Stress & MS

By: Brittany Quiroz, “A Hot MS”

I have sort of programmed myself to have a respect for the natural order of things in life. I’m one of the believers that everything happens for a reason. We are given life, and we do our best to milk every second out of it. Obstacles are inevitable. It’s a natural part of the cycle of our time here on earth. I can’t help but think that my difficult walk-through life with obstacles far from the norm contributed to my diagnosis with multiple sclerosis. 

There’s so much scientific backing to show how when our body goes into a fight or flight response, that it has a substantial effect on our nervous system. When we continue to put our bodies into that sort of space, eventually it can take a medical toll on our bodies. 

I am willing to admit my walk-through life has not been an easy one and I know I’m not riding solo with this fact. I had a difficult childhood with an alcoholic Father and an impervious Mother who was determined to give me my best life. My Mother is everything I hope to become one day in life. She is my anchor. My rock. My muse. Her and I were in survival mode for years until she met my stepfather, who in my heart is anything less than “step.” He’s the real deal and everything a daughter could want in a father. They are my people and my biggest supporters. 

Growing up in traumatic situations only caused me to develop a need to scan every situation for the risk. I now know I am a textbook empath. I overthink everything. I analyze people’s behaviors to predict their next move. I am always projecting scenarios in my head. I now know this is a trauma response that is developed from being put in a continual state of fear as a kid. I’m still the nervous little kid that picks her nails because she can’t quiet her brain. 

But all of this has contributed to an overstimulated and overworked nervous system. Stress and fear exacerbates all symptoms of multiple sclerosis. It’s not easy to silence your anxieties. It takes constant self awareness to be able to check yourself back into a peaceful and positive space. 

One day my psoriasis and dermatologist could be completely under control, and then add the next day of complete and utter disaster with highly stressful situations and I am a flaky mess as an autoimmune response. My body tends to physically. Let me know when the stress has been too much. It’s funny because whenever I go into medical appointments, they always ask me right away what my allergies are, and my first answer is always stress.

I think that has a lot to do with why I choose to be so positive. I know where I have the potential to go if I allow myself to. I have the ability to go to a really dark place where it’s nearly impossible to crawl out of. When you’ve seen what the dark side can do, you never want to go back there. 

If I allow myself to spin about stress and anxiety my body tells me and boy, does it show me. Weird tingling sensations, numbness, insane vertigo spins, rashes that will break out on my scalp from other autoimmune disorders. I end up feeling like glass. I always pay the price for allowing myself to mentally and emotionally spin about something stressful. It will take me days and days to feel some level of “normal” again. My sleep is severely disrupted. My appetite is abnormal. My GI tract is massively upset. It’s a domino effect. I am glass that has chipped, nicked and scratched. Multiple sclerosis leaves us in a constant state of vulnerability. It must be gingerly cared for. We know our potential risks if we abuse our bodies, because our bodies will abruptly and without remorse remind us that we messed up. And when we mess up, we pay the tax tenfold. The term “MS Tax” is widely used in the community and space of MS and boy is that a legit term to let sink in.

I understand how MS works and I understand and have accepted that it puts me in a fragile state. I get that. I can swallow that pill. But man, does it make me want to put a shield around myself for added protection, so my glass doesn’t get chipped.

About Brittany Quiroz

Brittany Quiroz created “A Hot MS” 5 days after her diagnosis with MS in 2019 to encourage those living with the disease to “Celebrate your Mess!” and widen the perception of what disability looks like. She is a full-time MS Advocate, motivational speaker, recording artist, painter, podcast host, and philanthropist in the space of multiple sclerosis. Quiroz is a 3-time nominee of the Social Health awards and was named a finalist as “Creative Contributor” in 2023. Quiroz, alongside her music partner Kristen Spath, recently released the first single of their upcoming album “Never Have My Soul”. The single was written directly to the disease of MS for the MS Community. The duo, also known as 8:28, has now focused all of their original music on the MS and disability communities. 

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About MSAA

The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) is a national nonprofit organization and leading resource for the entire MS community, improving lives today through vital services and support. MSAA provides free programs and services, such as: a Helpline with trained specialists; award-winning publications, including, The Motivator; MSAA’s nationally recognized website, featuring educational videos, webinars, and research updates; a mobile phone app, My MS Manager™; safety and mobility equipment products; cooling accessories for heat-sensitive individuals; MRI funding; My MSAA Community, a peer-to-peer online support forum; MS Conversations blog; a clinical trial search tool; podcasts; and more. For additional information, please visit www.mymsaa.org or call (800) 532-7667.

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