“Pressurecising”

How often have you heard something similar to this? “It is important to exercise.  It doesn’t matter what you do because any exercising helps.”  Who could argue?

hand weight

At every visit, Physicians try to compel me to exercise by asking if I am doing any exercising.  I also have the self-imposed pressure of societal expectations about exercising:  Heck, I live in Colorado!  Coloradans are big on outdoor activities and a focus on healthy lifestyles. However, the pressure to exercise (pressurecising) has little effect on me, other than I feel guilty about not exercising.  I am just not motivated.

People who are not self-motivated to exercise when they are healthy, will probably find it incredibly difficult when poor health gets in the way.

In my “healthy” years, before the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS), the only way I consistently exercised was to arrange with someone to go bicycle riding or meet to play racquetball.  That worked.  I actually showed-up because I had made a commitment to the other person who relied on me to be there and I enjoyed it.  The few times I exercised by myself never lasted very long.  I simply do not enjoy it.

Now that I have MS, I discovered a new stumbling block: exercising with strangers.  Well-meaning trainers and strangers exercising with me tried to urge me on.  Telling them I have MS was as effective as describing a color to a person blind from birth.  Understandably, they did not comprehend and for heaven’s sake, if I tried to elaborate, it would have been an exercise-in-futility.

I do not want to draw attention to myself but desperately want others to understand MS just a little bit.

Unfortunately, most people are misinformed.  They might try to relate to me by telling about “an Aunt who died from MS.”  Far too many people mistakenly believe MS is a death sentence instead of an impairment that ranges from minor to severe physical and/or cognitive difficulties.

When well-meaning people try being cheerleaders, they don’t understand my lack of movement is not because I need encouragement or help but my muscles won’t respond and I am also trying to keep from becoming fatigued.  I might still try but if I am not careful, I risk injury.

After years of searching for the most appropriate exercise, I eventually assumed the slow and deliberate movements of Tai Chi would be perfect.  Wrong.

On two occasions, I attended a Tai Chi for Arthritis class at our community recreation center but certainly, no one else had multiple sclerosis.  Even with Tai Chi’s slow deliberate movements, my cognitive issues still caused problems in comprehending and copying the positions of the torso, arms, hands, legs, and feet, then transitioning to the next position.  Although the transitions were made slowly, the instructor was going on to the next movement before I figured out the positions for the first movement.  I could not keep up and quickly became physically and mentally fatigued and stressed.

Mistake #1: I did not speak with the instructor BEFORE joining the class.
As with many people who have MS, I appear generally healthy, so he had no idea I had MS and struggle with the movements because of my impaired cognition and physical abilities.

Mistake #2:  Telling a well-meaning classmate, who was urging me on, I had MS.  Many people simply cannot relate to what MS is and does to a person.  She kept encouraging me to do things because she did not comprehend why I was not trying a movement.  Unwittingly, she only increased my frustration, stress, and embarrassment.

Focusing on the instructor’s movements allowed me to learn without making the movement.  Neither the instructor nor classmates understood that sometimes I had to just watch to learn and keep from being fatigued or falling.

Even with Tai Chi’s slow movements, my MS issues with cognition, coordination, dexterity, balance and falling were significant.  The result: I abandoned exercising.  Unwise for anyone, regardless of their health.  However, wisdom is not the province of will power.

Chronic Disease Awareness Day at the Capitol – Denver

Once, it was simply called MS Day at the Capitol but in the last couple of years, it has expanded to encompass 34 volunteer health organizations that cover a wide variety of diseases and re-titled, “Chronic Disease Awareness Day at the Capitol.”

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From the Chronic Disease Collaborative (CCC) website:

Thursday, March 9, 2017 @ 7:30 A.M.

What: Chronic Disease Awareness Day: Celebrating Milestones

When: Thursday, March 9th. Registration begins at 7:30 A.M.  Program begins at 8:00 A.M.

Where:  We begin the morning with registration and breakfast at The First Baptist Church, 1373 Grant St, Denver, CO 80203 for brief advocacy training and an opportunity to develop your story and your talking points.

We will proceed across the street to the State Capitol, 1410 Grant St, Denver, CO 80203 to meet our state legislators. Afterward, join us for a box lunch and brief presentation in the Old Supreme Court Chambers.

Chronic Disease Awareness Day helps educate our legislators about Chronic Diseases and healthcare issues in Colorado. This is your opportunity to share your stories and show your support for those living with Chronic Diseases.

Register HERE

Family and friends are always welcome.

We hope to see you there!

Not Just the Holiday Funk

Blue Bow

Well established is the recognition and acceptance of “holiday funk.”

Christmas has a deep spiritual meaning to Christians. It is less about giving presents and mostly a time to think about Jesus.  Still, to many people, Christmas is also supposed to be spent sharing ourselves with family and loved ones.  A time to slow down our frenzied lives to enjoy “quality” time with our families and reflect on the blessings we have received. Certainly that’s what our culture presents as important.  Heck, that is how it has always been and should always be!  At least that is what I believe.

Today, I found myself in the midst of family and feeling useless and insignificant.  Is that the MS or the Holiday funk?

I think a mix of both.  I know the pseudobulbar affect is in play but I also believe the traditional “Holiday Blues” contributes a lot.

For the last few years I have felt lost, alone and generally miserable every holiday.  When we open our Christmas presents as a family, I find myself incapable of inserting myself into the moment.  I feel detached and unwilling to interact.  But, I force myself.  It is not fair to the others for me to inject and inflict my negative mindset.  Even worse, I find I am incapable of wresting myself out of the mental fog.  It is like being on the outside looking in.  Yup, like the song.

Regardless, I was redeemed by a three-year-old whose awe and excitement about the day reminded me this day was not about me but had a much deeper meaning than I had ever realized.  Oh sure, I wanted to present the woe-is-me version of myself and be the Ebeneezer Scrooge of the family, but I resisted and was so very glad.  There is NOTHING to be gained by being pitiful but the feelings are there, none-the-less.