By Lauren Kovacs
You would think after 20 plus years of MS and three kids I would be good at prioritizing. I struggle with this monster to this day. It is not always easy to slay this dragon. It is relentless and seems to have many lives.
Mentally or on my phone, I try and note my path. I try and tackle one, maybe two, things a day. Try being the optimal word. I often plan the week out on Sunday evenings.
It can be hard, too, when prioritizing has a roadblock called “help”. Many of us rely on help from others. We end up waiting patiently, all while cooking in stress and anxiety.
I know beggars can’t be choosers. As if needing help for simple things is not hard enough, we must learn to function on someone else’s schedule and timeline. Their priorities never click with yours.
Make “you” the priority. For example, we go to 10am mass. It is kind of far and my sons are alter servers. I make sure they don’t smell and are presentable, and then they help me. Even with all older boys getting out the door is hard. Being a wrinkled mess, nuclear breath, and non-matching clothes don’t bother them apparently. Yet, my shoes are tied and I am always ready.
I get up at 6:30am and take my medication, eat, get dressed, do my eyeliner several times, hair only goes into ponytail or down and do any other leaving the house stuff. I save the things I can’t do for later. Some days I am completely ready on my own and others I am not.
Yes, it drives me insane, after 20 minutes I can’t tie my shoes. I may have irritated my ears trying to put earrings on, but at least my eyeliner is straight. Some days I can’t button my blouse or fix my collar.
Part of prioritizing is letting go. I only wear silver earrings without those little backs. They may not be super matchy-matchy to my outfit, but I have earrings on. If they were there from days before, no biggy.
Trying to go with the flow is torture for many of us. Most MS folks are planners. We usually have plan B, C or maybe even plan E. “E” is usually the “enough is enough” plan.
Is it essential to survival that I have different earring on? Am I at least modest in my dress to go to church? I hate dresses, but I make sure my pants look nice. Are my pants easy up and down? How easily can I get to the bathroom? The wheelchair does not fit in there, but the walker will. Are my bowels and bladder empty?
Priorities change like our MS does. Factor in everything. Is it a huge deal that you had to wear sneakers? Yes, the black boots would have looked much better. The dress pants would look good, but they have a button and zipper. Are my fingers working today? Will I be too tired?
Overthinking might, in some cases, be helpful. Choose the path with less stress. Ask yourself what you can do by yourself, if you built in extra time. If I just can’t button my shirt, I wear one without buttons or ask for help, if time permits.
Prioritizing can be exhausting. Even making phone calls is tough, when your speech is garbled. I worry someone will report me because I sound drunk. It gets worse as the day progresses.
I try and keep appointments for late morning. My day is prioritizing. Everything comes before my afternoon nap. Once I nap I wind down the day. My descent into more MS speeds up after lunch.
Making “you” important. It is a balance to do this on top of family needs. Don’t brush your wants and needs aside. I may want my hair pulled half back. Find a way to meet that want. I don’t mind having two hairstyles, but there are times I want something different.
Putting make up on is very hard. My eyeballs are used to being stabbed with mascara wands. Baby wipes are great for removing eyeliner that left a wiggly path. Don’t give up on you because MS is in that path.
I’ve had RRMS since 1971. I had a few relapses until the big one in 2000. In 2006 I noticed some memory problems. In 2008 (I think) my neurologist told me I had SPMS. WTF is that? I never complained about my MS but as it steals my mind, prioritizing has become a game. I seem to have 50 priorities in my brain, two important and 48 silly. It is so difficult for me to sort the important from the mundane. It’s like needing to pee while your house is burning down. I may choose to pee. Hang in there. Sometimes we need to laugh.