Giving Integrated Medicine A Shot

Tonight, I’m seeing a doctor that specializes in integrated medicine. She’s a medical doctor, a chiropractor, and she studied Chinese traditional medicine (acupuncture/acupressure/herbs) too. She thinks she can help me get my current comorbidity status to look a little less fucking scary before trying in earnest for a new party member. 

For anyone who hasn’t been playing along for several years, I’m looking at MS, seizure disorder, hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, GERD, NAFLD, PTSD, and depression. Oh, and my immunoglobulin is crazy low, but that doesn’t have a name yet… Anyway, I’m trying to avoid type 2 diabetes, lose weight, improve fatigue, and, you know, just generally not die early from lack of exercise, shit nutrition, etc.

They took almost a full pint of blood for the majillion (okay 8 or 9) tests she had me get on Saturday. On the one hand, I’m excited by the thought that someone might actually help me figure out my health puzzle in a way other than just adding more pharmaceuticals to the mix. Feeling better would be awesome, but my pessimistic mind won’t let me believe it’s something that could actually happen.

(I’m actually kind of afraid of how harshly I know my inner critic would judge my present life if I suddenly had more energy. I know that it does shit like that because when I stopped having nearly constant seizures after coming off of Cymbalta and Abilify for a video EEG in 2014, I became suicidal because I believed I had been doing literally nothing but seizing and watching TV for about 4 years. That was an erroneous belief, BTW. I wrote the Tao of Rae and created the Paleo Compendium during that time, and that harsh critic is part of depression. Depression is a motherfuckin’ liar 98% the time.)

On the other hand, I’m really not looking forward to whatever crazy, pain-in-the-ass diet I absolutely know she’s about to put me on. If I were a betting lady, I foresee a recommendation of AIP or Wahls Way… because before she sent me for the tests, she said, “You know, most of your ailments can be traced back to gut health.” *GROAN*

Either diet makes me want to weep because my son’s diet is at least 50% Ritz bitz or cookie bars of some sort — which mean that my diet, for the last year or so, has increasingly become that of “whatever Henry has left over.”  This means major changes for my family. I’m not looking forward to them… but I am hopeful.  And, on the bright side, I’ve got a decent resource already ready for myself.

I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to deal with Henry’s diet in conjunction. I know that I can avoid eating Ritz Bitz, but I’ve also been reading up some on Paleo Mom‘s website, and I’m feeling allllll kindsa guilt over the fact that apples and bananas are pretty well all that my toddler wants to eat in the “fresh fruits and veggies” department.  Hell, half the reason that I feed him the Plum Mighty Snack Bars is because they’ve got hidden veggies in them and all kinds of vitamins and minerals.

I’m just fucking exhausted most of the time, and that’s no way to live. I just don’t know where the energy to clean out chamutz from my house and start exercising more is going to come from. I can barely keep up as it is.

And that’s why we finally got a Care.com account and are looking for a mother’s helper for a few hours a week… but interviewing candidates is another layer of awesome stress, coated in PTSD grossness.

Anyway, Henry woke up early from his nap, so I need to go do things in the other room with him.  How could I stay away from this face?

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Too many thoughts not to blog.

It’s been a couple of months since I last wrote. Being a mommy makes finding time to sit down at the computer tough. If FB and text wasn’t available on cell phones, I probably wouldn’t communicate with anyone other than Adam and my mom.

I just put Henry down for his nap, and even though I know I should go lie down too, I feel the need to write – so that’s what I’m doing.

There are sick people in this world. I’m one of them.

Truth be told, I’m feeling pretty rough today. My stomach is hurting really badly… like I swallowed something that’s eating me away from the inside. I’ve been having a hard time making myself eat or drink for the last 2-3 days, but I’ve been forcing myself.  Today, my stomach is hurting all the time, whether I’ve eaten or not. I’m debating making another appointment with my gastro team.

There’s definitely something amiss, and I’m becoming increasingly confident that it’s more than fatty liver. Last time I saw them, they ordered extra tests for immunology, and it turns out that I’m so deficient in immunoglobulin that they want me to see an immunologist.  That news was delivered to me a couple of weeks ago… and I’ve been waiting for their letter to arrive in the mail with their referral. That’s right, I haven’t made an appointment yet. I keep thinking this stupid thought: “Well, my MS is not progressing on MRI, so it’s probably a good thing that my immune system isn’t working right.”

Stupid. Ignoring health matters never makes them improve.

Today, my left foot is all tingles, the tops of my legs and my lower back feel like they’re on fire, most of my left chest is numb, and I am achy all over (on top of the tummy ache and headache).  Because it’s my special lady time, I’m inclined to just suck it up and bet that this is a pseudoexacerbation – but if it doesn’t go away in 2 days, I’ll call my neurologist and request steroids. I can’t not request steroids when I start having time travel (complex) seizures for more than 2 days.

Who needs The Doctor?

Yesterday, I “traveled” again… and the results were simultaneously eye-opening to me about myself and how badly I still need to work on self-compassion and how totally bizarre our world is at the moment.

See, yesterday, I woke up thinking it was 2009 and that I was supposed to take the bar exam in a couple of weeks.  The first thing I did, (Again, stupidly. There’s a theme here.) is check Facebook and try to get my bearings, since I was aware that I was dealing with post-ictal confusion.

This lead to me reading about the latest Supreme Court move that guts the 4th Amendment (Seriously, the damage to our civil rights that have happened in the last 30 years is staggering.), followed by a ton of people debating the 2nd amendment (Who honestly cares about the right to bear arms when our military is so big we could never hope to use force to overcome martial law at home? Or when cops can stop you for no reason at all just to check your status?  “Papers, please?” anyone?), followed by a ton of Donald Trump/Hitler comparison memes.

This was going on while my kid was alternating between eating crackers and throwing them at the dog. That was much less of a shitshow than the discourse I saw on Facebook.

And you wanna know what upset me? That I very clearly wasn’t an attorney. That I wasn’t doing more to fix things that are out of my control. (Our country is basically a fascist oligarchy at this point. I can’t undo that by myself, much as I wish I could.)

And then, I got angry that I’m not doing enough to fix things that are in my control. My house is too messy, and I was not ok with that… or the fact that I have no one that I can call to help me with the baby when this shit happens. Or that my husband works so far from home that even if he were able to leave work at the drop of a hat, it would be at least an hour before he’s here.

Essentially, yesterday, I realized that the world is on fire, and I am walking a tight-rope without a safety net. And I got very angry with myself for that… but anger doesn’t help anything.

I deserve to be able to call someone to be with me and Henry when I am having complex seizures.  And if that means that I need to interview strangers and hire a damn babysitter, even if Adam doesn’t think anyone can handle my seizures but him, that’s what I’m going to have to do. Henry and I deserve at least some measure of security.

Grateful.

Of course, all this emotional upset is pointless. Yesterday, we were safe. Henry spent a little more time in the pack and play than he would have liked, but he had toys and TV, and he enjoyed a lot of roughhousing with Daddy when he got home. I listened to my postictal playlist and “came back” pretty quickly — in less than a half hour, which is pretty great. I didn’t have any more complex seizures the rest of the day. Calling someone to come over would have been completely pointless.

So, who the fuck knows what the right thing is to do? I’m just grateful this doesn’t happen all the time.  Heck, last week, I was doing so well that I was able to take Henry to Gymboree every day. This week… not so much. But that’s life. You just gotta roll with it.

If you’re feeling well today, I strongly urge you to find something you can do, using your body and your good health, that will make you feel proud of yourself. Be active, and enjoy it. Exercise. Clean. Volunteer. Have awesome sex. Eat spicy foods. Go to a dance club filled with strobe lights. Watch a visually-intense movie at a theater. Drive wherever the wind takes you. Swim in the deep end. Nobody knows how long their good health will hold out, and those of us who deal with the crazy ups and downs of having multiple chronic illnesses hate to see anybody not enjoying that gift.

Carpe the shit out of this diem, people. It only happens once.

yolopug

News of the Rae

Today, I was thinking about how much I miss actively participating on LiveJournal. What I really have been missing is reading about what’s actually going on in my friends’ lives (as opposed to looking at memes about politics, sarcasm, and incorrect grammar), and writing about what’s going on in mine.  Twitter and FB are absolute shit for emotionally meaningful communication, and the only way for me to remedy things is to do some writing myself and to reach out to friends on the phone or Skype.

Medical Insurance Is A Lot Of Work

This week has been fucking crazy. I’ve gotten calls from almost every medical care provider I’ve worked with in the last 3 years because Humana was given incorrect information by BCBS of MN with regard to my coverage, and they sent out letters to those providers requesting a refund of the money they paid for my medical care.  You can just imagine how many providers I’ve seen in 3 years with my health being the way it is. Needless to say, a tiny mistake turned into a ridiculous clusterfuck (and one hellacious panic attack) for me.

See, BCBS does identification numbers weird.  Our family has 1 identification number and 3 member numbers, one for each of us. When CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) and Humana asked BCBS how long I’d had coverage, they only provided the identification number (because, apparently, all the other insurance companies have unique identification numbers for each person), without knowing that there were 3 members under that number. This lead to a simple, but unfortunately large, misunderstanding, since Adam’s had BCBS since 2011. It also lead to about 30 minutes of actual talking and 4 hours of sitting on hold to clear this shit up.

insurance

So accurate that it hurts.

In the end, it all boiled down to BCBS needing to fax a letter to both Humana and CMS letting them know that my coverage only started in January of this year. I just had to call back and forth between the different organizations and talk to different CSRs, explaining the situation over and over again. (For the record – customer service at BCBS is much faster to get a hold of and to work with than that at Humana.)

But I learned important things!  Like that every insurance company has a department devoted to the coordination of benefits, and that if you are on Medicare or Medicaid and you purchase private insurance or change providers, you absolutely must call CMS (at 1-855-798-2627) and also let their coordination of benefits department know, so your billing doesn’t get all jacked up.

I also learned that if you have Medicare (or Medicaid), and you choose to purchase another policy from a private insurance company, then the private insurance will always be your primary insurance, and Medicare (or Medicaid, or whatever other state-based insurance) will be your secondary.

Pharmaceutical-Grade Supplements Are Totally Worth It (For Me).

Also filed under “crazy” this week (but in the crazy GOOD category), I weighed myself after 2 weeks on the diet and supplement regimen prescribed to me by the endocrinologist I saw at BodyLogicMD.  I lost 7 pounds!  That’s a tenth of how much I want to lose, and it happened without any frustration.

This may not seem like the biggest deal in the world to anybody but me, but I seriously have been trying to lose weight for years with no success. I went paleo for months at a time. I weightlifted. I tried South Beach. I tried doubling my cardio. I tried calorie restriction, eating 1000 calories a day or less for a couple of weeks.  I  GOT PREGNANT AND HAD A BABY, and still had no change. (I seriously gained a total of 18 pounds with the pregnancy and lost 10 of it when Henry came out, and went right back to the same weight I had started at within a week.)

But now, I have movement on the scale, and all I’ve been doing is taking the supplements (prescribed based on deficiencies that showed up in my bloodwork), eating small meals every 3 hours (just like during pregnancy), drinking at least 64 oz of water a day, and not eating bread or pasta. I’ve been eating rice. I’ve been eating potatoes. I haven’t been working out. And the weight just  disappeared.

Another bonus: I have a ton of energy that I haven’t had in years. It’s amazing to me. I didn’t even expect that it would affect my fatigue… but it has.  There have been days where I didn’t even feel like I have MS. I mean, I went 2 whole weeks without an energy drink, or even 2 cups of coffee.  I don’t think that’s happened in the last 10 years.

But What About BioIdentical Hormones?

The doc at BodyLogicMD also prescribed me some bioidentical hormones to help with MS and seizures.

Based on the studies on estriol that have come out of UCLA, she put me on an estriol cream. It looks like it should be as effective at staving off relapses as Copaxone, at least for the first year.  I start it tomorrow.  I’m hopeful that it will be just as good as a DMD.

I’ve been very lucky not to have any progression since coming off Gilenya in February of 2014 to conceive Henry.  Dr. Javed wants me back on something if we’re not actively trying to conceive, but I have yet to try a disease-modifying drug for MS that isn’t somehow worse than the disease itself — so I’m keen to give Estriol a try, since the second and third trimesters of pregnancy were very much like a vacation from MS.

I’ll be starting a daily progesterone pill on Day 12 of this cycle to help combat catamenial  (read: caused by hormonal fluctuations around menstruation) seizures. When I was pregnant, I went for months at a time without a seizure. It is my most profound hope that I can return to a life where seizures are a “sometimes” thing and not an everyday occurrence.

I’ll be sure to let everyone know how these therapies affect me.

But for now, my honey just got home, and I wanna go give him kisses. ❤

love

*waves*

Hey there.

Life’s been crazy. I have been writing – just not on this blog. I’ve been writing here.

modern-day-ms

Here’s a link to my most recent stuff.

I was actually just featured in an interview on that site yesterday.

Love That Hugabug!

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Henry is growing like crazy. 10 months old, wearing size “18 month” clothes. He’s babbling all the time, blowing raspberries, and pulling himself up on furniture. He’s so close to walking that I’m trying my best to appreciate how easy it is to keep up with him these days.

I’ve started working on planning his 1st birthday party, which will be a joint party with his Grandpa (my dad), since they share a birthday weekend.  I think I’m actually more excited about my parents, my brother and his awesome wife coming in town to celebrate than I am about the fact that we managed to make it a full year without accidentally killing our beautiful, amazing baby. Being a parent is hard, yo.

I’m a mess, but I’m doing my best.

My health has been frustrating and upsetting, so I’ve been doing my best to minimize the struggle while responsibly handling it.

I believe I had an early miscarriage a couple of months ago. I’m usually very regular, but had a couple of very faint positive pregnancy tests and then didn’t bleed for 50+ days.  When I did get my period, it was the heaviest, most awful period I’ve ever had.  Dr. Dad thinks I might have just missed a period. He said it happens all the time, and not to worry about it. Adam has decided Dad’s right, so I’ve jumped on the “don’t mourn something that never was” bandwagon with my conscious mind and have been dealing with terrible depression and nightmares because of the choice to repress my feelings of guilt and sadness. I see my therapist on Saturday, thankfully.

Of course, just afterwards, I had a MS relapse, complete with tons of seizures, neuropathic pain in my legs, muscle spasms, and tingling/burning on various parts of my back. A medrol dose pack seems to have done the trick to quiet most of it. Come to think of it, it’s been almost 6 years without a drip — so that’s pretty good, I guess.

My stomach is still up to its shenanigans, reminding me after almost every meal that eating is not a good idea… and that’s despite my gastroenterologist doubling the amount of Prilosec I take. I am scheduled for an upper and lower GI scope on St. Patrick’s Day.  (Fun, right?)

After 2 years of not seeing a dentist for a myriad of reasons, I finally went in for a cleaning and exam. I have 2 cavities to get filled this month as well, in 2 separate visits.

I honestly don’t remember the last time that I went to the gym to work out (though I did see a nutritionist), and today, I’m fantasizing about finding a chiropractor because my neck is super-sore from my head dropping thanks to seizures. Unintentional headbanging FTW. Honestly, I’m tired of hurting. Apparently, not tired enough to use my foam roller, but just enough to think about it and then whine to myself you.

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The bright spot in the health area is that I finally got glasses.  They’re cute and helpful. I had no idea how badly I needed them!  I now look forward to the day when Henry stops wanting to rip them off my face and throw them. I’m sure that will eventually happen someday.

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Anyway, that’s all for now. The little one is stirring, and I need to change and feed him.  Hope you’re having a good day! Be well!

Do It Anyway.

My drooly dragon on Halloween.

My drooly dragon on Halloween.

Hard to believe it, but Henry’s 6 months old now.  Right now, I’m lucky enough to have a moment to write because he’s taking his morning nap.

Today, I was published on another blog — Modern Day MS. I wrote a piece about how to improve your sex life, since the great majority of folks with MS have to deal with sexual dysfunction at some point.

Surprisingly, the hardest thing about writing that guest post was keeping my word count down!  There was so much more I could have written about because, let’s face it, there’s a lot of great information out there about having good sex.

One thing that surprised me was how much it helped to have a specific audience to write to, though. I think one of my downfalls here on In It For The Parking is that I have made this much more of a personal journal and much less of an MS-centric blog.  Ah well. If I cared about making money from my blog it might matter, but I don’t. It’s not why I write here.

So About That Title…

You may have noticed that the title of today’s blog entry is, “Do it Anyway.” It’s the title of one of my favorite Ben Folds songs, and has become a huge part of my current way of being.

Being a mom is tough. It’s especially tough when you have seizures and sometimes don’t have an aura. It can be really scary.

For years — way too many years — I spent my days on the couch and didn’t do a whole lot because I was afraid of hurting myself. I didn’t cook. I didn’t exercise, for fear of falling off a machine or embarrassing myself. I didn’t leave the house without someone else.  It’s only in the last 2 years that my seizures subsided enough for me to be brave enough to go out in public alone.

And now, as a mom, sitting on the couch and hiding from life really isn’t an option. So, I take the kiddo on walks to and from the store. I carry him up and down stairs. I have begun cooking again, and today, I think I might even be brazen enough to try to shower while my husband’s at work. (It smells like a good idea.)

There were a lot of people who asked me why I wanted to have children, and whether or not it was safe. They suggested that it wasn’t a good idea because they were worried about how I would take care of the kids and deal with my condition.  My response to them was always that I wasn’t going to let MS steal motherhood away from me.  So, even with all the fear, we did it anyway.

Why? Because one of the biggest, most important things I’ve learned is that even if you’re afraid, you need to do things anyway.  Sometimes, the more afraid you are of something, the more important it is that you do it.  That’s why bravery is a virtue.

Do I seize when I get overheated? Yeah, every time.  But the dishes? Those need to get done anyway. And this body? It doesn’t like carrying this much extra weight, so exercise is going to happen.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not trying to cause seizures. I’m learning how to do things despite them.  For instance, it’s safer for me to swim (because it keeps your body cool) with Adam than it is for me to try to run on a treadmill. It’s safer for me to soak dishes in the sink and rinse in tepid water before putting them in the dishwasher than it is to use hot, soapy water. And it’s safer for me to keep the house at a crisp 68 degrees and only carry Henry for a few minutes at a time than it is for me to be afraid to pick him up.

For a long time, I thought that Kayla Montgomery was insane.  I mean, who wants to run races and trigger pseudoexacerbations over and over again, falling into her coach’s arms at the end of each race, just so she can keep running?  It sounded insane to me. But now, for some reason, I get it. She knows that someday, she’s not going to be able to feel her legs. She’s making the most of every moment she has control of them, and refuses to let this disease take any more from her than it absolutely has to.  And that takes a lot of guts.

I’m more than a little ashamed to think about how much time I wasted because of fear.  Sure, it was legitimate fear, but it was also depression. It wasn’t just that I wouldn’t push myself, I couldn’t. After failing the bar exam twice, I didn’t see the point of trying anything anymore. I didn’t want to find my physical boundaries, because I didn’t want to get hurt.

But, that’s pretty much what life is — getting hurt and getting over it and learning new ways to be… over and over again.

I’m tired of the internet being my only social outlet (aside from seeing my in-laws). I’m tired of defining myself by this disease. I’m tired of wallowing in how tired and/or afraid of seizures I am to the point that I allow myself to not be ambitious. It’s a waste. Not only of my potential but of the time I have here to enjoy life.

So, I’m fucking tired and scared. That’s great. It means I’m human. Big deal. Do it anyway; whatever “it” is. Acknowledge the fear and move forward thoughtfully.

Today, “it” is writing this blog entry and doing whatever I can to get up and be active. I can’t let my son learn that being an adult is comprised of sitting on your butt staring at a screen all day long every day. I won’t. Unfortunately, we can’t go to the gym today because the little guy is sick, and they’ve got rules against bringing sick kids to the gym.  So, I think I’m gonna walk to the store and get stuff for dinner and return a toy that I wish I hadn’t bought. (Toys with lights and sound aren’t always the best idea. Gotta find the right ones.)  Don’t worry, I always wear my medical alert bracelet and have an ICE app on my phone in case I seize in public.

If, at some point today, I’m able to vacuum the living room, make the MRI appointment I keep postponing because I’d rather not know how my MS has progressed without DMDs, and find a good dentist in the area, I’m giving myself all kinds of bonus points. Mostly because I don’t want to do any of that, but it all needs to be done.

So, I’m going to do it anyway.

Do-It-Anyway

Almost 20 weeks!

10997771_10153566954324522_6267979507934363414_nHey There, My Big Boy!

Hard to believe, but Wednesday of this coming week will mark 20 weeks that Henry has been in the world, and he’s already wearing clothes for 6 month olds. My little peanut is now more than 16 pounds and 27 inches long!  I’m thinking it might be time to bust out the jumparoo for him. 🙂

This kid is all kinds of awesome.  Sure, I spend all day, every day with him, so I’m biased — but I used to babysit a lot.  This little guy only cries when there’s something wrong. He’s inquisitive and gentle (except when he’s pulling my hair), and he loves music and books. He snuggles like a champ, he’s decided that diaper changes are actually an opportunity for
jiu jitsu training, and he has the best laugh on the face of the planet.

Right now, his daddy is out of town, doing some training for work, and my mom is coming in town to be with us.

It Takes A Village.

I have to say, I had no idea, when I got pregnant, what I was in for or how much help I was going to need.  I thought, based on those years of babysitting, that I had this mommy gig handled no problem. Man, was I wrong! I hadn’t even thought about what life would be like when I got sick. And I’ve been sick for 3 weeks now with acute sinusitis.

The first nurse practitioner who diagnosed me only gave me 5 days of antibiotics… so I got a little better, and then relapsed hard.  The second nurse practitioner (who I saw about a week later) was completely worthless and referred me to my primary care physician. When I arrived for my appointment with her, to my surprise (and dismay), I was examined by a STUDENT nurse practitioner!  Then the practice’s regular nurse finished up the visit, decided I still have sinusitis and put me on a 10 day regimen of antibiotics.

p17llh52kd1euorcm9ghmg6h16_L_655x435I’m not exaggerating when I say that only 4 hours after the first dose of antibiotic, I started feeling better.  This morning is actually the first time I’ve had energy without drinking a Monster Rehab in almost a month. (This stuff is stronger than 5 Hr Energy, believe it or not!)

I’m not sure why it’s been so difficult to see an actual doctor this month, but when I tried to establish care in my new hometown, I was informed that the doctor was booked up until October.   Yeah, like I’m gonna wait 3 weeks for something like this… I can only guess that this virus/infection has hit an awful lot of people.

Anyway — as many of you know, fevers cause pseudo exacerbations of MS.  This means that over the last 3 weeks, accompanying the low-grade fever that came with this infection, I’ve had a lot more seizure activity than I normally would.  There was one day where I kept seizing over and over again. I became very worried for my son’s safety and my own, and called Adam, who promptly called Laura (my sister-in-law). She came over and watched us for a couple of hours.

I was, and am, so profoundly grateful that we have family members who are willing to help us in times like that. I’m also glad that we now live only 20 minutes away from them. When we were living in Chicago proper, it took between 45 and 90 minutes just to see them, depending on traffic. So, I don’t remotely take their help for granted  — or that of my mom’s. She’s actually driving 8 hours from Pennsylvania right now to spend the week with us while Adam is handling his job requirements.

12002085_10153575527509522_4895338687839097525_nI’m especially grateful that Mom will be staying with us since I’m a little worried about Henry.  Adam took him to the doctor earlier this week because he’s got similar symptoms to mine. (No one in the Majka family has escaped this cold — not Busia, not Dottie, not even Uncle Jeremy.)  Anyway, Henry’s temperature has been good, but today, he’s been tugging at his left ear.  My right ear was clogged for 2 weeks straight.  It was miserable, and only got better 2 days ago.  Unfortunately, Hugabug’s too young for decongestant, and the doctor doesn’t want to give him antibiotics unless he ends up with a fever, which is understandable.

So, right now, Little Dude is going back and forth between fussy and asleep.  The only bright side I can think of is that I’m getting pretty skilled with the disgusting-in-concept, but incredibly effective NoseFrida snot sucker. Fortunately, his goop is not green like mine has been.

Homemaking

I’m also grateful that Mom is coming to town because, with all this illness, we’re still not fully unpacked. I’m really looking forward to having her assistance with organization, since this house is sorely lacking in innate storage space.  I have a strong feeling we’re going to be buying some furniture.

I also am happy that it’s almost Monday, which is when the plumber will be here to fix our leaky kitchen sink (which he completely rebuilt less than 2 weeks ago, so really, WTF?) and the HVAC guy will be repairing our return duct (which is somehow not attached…) so we can run the furnace.

Temperatures here in the greater Chicagoland area dipped into the low 50s last night. When I woke up this morning, it was 62 degrees in this house, thanks to the combination of not having a working furnace and having windows with broken seals. At least now, it’s warmed up to 70 in here.  We gotta get this shit fixed ASAP. We have to be ready for snow.

Other than that, not lots is going on with me.  I want to make some friends in the area, and am sort of at a loss for how to do so. There doesn’t seem to be an active Orland Hills/Orland Park/Tinley Park mommy group on Facebook or Meetup.com like there is in Chicago proper.  My inner entrepreneur says, “Just start the group, and they will come!”  but the most of me says, “UGH. MAKE ME SOUP AND TAKE A NAP ALREADY.”

I think I should probably listen.

Maintaining a Happy Marriage with MS

I spend a lot of time online, engaged in MS support groups.  Recently, there has been a theme in some of the groups that I find upsetting — and that theme is complaining about husbands/caregivers.  The women who engage in this think that because it’s a support group, they can complain about their partner without any sort of judgement or negativity coming their way, and oftentimes, they’re correct.  These are support groups after all, not group therapy sessions.

My most frequent contribution in discussions like these is to suggest couples counseling, but, on the other side of the screen, I’m almost always thanking God for my husband, Adam, and thinking about all the things we do to make our marriage work while enduring MS together.

Truth be told, Adam has taught me a lot about the meaning of unconditional love, teamwork, and intimacy.  I think one of the best ways I can repay him for that is to share some of his lessons with you.

How to Have a Happy Marriage With MS.

1.) Make MS the third wheel that it is.

notyourdiseaseI love Adam, and Adam loves me. But we both hate MS.

He’s seen what it does to me more than anyone else has. In fact, he was holding my hand when the doctor gave me the diagnosis.  He has reminded me, innumerable times over the 8 years that I’ve had this disease, that I shouldn’t internalize or own this disease. MS is not a part of who Rachael is. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t cause it. I don’t want it. He reminds me that if it were a head cold, I wouldn’t apologize for having to take medicine or needing to rest.  He doesn’t see it any differently.

So, when I tried, several times, to push him away while we were engaged so that he would leave me so that he wouldn’t have to deal with having MS, it was silly to him. Neither of us want MS in our lives, but neither of us can imagine life without each other.

Who you are is how you react to the challenges that MS throws in your way. You are not MS. And to have a happy marriage, your partner needs to know that.  They also have to help you fight it.

2.) The Golden Rule Is ALWAYS In Effect.

GoldenRule-2Did your partner leave dishes in the sink, or even all around the kitchen? Take a moment and think before you gripe at him or her about it. Would you want to be chided for not doing chores? Of course not! So just do what needs to be done, and allow them some grace.

The same thing goes for allowing grace within your relationship for hard times caused by chronic illness.  Would you want someone to put you down for not being able to work?  Of course not!  You’d already be wrestling with shame yourself.  So, don’t make your disabled partner feel worse about themselves.

This doesn’t mean, however, that you should be a doormat or be doing all the work all the time — which brings us to #3.

3.) You Are A Team. Act Like It.

nowinnerWhen you got married, you started a family.  It’s you and your partner versus the rest of the world. Even the law acknowledges that spouses cannot be forced to testify against one another because it would be like testifying against themselves. In community property states, they have codified the idea that “what’s mine is yours” in marriage.

So don’t ruin your intimacy and happiness by playing tit-for-tat games or being consciously passive aggressive.  You don’t help yourself or your partner when you start comparing things between the two of you or expecting your partner to read your mind. Ask for the things you want, and give of yourself to them generously.

4.) Engage In Good Self-Care — Both Of You.

selfcareThere have been times when Adam has told me that the best thing I can do to make him happy is to make sure that I am safe and am taking good care of myself, because it means he doesn’t have to worry about me when he’s at work.

As someone who deals with MS and seizure disorder, it’s my job — my #1 job — to minimize the effects this illness has on me and my family.  It’s Adam’s job to support me in doing so.

This means that I make and keep regular appointments with my various doctors (and he helps me get to those appointments and to remember what the doctors have said), set alarms to remind me to take my pills on time (and he follows up to see if I have taken them), do my best to eat healthfully (and he joins me in the effort), get regular exercise, meditate daily, and talk with a therapist when I need to.

Adam takes good care of himself too, maintaining his health, acknowledging when he needs to rest, and calling friends and family when we need extra help.

When you take the time to take good care of yourself, you make things easier for your partner, whether you’re the one with MS or the one who is a caregiver.

5.) Practice Gratitude.

spousegratitudeOne of the things that I am acutely aware of is how much Adam does for me.  This is not because he has said to me, “Do you realize I’ve done XYZ?” but because life runs so smoothly.

I know all the things I want to do to help out around the house and can’t always get done because of fatigue or seizures, and I acknowledge how much work goes in to all the things he does to keep our family comfortable.  He works full time. Most nights, he cooks dinner. He runs all the chores that require a car. And I honestly can’t remember the last time I took out the garbage.

Every night, just before we fall asleep, right when we’re cuddling, I make sure to thank him for at least one thing that I can think of that he did that made my day better.  Sometimes, it’s as simple as, “Thank you for making a delicious meal.” and other nights, it’s more like, “Thank you for working so hard, for so many years, that we were able to save up and buy a house.”

Our marriage is happy, not just because I recognize all of his hard work, but because his response to me is almost never just, “You’re welcome.” Most nights, he’ll thank me for something specific as well or to let me know that I had a hand in his success.

Does he need the praise? Probably not.  But he deserves it, and taking the time to show appreciation to one another goes a long way during times when things are difficult.

6.) Foster Intimacy

A big complaint that I hear a lot about in support communities is the lack of sex that happens when you have MS.  Let’s be real here — there’s nothing sexy about fatigue or numbness or pain or cognitive fog.  So we have to work harder to keep any kind of passion in our relationships.

You can’t fake the funk when it comes to sexytimes. If you do, you get caught up in the bad sex loop.  You force yourself to have coitus. You don’t enjoy it because you’re too busy thinking about how your body feels or how uncomfortable you are with the situation. Then the next time you’re ready to get busy, you worry it’ll be bad this time because it was bad last time, because you couldn’t stop thinking about all of the things. The bad sex loop is treacherous. And it doesn’t just hit folks with chronic illness.  Even Coupling acknowledged The Melty Man.

So, take the pressure off, and quit focusing on your illness.  Even perfectly healthy couples go through dry spells. Heck, maybe you just had a baby and are healing from a c-section. That’s 6 weeks of mandatory celibacy!

There are all kinds of things you can do – from backrubs to breathplay, phone sex to making bucket lists together – the options for improving intimacy are damn near endless, and there are a ton of articles with suggestions to help you out.

7.) Refuse To Give Up

galaxyquestLastly, and perhaps most important is honoring the commitment you made to one another.

People grow and change with or without illness as a complicating factor in a relationship.  It takes two people working together to make a happy marriage. It only takes one partner working against it for it to fail. You have to both want it. You have to have both meant it when you said that you would be together for richer or poorer, through sickness and health.

Sometimes, this means that you need a marriage and family therapist to help guide you back to the relationship that you want and deserve.  There’s no shame in that.

Othertimes, you just need to step back, take stock of the situation, and correct from there. I personally am a fan of the Gottman method, and think if you’re looking to improve your relationship, it’s a great place to start.

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To my darling, wonderful, patient, hilarious, warm, helpful husband: thank you for being the inspiration for this post. I love you more than human thought can comprehend, and I can’t wait to see you when you get home from work tonight.

And to my sweet 4 month-old baby boy, thank you for napping long enough for me to write this. ❤