What comes to mind when I say that word? Does it remind you of a balanced meal? One that has whole grains, lean meat, fruits and vegetables. Or does it remind you that you need to have your tires balanced on your car? How about doing flips on a 4 inch beam of wood? Or maybe it’s a workout, combining both resistance and aerobic training. It might conjure up images of doing a pyramid in your elementary school physical education class.
For me, it reminds me how weak and dangerous my vestibular balance is. I started seeing a major difference in my balance in my mid 30s. My doctor at the time told me I was getting older and therefore my balance should be getting worse. Now I understand that as we age, we should not blame multiple sclerosis for the typical aging process. But in my mid 30s?
Many of you may have taken a typical balance test in the doctor’s office. The one where you stand on one leg, close your eyes and see how long you can balance. A typical person without a neurological disorder, should be able to do that for thirty seconds on each leg. Well, I can barely do that standing on both legs with my eyes open let alone my eyes closed.
My balance is especially taxed during any kind of turning around. As soon as I begin to change directions my body starts leaning. And once I start leaning, it’s a pretty good bet that I’m gonna fall. So I’ve begun turning in place with little tiny baby steps.
I also have to be very careful when I might be picking something up from the floor or from my trunk in the car. I have to remember to move slowly and deliberately and hang on to something.
I can’t even hug someone without losing my balance.
I have begun noticing the topography of sidewalks and streets. We live in the mountains in western North Carolina. And our senior community is built on a hill. I think I’ve said before that I used to love to walk. Now when I encounter any kind of slope to the road, whether it is up-and-down or sideways, I have a problem walking and need to use my cane. And when I need to step up the curb I have to be very careful not only with my balance, but also my drop foot. That adds a whole new layer of instability.
This is just one of the invisible symptoms that make my life uneasy and very challenging at times, and just plain frustrating all the time. This is the kind of symptom, because it is invisible, is hard to explain. And invisible to see. Because of this, and on any kind of new location, I have to rely on my cane. Not only does it help me maintain balance, but other people can see that I am not as able bodied as they are.
So my solutions are to be very careful when turning around, take my cane when needed, and slow down. I’m not really good at slowing down. I want to go full speed ahead. MS is changing many of the ways I do things, not just walking and turning around.
I have stated before the MS for me stands for Made Strong. Considering my balance and mobility issues, that means being strong enough to slow down.
Happy Friday everyone!