like I am getting enough air”
“I feel constantly tired and dealing with that heaviness and sinking in quick sand feeling. And don’t really care to have others understand anymore because they simply never will”
“I feel like gravity is 15X greater over my body right now”
“MS fatigue requires all my energy for blinking and breathing”
It’s quite clear that MS-related fatigue is not only debilitating and real, it’s also unique and unrelenting. Our community members did an excellent job trying to describe this frustrating experience, however, it’s hard to fully understand this phenomenon unless you are living with it every day. MS-related fatigue can be a constant struggle, and the words “I’m tired” often don’t even scratch the surface of what’s really going on. These two words can take on a whole new meaning for those struggling with MS-related fatigue.