Stress Management

By Lauren Kovacs

We are surrounded by stress of all kinds. Each kind needs different management. But, don’t surrender to it. You gotta be like a ninja in your approach. Sneak up on it. Don’t stress about stress.

I try to fight each stressor individually. A custom fight. Each one gets something different. How special.

I do try different ways of dealing with each. Breathing through it can work. I admit, I get frustrating and start to cry. But, being raised by a military man, I learned to plow through frustrations. Identify it is stressing you out and find a solution. Crying can be a good release, but don’t stay too long.

Listening to music is a big help. I listen to my favorite tunes. Some power me up and others mellow me out. My boys hate my music, but it gets me through. I have a song I listened too before gymnastic meets. I was too legit to quit. Keep going.

Anger, for me, at something being hard has helped me. I often stress about getting shoes on. Shoe fights. I start sweating. I sing to myself. I am too legit to quit.

My mom recently entered a memory care home. I can’t stress about that so, I have some chocolate. One little piece helps me and I try and be positive too.

Stress is all around. It can be small like just brushing your hair without smacking yourself in the face. It can be big like a loved one saying something mean. Try different ways to squish that stress bug.

At times, the stress bug will quiet right away. Other times, it seems to have nine lives. Smoosh it each time with a different tactic. Just don’t give in. Something will quiet that bug. Two bits of chocolate or more might be needed.

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Improving Mental Health and Wellness

MS Awareness Month

Dr. Adam Kaplin, Dr. Annette Okai, Dr. Amy Sullivan, Dr. Mitzi Williams

For this year’s MS Awareness Month campaign, MSAA provided a number of digital resources focusing on Improving Mental Health and Wellness. This campaign featured webinars, a podcast episode, and insights from MS experts covering topics, such as:

  • Purpose in Life (PIL) – This research area focuses on the interactions between mind and body in powerful ways. PIL has been shown to significantly support the central nervous system, cardiovascular health, and even the immune system. Explore the concept and learn how to develop and foster your own Purpose in Life in the archived webinar, “Finding Purpose in Life.”
  • Depression and Anxiety in MS – Depression is a common and often overlooked symptom of MS, while anxiety is perhaps the most taxing and under-treated psychological effect of living with multiple sclerosis. Discover helpful strategies to manage these significant mental health issues in the archived webinar, “Managing Depression and Anxiety in MS.”
  • Care Partnering – Learn about the often overlooked physical and emotional needs of care partners and how to avoid care partner burnout in the podcast episode, “Caring for the Care Partner.”
  • Wellness Strategies – Find helpful strategies to better manage four key areas that impact mental and emotional health – sleep, staying connected, diet and exercise, and self-care – on My MSAA Community.

Learn more about Improving Mental Health and Wellness through these resources at: mymsaa.org/ms-awareness-month

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How to Spot a Fake Disabled Person

By Scott Cremeans

If you are reading this post to find out the clues I can teach you so you can spot that faker, then read on. You saw a person park in the handicap space and walk inside unassisted, so you want to call them out. You might have observed an individual use a wheelchair one day and a cane a few days later, and you want to bust them. Well, the truth is: LEAVE THEM ALONE!

But unfortunately, sometimes, they are attacked by a self-entitled morality vigilante that assaults them verbally or worse. I have heard of these onslaughts to be demeaning notes left on a windshield or a vicious verbal violation that left my friend in tears for hours. This abuse was after she felt exceptionally jubilant because her illness had her bedridden the previous four days, and she was finally walking.

Just because you see a person using a wheelchair one day and a cane, the next only shows that disabilities change. The pain level or physical abilities could be high one day and drop like a rock the next day. When you see that person park in the handicap spot and walk in the building with no mobility aid, they could have a heart condition. These invisible symptoms can be as numerous and varied as fish in a lake, meaning: LEAVE THEM ALONE!

The truth is I have heard whispers of a widespread scam of people faking disabilities, and it is simply not true. I heard one person say they let these fakers know they are seen so the real disabled can park there. I then asked him what an individual with a disability looks like, and without giving him a chance to respond, I stopped him. I explained he might have good intentions, but in fact, he is probably about to ruin someone’s day. A person with a disability cannot be spotted in a crowd like a guy wearing a fluorescent ball cap. Some people with disabilities stand out because of a medical device like a walker, wheelchair, or oxygen mask. However, many have unseeable disabilities that need your support not your condemnation and criticism.

The ignorance of society and the way entitled people can treat others simply makes me sad. To all those who do not have enough in their lives, making them want to criticize others, I say STOP! Live your life to the fullest and let others do the same because what you think you see is not what you actually see. If your life is that empty, find a hobby and spend every bit of your time controlling every aspect of the said hobby. Most importantly, since you know nothing about strangers’ lives, allow them the peace to live their lives as well. Everyone should make this a topic of conversation with friends and family as the truth needs to be shared.

You may think you know, but you have no idea.

Read more of my MS mishaps by visiting www.myramblings.blog

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Good Confidants Can Handle the Tough Stuff

By Stacie Prada

Our relationships affect our health, and our health affects our relationships. Our health and our relationships evolve over time as each person ages and life chapters change. These are simple and obvious facts, but I find them to be something I need to remind myself periodically.

Living with a chronic and progressive illness like Multiple Sclerosis complicates the issues to tackle and the dynamics to navigate relationships.  As my body changes, my focus always shifts inward.  Is this symptom new and temporary, or is it a small indication of worse things to come? What do I need to do differently now, and what might it signal for my future?

These are important questions to consider.  Identifying symptoms, possible treatments and available resources are crucial for navigating the physical aspects of chronic and progressive diseases like MS.

In these times, I try to stay logical and pragmatic.  I try not to overreact. I try to work through my fears and frustrations in a healthy way that doesn’t impact anyone else.  They don’t ask me to keep it to myself, but it’s my natural preference.  Unfortunately, the agitation and worry usually seep out, and those close to me sense it.

Stacie Prada relationships on her blog post Sharing the Tough Stuff

It takes a lot of self-awareness and acceptance to disclose when my body isn’t working well. Usually, I’m still trying to get a handle on what it is and whether it’s significant or not. I’m still trying to analyze and monitor the changes.  I often am not yet ready to share, because I’m hoping things might improve and there might not be anything to share.  This means those close to me experience the consequences of my changing health before I even realize I’m stressed and irritable.

My confidants have excellent skills for showing curiosity and support while not pressuring me.  Sometimes unknowingly, they help me manage my feelings, my fears and my frustrations.  They hear me, believe me, don’t compete with me, and share themselves with me. I see their grace when I deflect or shut down an inquiry.  These are the people to keep close, because they’re willing and able to help me.  When I see them hesitate or gently back off, it’s my signal that I should share what’s bothering me.

Yet, I still hold back.  While it’s silly to think saying things out loud will make them worse, it’s exactly how I feel.  If I share that my legs hurt more and my coordination is worse, it means my fears of becoming disabled are warranted.  It means I’m becoming disabled.

I’m seeing disability with MS can be a slow, gradual and very invisible transition.  It appears to me that I will be greatly affected by my disease before anyone sees me with a mobility aid.

I’m going through this life with MS, and the people close to me are going through this life with MS with me. Some made my life harder, and I’m fortunate to no longer rely on them.  Others have proven to be healthy and respectful, and they are my cherished relationships.  They check in, they ask how I’m doing, and they back off when they see I’m not up for saying more.  It’s not until I open up and share the invisible changes I’m experiencing that they can really go through this with me in a way that helps me cope.

Having a body slowly and progressively deteriorate is an isolating feeling.  It takes effort to explain and not complain.  I get sick of living with MS, and I get sick of being tired of it. I want to be low maintenance and easygoing, but this disease is one that requires constant coddling and accommodations for my body’s needs. It takes a lot of time and effort to do the physical tasks that are needed to manage my MS symptoms, and it takes tremendous effort to challenge the negative thoughts that come from having a chronic illness.

I haven’t found the secret to skipping the irritable phase.  I’ll notice I’m grouchy, and I try to override the temptation to lash out. Sometimes I do well. I keep my mouth shut and go for a walk or do yoga.  Sometimes I reveal my bad mood in my tone or curt responses. It’s moments like these when I don’t feel like I’m being as nice as I’d like that I hope to avoid or get through quickly.  Often the best I can do is give myself a timeout and tell those around me that it’s not them.  My goal is to be able to feel pain without lashing out and seek connection to help get me through the feelings of uncertainty and frustration.

Once when I was going through an especially difficult time, a friend wrote in the sympathy card, “We’re hurting with you.”  It hit the right nerve, and tears along with a sob came quickly.  I was feeling very alone, and having someone succinctly address it allowed for a cathartic feeling of connection.  I know the antidote to feeling powerless and alone is sharing with those close to me. It doesn’t fix my problems, but it lightens the emotional load I’m carrying.

If I can be truthful and forthcoming with the people who have my back, and if I can be a source of support for their challenges, I think we’ll all fare well.  The best relationships can handle the tough stuff.

*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/

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Things that Give Me Hope

By Lauren Kovacs

After 2020, my hope bucket has changed. Simple is the way to go. Smaller goals and a smaller court or field.

Waking up to sunshine is a cause for hope. Sunshine gives me hope of the smile of a new day. No matter how cold it might be, sunshine gives me hope to move and helps me begin my day. Even if my to do list is crushed by MS fatigue, I had hope.

I am not blind to the struggles of MS. I have times when Continue reading

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Perfectly Pleasant Personality Please

By Scott Cremeans

You better change your attitude, mister, or I will change it for you. I remember occasionally hearing that as a kid, and I wondered how anyone could change someone else’s disposition. I thought it, but I was smart enough never to ask the question, which would have been bad for my health. I always tried to have a great attitude no matter the situation as a young guy, and meditating in Mother Nature helped tremendously. I now try to stay positive and hope that a smile or kind word I give is just what someone needs to change their day.

There are a lot of negative aspects that come with a medical diagnosis like multiple sclerosis. At any step of the way, any disease can weigh heavily on your body Continue reading

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Jump?

By Lauren Kovacs

I know this is tough. We don’t want to be a burden by trying to connect. I have to remind   myself to let my MS do the talking. We might be having a bad day and we might sound drunk. We might be beyond exhausted or having pain. Connecting with non-MSers can be hard.

You have to take care of you. I often “hit the wall” so to speak and just Continue reading

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I Thought I Had Lost My Smile

Anxiety

By Penelope Conway

Added stress for a person with multiple sclerosis is not ideal. Life is already challenging enough, but the added stress makes everything a gazillion times worse. Anxiety easily sets in. You get less sleep, more headaches, your appetite can be either non-existent or you want to eat everything in your cupboard, everybody gets on your nerves with stupid things like just saying hi to you in the morning, weakness increases, you notice the ringing in your ears more, and pain is through the roof. All the little symptoms you used to just accept are now Continue reading

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You Are Not Alone – Anxiety and Depression in MS

By Doug Ankerman

It is not easy.

Of all symptoms one can experience with multiple sclerosis, I find anxiety and depression to be the most challenging.

For foot drop — I wear an AFO. Heat tolerance — I put on a cooling vest. Balance issues — I use a rollator. But for anxiety and depression, there is no aid. No clunky piece of equipment to help you through. Continue reading

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What People with MS Wish You Knew About MS Pain

A woman doubles over and squints in pain, holding her stomach and her back. The background shows the enlarged, abstracted outline of lightning bolts.

Pain can be one of the most challenging things in life to deal with. However, for people with MS, pain is often part of daily life.

While September was Pain Awareness Month, it is important to continue the conversation about the connection between pain and MS. To learn more about the impact of this connection, we asked community members to share their experiences and Continue reading

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