Lessons of My Last Relapse

Jamie Tripp Utitus
Written by
Jamie Tripp Utitus

There’s this urban legend, a myth of sorts that society seems to believe – it is that we can do everything.

Whether you have MS or not, I have learned that while it is a noble approach to life, it can also set us up for failure and even sickness. January 13th marked my four year MS-erversary. If I have learned since then, it is that I have to choose how I spend my energy wisely. I can’t do it all.

I have to slow down. My body and MS demands it. Although I know this in my mind, I am admittedly still struggling to accept it. As a working mom, this is extremely difficult on so many levels.

I learned the hard way a week-and a-half-ago that I have to make the time to accommodate my MS. If I don’t, my MS will knock on my door, sit me down, and give me a strong talking to. In other words- RELAPSE! I was super productive a few weeks ago. Man, it felt great to get everything done! But my sleep was less, my stress was high and the next thing I know, my leg is giving out and I am not able to walk. The fatigue was crushing and I was an emotional mess, it was scary.

I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I did wrong. Sometimes there’s nothing I can do to prevent a relapse from hitting me like a ton of bricks. But in this case, there were signs and warnings that I just didn’t heed. I’ve noticed a few basics that I need to stick to, that seem to help me manage.

Plan Accordingly

If I want to be social, it is better plan drinks with friends, work, and family events carefully, making sure I am able to rest the day after. I have the best chance of surviving the chaos of a busy lifestyle if I can plan and prepare in a non-stressful way.

Strive for Mental Balance

Typically I wake in the mornings at 4 am before the chaos of life rises with the sun. I sneak down to my home office and I read. I start with a devotional and then I transition into whatever book I’m reading, for fun. Starting my day with my heart and soul connected to my higher power releases me. It cuts the stress cord for me; it is a reminder that none of this matters as much as I think it does. Someone’s upset with me. I’m sorry. I didn’t get to that yesterday, I will do it today or ask for help.

Everything that overwhelms me and contributes to my inflammations is underwhelming in the scope of the universe. Perspective IS our reality. In the couple weeks leading up to my relapse-I woke up at 4 am and went straight to work. I skipped my mental/spiritual time-outs.

Sleep is Non-Negotiable

I have to lower the bar sometimes with housework, work, and kids and realize that my sleep is more important. This is hard for me some days, but if I skip sleep my body lets me know it!

Physical timeouts. Another integral part of my daily routine is lying down. It doesn’t matter if I’m on my back, staring at the ceiling while my little guy plays with his toys beside me, it helps. My body needs to stop. Studies show that 20 minutes of sleep in the afternoon provides more rest than 20 minutes more sleep in the morning. The body seems to be designed for this, as most people naturally become more tired in the afternoon.

I now recognize that taking mental breaks EVERYDAY and a physical time-out, is the best way for me to approach my life with MS proactively. Yes, it may take time and make me a little less productive, but when relapse happens – all time is gone. This was glaringly evident in the week and a half of work and LIFE I missed as I lay in bed recovering.

What steps do you take for self-preservation? Do you think we really have control over some of the factors that can lead to relapse? Share with us on Facebook.

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