You have all heard of the imaginary ‘slippery slope’, you know the one where it starts at a gentle gradient and gets steeper and steeper and your descent gets faster and faster. You go further down and soon the bottom is visible and you know that it will take Herculean efforts to stop the slide and even greater efforts to raise yourself off the floor. This can be real problem for people living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) because for some physical strength is compromised and for others there can be cognitive issues and life becomes really difficult for those who have both. Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS) is the most common form of MS and accounts for about 85% of initial diagnoses. Relapses vary in intensity, duration and degree of recovery. Shorter relapses rarely pose a major problem for me, after all MS has been part of my life for more than 27 years.
MS does not have total control over my life but it occupies an important place and whether I like it or not it is in the mix when any important decisions need to be made. MS is a particularly vindictive family member and when things seem to be going too well, or she feels ignored, she pounces in the form of a relapse and the severity and duration of the relapse is governed by how peeved she feels. I feel that she is standing right behind me at the top of the slippery slope and is only awaiting her opportunity to launch me on a downward spiral. (Ladies, no insult intended when referring to MS as ‘she’.)
My slippery slope has two parallel tracks; one track is my mental attitude and the other is my physical ability and both are interlinked. By nature I am extremely positive but I find it is impossible to be positive all the time and when my positivity slips a little I suddenly realise that one foot has taken position at the top of the slippery slope. Once one foot takes position on the track it becomes difficult to keep the other off and when both feet are on the slope there is, unfortunately, only one direction of travel and that is down.
Positive mental attitude and physical wellbeing are essential to maintaining a position at the top of the dreaded slopes and keeping MS at bay. There are a myriad of signs and symptoms associated with MS. Cognitive dysfunction is one of them; the ability to think and/or concentrate for long periods of time may be compromised, hence the difficulty for people living with MS in keeping a positive mental attitude. I don’t believe it is depression but if not addressed early it may develop.
Physical wellbeing is of co-importance with a positive attitude and some form of regular exercise is important. It is when you least feel like exercising that you need it most. Exercise need not be pumping iron in the gym or training to run a marathon. The biblical reference to the ‘widow’s mite’ comes to mind and thus the need to tailor your exercise regime to your physical limitations. Start with short exercises. One or two minutes a few times a day to begin with and graduating to longer times. Endurance is more important than resistance. As your physical wellbeing improves so will your mental attitude. It is the reverse of the slippery slope but you go downhill much faster than you get back up. Getting off the damn slope and resuming your place at the top of the slope is difficult but it is worth all the effort. Nothing about MS makes life easier but we owe it to ourselves, and our families, to keep trying and not to lie down before the awesome destructive power of MS. The Munster Motto “Stand up and fight” has become my motto.
It is easy to understand how we falter and go downhill. It is impossible to stay positive and focused all the time and one lapse is enough to start the slide which once started is difficult to stop. Believe me when I say that whatever effort is needed to reverse the decline it is worth it. I know. I have been well down the slope and fought my way back up, maybe not quite to the top but close enough. The view from high up is far better than the view from the bottom.
Relapses can be of long or short duration and of varying degrees of severity. It can be difficult to know when one starts and even more difficult to determine when one stops. I have looked back on some of my more recent blogs wherein I accepted that my MS was progressing but I have now decided that it was just a prolonged relapse. Thanks to Jean and all my family and friends for sticking with me and helping me through it. You may not know that you helped but you did. Thanks to MS Ireland (Click HERE)and particularly the Cork Branch for my Gym Buddy and the Leisure World Functional Zone programs. Now that my physical condition is improving my mental attitude is also improving and I have reversed the slippery slope. I am on an upward spiral.