Living Like You | The truth about my MS symptoms

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Person tying shoelaces on leather brown shoes

All symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) are personal and uncomfortable, some more so than others. As a Person Living with MS (PLwMS), I have learned to co-exist with my symptoms, tolerate them and, where possible, work around them. This has been the most important MS lesson I have learned over the past 33+ years with the condition. There are just too many MS symptoms to write about and do justice to in one blog, so I have concentrated on three: memory, concentration and manual dexterity.

I can no longer rely on my memory. Though I think my memory is relatively OK, it’s not as good as it was. How do I manage? I write reminders in my diary; the diary my wife Jean gives me every Christmas, because she knows that, if I don't write it down, it will be forgotten. I also use sticky notes and add them to my diary, making them easier to transfer from day to day as the days pass. I check over my diary every week to see what has, or hasn't, been completed.

What do I do when I am away from home and my diary? When I think of something that needs to be done or when someone asks me to do something, I send myself an email, like an electronic sticky note. Whilst I use my electronic calendar for everything, I still write notes in my diary (old habits die hard) and tick them off when completed.

My concentration has taken a hit. I have come to prefer short bursts of concentration with longer periods of inane activities that require less concentration. I no longer beat myself up for lapses in concentration. I am almost embarrassed to say that some, admittedly a small number, tasks never get done. It’s not that I intentionally disregard them, but they get lost in the mix of different activities. I have learned to divide jobs into manageable sections, and jobs now take longer to complete. People who ask me to do things know that, whilst I will do my best, my MS may derail my plans without notice.

Manual dexterity has also become more of an issue. My handwriting was never great but now there are times my handwriting rivals any doctor’s written prescriptions. I only wear a tie for special occasions. Buttoning my shirts is a time-consuming task; my preferred upper-body clothing is any shirt with three or fewer buttons or, better still, a zip. Unfortunately, dexterity issues mean getting dressed is never quick or easy, and showering and shaving take a massive amount of concentration. It is even more unfortunate that there is no workaround when it comes to dressing myself.

Putting socks on is not the easiest part of ‘Operation Getting Dressed’, but I power through before moving onto the next phase, getting my feet in my shoes, which includes using shoehorns. Spasticity and foot-drop are factors that further complicate the process. Tying my shoelaces is currently the easiest part, but it still presents difficulties. I recently came across Velcro-fastened shoes that manage to look stylish – I’ve found a solution to my least difficult task. Oh, if only my more difficult tasks could be resolved as easily. Good footwear is important, even though I don’t walk very much anymore.

There you have it, just a brief insight into some of my many MS symptoms. Whilst there are some good days and some not so good days, you learn the best ways to live with the symptoms.

Many people living with MS face symptoms that impact their memory, concentration and manual dexterity. Read more about how our LLY blogger, Birgit, structures her day with MS here.


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