Rest. Such an innocuous word. You’ve probably said it to every single person you know, and probably multiple times. But I bet most people have never thought about the true balancing act that happens when you have Multiple Sclerosis. I would venture to say that I have been commanded to rest more frequently than the average person, and that’s ok… because sometimes I really do need the reminder.
If you have followed my blog, you’ll recall that in my past life (before MS decided I could no longer perform my job) I was a high school teacher. I worked long hours, arriving at my desk before 6 am, and usually not leaving until at least 5 pm. I then took work home with me, along with the emotional baggage that comes from truly caring about each of my students. My weekends were spent grading, planning, and prepping for the week ahead. It was a job that fulfilled me yet was truly frustrating because my work could never be done. It was all about prioritizing. Add to that lifestyle a daily schedule that was made for me and that I was contractually bound to follow, and I truly had no life. “Rest” was built in in the form of a period off, but resting seldom happened during that time, and god forbid I drank too much coffee, using the restroom only happened on scheduled time. And I was able to keep up that pace without blinking for the first ten years after my diagnosis.
It is impossible to go from the scheduled life, which I thrived on for the better part of my career, to nothing. These days I have a schedule for myself, far less grueling than the one that was made for me by the Master Schedule Gods. I try to stick with my schedule because it makes me feel like I am human and I can be productive even without that job that ruled my life.
These days, I walk a fine line between “doing” and “resting”. Overdoing anything causes a ripple effect resulting in being forced to rest simply because my body does not allow me to function normally, even according to the standards of my constantly changing “norms” which are a part of every MS patient’s life. Not functioning means that I am down for the count, with a completely empty tank, and not enough energy to do anything, even eating or getting up to use the bathroom. And forget about taking a shower, because that just doesn’t happen.
As much as I hate it when I am ordered to rest, I know I should listen. But I want to think that I can still do as much as I used to, which I can’t. It’s a lesson that is hard to learn because in my mind I’m still that same strong, tenacious person that I have always been. In fact, I believe that I am a stronger, wiser person than I have ever been. Here I am, approaching 15 years with MS and I’m still learning and constantly adjusting to how far I can push myself, whether it’s in the gym, on my yoga mat, or even just with how much I can do socially before my body has decided that enough is enough.
One would think that after living a third of my life with MS, I’d have adjusted to all the changes that this invisible illness (and uninvited silent partner in my marriage) has brought with it. But a part of me longs to be, and often tries (without success) to be the person I was before my life was forever changed with my diagnosis. I am beyond grateful to my support system for their “gentle” reminders, because even though I want to be invincible and go, go, go, sometimes what I really need to do is just rest. It’s never what I want to hear but it is often what I need.