Sunday, March 7, 2010

Puddle Jumping Is The New Zoloft

Well, I wish it was that easy for everyone. But I can tell you with certainty that the above title was true for me today.

I'm having a bit of a rough bout lately. Most times, I just float on...push toward the goal...persevere! But over the course of the past week? No. I've allowed my circumstances to get the best of me and I've been just plain angry. But then happy. No wait, angry.

Reading usually calms me, except when I decided to read this month's issue of MS Connection magazine. Page 12's article "Emotional Toll Affects Relationships". Alright,'s go time. Dr. Lamar Freed, a psychotherapist, says that we can have a dramatic set of mood swings, especially when fatigued. We can overreact to situations, get upset, angry, even giddy. A study shows we have twice the level of withheld anger as the general population, a phenomenon the researchers attribute to nervous system damage. They continue to say that withheld anger in ms'ers makes sense, because we have a difficult time talking about our challenging experiences with someone who doesn't have ms. If we display negative emotions, it frightens people. We cover up our negative emotions, withdrawing...or only try to exhibit positive emotions. Lamar, you tricky, tricky fellow. How doth thou knowest me so well?

How did I feel after reading all of that? I laughed at it, of course! Then I became irate, then slightly amused, but then annoyed, and finally...humored. No I'm kidding, though emotional lability is a familiar friend.

It sometimes requires a conscious effort to not allow the extreme highs and lows to shine through. It's like...I totally know I'm having that struggle at a particular time, but I fight to keep it hidden. The last thing I need is for anyone to know that "Alice" is playing ping pong. I haven't always been perfect at hiding it, however. Those closest to me have surely noticed, but only one has ever been brave enough to broach the topic. How embarrassing THAT conversation was! Once I got over the initial shame of failing at keeping everything in check and being called on it, I attempted to explain how that's one part of what ms looks like for me. When she didn't take my word for it, it was even more uncomfortable! But that's one of the many things I love about this friend. She isn't afraid to ask tough questions, will always give me her initial reaction - unedited, and will then be open-minded enough to listen and digest. Because she has always supported me unconditionally, regardless of whether or not she's in agreement with me, she read up on the subject and realized that yeah - it's real, and it's real weird. What her willingness to "study" has done is opened up a line of communication. While it's not often a topic of conversation, I know that I can be open and honest about the weirdness of my invisible symptoms with said friend. I don't really often share those things with my husband, because you may recall that his reaction of choice is to go catatonic. I think it would be cool if Pink Floyd would start playing as theme music..."hello, there anybody IN there?" God love him, he's the only man for me:-)

Fast forwarding to this afternoon and my extreme annoyance/overall horrid mood, which I really couldn't put a finger on...I decided to call said friend and ask if she felt like going for a walk. Exercise really isn't my first choice, so we weren't 10 steps into the walk before I got the, "okay, what's going on?" inquiry. I answered with what probably sounded a lot like Charlie Brown's teacher. Our walking path was nothing but ankle deep puddles and mud every few feet, all of which became even more annoying to evade as I was spewing forth my host of emotions. How does a true friend respond when you're regurgitating such rawness? I'll tell you how. She suggested we stomp in the puddles..."ya ready? GO!" Instant gratification! Alice stopped her game of ping pong for the moment and my sneakers are still drying on the porch.

The Bible talks about two being better than one and "where 2 or more are gathered in my name, I am there." I can honestly say I'm always in the company of the Lord. Even if I'm alone in physicality, there's always someone thinking of or praying for me. I'm truly blessed to have a husband who loves me in spite of my neurological shortcomings, as well as friends who support me unconditionally...who think of me when they visit parks that have an abundance of restrooms throughout, who will go out of their way to walk next to me when I'm not quite up to emotional par, and who never mind getting a little muddy in the name of emotional balancing. Helen Keller said that "walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light". If only she'd have had a friend to walk through the puddles with!

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