I was upbeat for the whole day and was all set for a busy evening of chores: groceries, laundry, dishes and writing. That didn’t happen.
When I left the office, I began to make my way towards the grocery store. Part way there, I was hit with a sudden, crushing fatigue. There was no build up, no warning. One moment I was fine. The next, it was as if I had walked through a cloud and all I wanted to do was sleep.
There has been a lot of studies about MS and weather, how the cold and the heat can cause symptoms or worsen the condition of the body. How people with MS react more strongly than others. Heat is especially difficult to endure.
I also tend to react after the fact. I can be busy and often I think I’m going to have a fatigue episode but I don’t. Only after several days in a row will I react. Last week was a very busy week for me and true to form, I reacted after everything had already happened.
I managed to get my groceries in the cart and get to the cash. When the checkout clerk asked me how I was doing, I could only nod. He looked at me with concern. “Are you okay?” He asked. I wore the fatigue like a shroud.
I nodded and went home, each step reminding me of when Nancy runs up the staircase in the first Nightmare on Elm Street. It was as if I was stepping into a gelatinous mess and had to pull my feet out again with each step.
I got into the apartment and just sat, my groceries still in their cart. I sat and my cat, Tula, immediately came to sit on my lap to offer me comfort. There was a storm cloud above my head and I knew I had to let it go. However, I wanted to distract myself from the niggling depression, so I got my clothes together to do laundry.
Not the most sensible thing to do, but I’m really good at being stubborn.
When I went down to the laundry room, it was to find every washer and dryer full. Not a one was available. I stood there, holding a heavy laundry basket that had taken me everything I had to put together and bring down and now I had to bring it all back up. As I came up in the elevator, I could feel the anger mounting. A combination of fatigue and rage.
I managed to hold it together until I got into my apartment. Then I just lost it. I threw my laundry basket across the room. I gathered up the laundry, repeating the same thing over and over: “All I wanted to do was a load of laundry, all I wanted to do was a load of laundry, all I wanted to do was a load of laundry.” I knew I was losing it, that my temper was out of control. I could even see myself as if from a distance and wondered what someone who saw me in that moment would think.
It didn’t matter. Stuffing the clothes in the laundry hamper, I began to throw other things: the basket cover, the clothes, a basket that Tula sits in that just happened to have the audacity to get in my way. I threw anything I could find, but had the foresight to not throw anything breakable. I nearly upset my dresser, and stopped when I would have turned it over.
I was in a rage over nothing. It’s not the first time this has happened. I’ve lost my temper over the bed sheets, the organization of my books, Tupperware, the state of my wardrobe, etc.
Eventually, after I was able to calm down, I started to put the groceries away. Tula meowed at me in a worried sort of way. I stopped and picked her up, standing in the middle of my apartment, clothing and objects, my dresser half in and out of the closet
Holding her, I began to cry. It was a two-fold crying: one part, letting go, one part anger at myself, anger at the situation I found myself in.
I’ve always had a bit of a temper, simmering below the surface. I’ve been told it’s a Leo trait and that I’ve always had a temper, but it’s never been this bad. It’s never been this all-consuming, where I can do nothing to stop it. It erupts over the smallest things now: not being able to get my shoes on, the line ups in stores, a build-up of useless drama or, in this case, not being able to do laundry.
I’ve been trying to educate myself as much as possible with regard to MS and along with the fatigue, bladder issues, memory problems, brain fog, body pain, etc., there’s also temper. There have been reports from people that it’s changed their husband/wife/significant other into somebody completely different.
The experts aren’t sure what causes this, but I have my theories. We carry lesions in our brains that cause the MS. When I was first hit with it in January of last year, it affected my hearing, my balance, my sight, my ability to eat, being able to walk, my speech. What’s to say that it can’t affect someone’s mood?
I frighten myself when I’m like this. In those moments, when I lose control of myself, I cease to know who I am. However, as quickly as they come, they go away. When all was said and done last night, my body was tired, fatigued and sore. The temper that comes is like a storm that rages through and causes havoc and leaves just as quickly.
I did half an hour of meditation, followed by a workout to ease the pain in my body. Then I relaxed with a cup of tea. I do these things to ground myself, to remind myself that I am here, I am alive, I am whole, no matter what has happened.
I slip into depressions just as quickly but, thankfully, I am able to find my way out again. This wasn’t always the case. With the recent death of Robin Williams, I am more than ever reminded of the perils of depression.
People with or without an illness deal with depression. You don’t have to have Multiple Sclerosis or Cerebral Palsy to be depressed. Last year was a tough year for me. After the pre-diagnosis, I thought I was doing well, I thought I was coping. I wasn’t.
I had withdrawn from everyone I know, everything I loved. Even though I had family that loved me, I felt alone in the world. I was put onto Backlofin to ease the spasms. I’ve written about this before, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I had gone into work and was sitting outside having a cigarette (thankfully, I’ve quit smoking since then). I held the bottle of pills in my hand and had a bottle of water beside me.
At the time, the forest around me was so large and so very dark. I could not see through the trees and no light came through the leaves. The dirt was filled with pieces of glass, stones that would break my fall. I sat there, at work physically but in the forest mentally, and held my bottle of pills.
I had been thinking of how easy it would be to take them all and take a swig of water and feel them all sliding down my throat. It had been weeks since I’d seen a friend. All I did when I went home was watch television until it was time to go to sleep.
I called my boyfriend at the time (now an ex thank god) and told him that I wanted to end it, that I wanted to slip into darkness. He told me to do it.
I asked him if he understood what I had just said. He said he did and I should stop bitching and just do it, the world would be happier without me as I was now. So I told him to fuck off and did what I should have done and called my mother.
Thankfully, she was the light in the middle of the forest that I needed. I got through my depression through sheer stubbornness and because of her. I am alive today because of her.
I made several decisions that day and one of them was to live, despite what I thought of as a shit life at the time. I did things to put myself on the right path: meditation, Reiki, a change in diet. I quit smoking, started working on trying to walk without my cane. I pulled myself out of the dark forest and back into the light.
I also have amazing friends. There were a few people that I reached out to after everything happened that wanted nothing to do with me. Their loss, as I’m so much better than I was. I was lucky, I pulled myself out. The fact is, though, that the forest is still there, waving its leaves seductively.
I do everything I can to ignore it and, for the most part, I succeed. Last night was difficult, however. I sat there after my meditation and exercise, exhausted mentally, physically but thankfully strong in spirit. I could hear trees being brushed by the wind inside my apartment. I did take a walk to the edge of the forest.
My mother once said to me: If you’re angry, be angry. If you’re sad, be sad. But don’t let it consume you. Let it out, but don’t drink it in.
So last night, I stood there at the edge of the forest and touched a tree limb, lamenting what had happened. How stupid I’d been to lose my temper over nothing, how I should have listened to my body, what I should have done. Then I reminded myself how far I’d come, how much I’d done, how I’ve overcome and conquered. So I recognized that forest, I know it well. But I don’t have to live within it. I will not let it consume me. That tomorrow was another day to try again.
I’ve realized that, to some extent, everyone carries a dark forest, a jagged cliff or a desert within them. The landscape may be different, but the effect is the same. I sat there last night, drinking my tea and just remembered to breathe. It doesn’t matter that I lost my temper or that the MS makes me tired or frequently exhausted or brain dead. What matters is that I go on living, that I don’t give in, that I remember how much I have to be thankful for despite everything that could hold me back.
I just have to remember: tomorrow is another day and anything is possible.