Wednesday, 27 June 2012

there won't be any cookies for breakfast

I lay on my back on the living room hardwood floor, knees bent, shins (kind of) parallel to the floor, feet flexed. I tried to breathe gracefully and copy the movements of the chiseled woman on my tv screen. She told me to move my legs spontaneously, to feel the heat emanating from my core and to let my inner sacred fire guide my movements. I felt like a spider with half its legs plucked off, flailing around on the floor. Knuckle thought it was great fun and kept trying to sniff my butt. I kept thinking that the pure white, undulating sand dune my virtual yoga teacher was lying on had to be way more comfortable than my floor, dusted in dog hair (didn't I just sweep?) and kind of smelling like feet. Or maybe that was my feet. I didn't usually have them so close to my face.
I glanced to the right to make sure I didn't smack my ankle against the coffee table, and the furniture wobbled in my sightline. I remembered why I was doing this, and tried to focus.

I've been having vision problems for the past couple of weeks. My eyes don't seem to be coordinating themselves perfectly, which has led to double vision, inability to focus my sight while moving, and, as a result, nausea. It's a good reminder to me that I need to start taking better care of myself, and practice what I preach. An empty pitcher has nothing to give.

I'm certain that all new parents, and probably everyone who has something they care deeply about demanding their attention, get to a point where they realize- I've really been neglecting myself. I thought I was being selfless, but now I'm tapped out and the well's run dry. It's an easy thing to do; it's a whole lot simpler to break commitments with yourself than to say no to your children, your spouse, your parents or your boss. So we run around dotting on our children, still wearing our old maternity pants, or making sure our husband takes his vitamins while we scarf cookies for breakfast, or put in 60-hour workweeks while our gym shoes collect dust. This is where the maternal instinct can run amuck if left to its own devices. I'll take care of everyone else first, then myself, if there's anything left. 

About four years ago I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I don't talk about it too much because I'm afraid of people thinking I'm fishing for pity or leniency. The truth is I've had it very easy. Only three "flare ups" as they're called, since my diagnosis. I've never had it affect my vision before. That's the nature of the beast. Your immune system turns on itself, destroying the protective coating on your nerve cells and causing misfires in whatever part of the nervous system it happens to attack. It can affect anything that your nervous system controls; muscles, eyes, brain, bladder, you name it.

Because I've been very lucky so far, I don't like to think about it too much. I went to a support group meeting once, and most of the people there were severely crippled. Two fell asleep during the meeting (fatigue is a major symptom). I was the only one not wheelchair bound or using a cane. Several could not speak very well. I was horrified. For weeks afterwards, all I could think was; How long do I have before that's me? I decided never to go back. Apart from participating in the MS Society's annual walk, I hardly ever think about it. That has become my defense. I refuse to give it any more attention than I need to.

It works well, until the disease comes knocking. I can't ignore it when it's quite literally right in front of my eyes. So I have been reminded these past several days that I need to be more proactive in taking care of my health.

People with MS do markedly better when they take good care of their bodies. The stronger and healthier you are, the more it takes for the disease to chip away at you.

One of my New Year's resolutions was to do a really difficult yoga pose, the Firefly, by the end of the year. I haven't done much to work on that yet, mostly because it requires a lot of ground work. I need to be a lot stronger and more flexible than I am now before I can even attempt it. Now I have the kick in the butt I need. Doing the pose was never really the important thing. Knowing that my body is capable of it is. If I am fit enough to do the Firefly, hopefully I am fit enough to stand up to MS.

I need to make a lot of diet changes, too. I developed some bad noshing habits when I was pregnant that it's time to nip. Refined sugar, too much dairy, fast's time to go. I love the mantra of Michael Pollan (In Defense of Food, The Omnivore's Dilemma): Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. 
By food, he means, real food. Not processed crap. The stuff that's right there when you first walk into the grocery store. The stuff that goes bad. The stuff that grows. The stuff that doesn't have an ingredients list.

I should have done this a long time ago, but, pardon the bad joke, not being able to see has really opened my eyes. I am the only one responsible for my health, and there is a lot more than me depending on it.

I finished the yoga video today, looking like a hot mess I'm sure, but feeling great. I'll do it again tomorrow. And...there won't be any cookies for breakfast, either.


  1. Wow, what a post. Funny, touching, brave, honest... I'm very glad you blog. Thank you.

    1. Thanks Kristen, that's so nice of you.

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  3. The passage of not taking care of yourself because of someone else could have been written by me. I so badly want to start doing yoga, but somehow I just never find the time to get started. There is always time for internet though so something is wrong here I guess.
    Thank you for talking so openly about your health and MS. I understand how hard that must be for you. I hope you manage to take care of yourself better and better!