By Stacie Prada
It’s too bad our neurological wiring doesn’t include on/off dimmer switches like some of the electrical lights in my home. The central nervous system and myelin degradation caused by multiple sclerosis are often compared to electrical wires with the outer coating frayed or damaged. It seems only fitting that we should be able to extend the metaphor and enjoy the ability to increase or decrease the current through our nerves. The fantasy of being able to turn off or dim misfiring electrical signals to my arms and legs when spasticity is acting up is enticing.
It’s challenging to relax when my limbs ache and the compulsion to move them won’t subside. Being uncomfortable has become the norm. It’s occurred to me that I can’t remember the last time I felt completely relaxed, and the goal of complete physical relaxation hasn’t been on my radar for a long time.
I’ve felt happy, fulfilled, accomplished, and satisfied, but I have not felt fully relaxed in years. If I’m mentally calm and at peace, my body is still sending erratic and unnecessary signals. I see that my goals for relaxation focus extensively on maximizing my mental well-being while only hoping to manage and minimize the tension and agitation my limbs experience.
Both physical and mental health contribute to my experience in any moment, yet I notice I expect my mental health skills to compensate for the stress my physical body endures. Medication, stretching, hydration, supplements, nutrition and movement help, but they don’t eradicate the physical pain. I’ve given up on believing they can eliminate symptoms, and I am satisfied that they reduce them.
Perspective and mental wellness efforts shoulder the bulk of my expectations for coping with what can’t be eliminated. It may not be reasonable or even possible to out-think or override the physical consequences of MS, yet I keep trying.
Through yoga, meditation and mental body scans, I have had instances of noticing misfires in my nerves and been able to think of them as curious and interesting instead of frustrating and scary. These momentary experiences show me how mental relaxation doesn’t override physical tension, but it does help me cope with it.
I learned how to do body scans from a yoga teacher, but there are lots of websites, videos and audio recordings that can walk a person through a body scan. Search online with the term, “3-minute body scan” to find lots of options to try. There are longer ones that may be better for relaxing, but I’m a bit impatient.
Perhaps a relaxed mind is the figurative dimmer switch after all.
*Stacie Prada was diagnosed with RRMS in 2008 just shy of 38 years old. Her blog, “Keep Doing What You’re Doing” is a compilation of inspiration, exploration, and practical tips for living with multiple sclerosis while living a full, productive, and healthy life with a positive perspective. It includes musings on things that help her adapt, cope and rejoice in this adventure on earth. Please visit her at http://stacieprada.blogspot.com/