Tag Archives: isolation

Safe Haven or Prison?

homeI had a very interesting chat about the early stages of my MS the other day.

One thing that cropped up again and again was how isolated I felt.

The foot-drop, the stumbling, the jaw-dropping fatigue – they all conspired to keep me at home.

I no longer socialised, preferring to invite my few remaining friends over to mine instead, where I could lounge on the sofa, safe in the knowledge that they wouldn’t judge me or the amount of tears I cried. Or how much cake I scoffed.

I went out far less and began to place internet shopping orders for everything – groceries, books, a radio, even a packet of batteries. My lovely squishy sofa became a hateful place where I spent hour after hour sleeping my life away.

My window was a torture instrument, displaying an endless reel of everything I was missing out on. My kitchen morphed into an obstacle course, showing off the ingredients that lay rotting in the fridge and languishing in the cupboards. Meals were ready-made and unsatisfying.

In short, my home became a prison, and the more I was isolated, the more I became isolated. It seemed a vicious circle and one I couldn’t find an escape from. I realised I was in serious danger of living my life from my sofa, comfort-eating, feeling sorry for myself and developing a serious lounge-wear habit.

I don’t often talk to myself, preferring to offload to the cat instead, but this time I gave myself a shaking down. This had to stop. I used to love my house – it was a place where I was bringing up The Teenager. I had stamped our style all over it; it was fun, bright, comfortable and, well, home.

Over the next couple of months, I ventured a little further out. Ok, I got tired, I tripped up. I dropped a whole cup of coffee over myself. I started to think, who cares? And why do I care so much? It wasn’t easy. It was painful and embarrassing, but the alternative, that looming prison-home was far worse.

Nowadays, I have accepted that life will never be like before. Spontaneity has gone, never to be seen again. The rules have changed and I have to change with them or be left behind. I’ve worked out my high-energy points and low-energy points and put them to good use. I accept there will be down times, when I have to rest or pay the consequences. I make the most of the up times.

My house has returned to it’s former state – it is a place I feel safe and comfortable in. I love it. I love my squishy sofa. I love my kitchen – it plays host to fresh ingredients and a sprinkling of ready-meals and they happily co-exist. I have a stack of books ready for when all I can do is slump on the sofa, as elegantly as possible.

And now, when I’m having a really bad MS week, I’m tussling with my house again. I have a pile of uni books to read and I could do with wrapping myself in clingfilm and lying down somewhere quiet in a bid to lose weight.

My house could be a prison, or it could be a safe haven I can return to …

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This Is What MS Feels Like

lonelinessImagine you had a life-long friend.

This friend’s been with you through everything. Every high, every low. Seen you through weird and wonderful adventures across the world, the birth of your child, a near-fatal car crash.

One day, this friend turns on you. To begin with, you don’t really take much notice, you’re too busy trying to get on with life. You ignore the niggling doubts. You trust this friend implicitly, with your life. But the warning signs become hard to ignore. You’re sure they’re drugging your coffee, it’s the only thing that could explain the overwhelming fatigue. They begin messing with your mind, mixing up your thoughts, your emotions, garbling your speech.

Things escalate badly. They begin pushing you over and tripping you up. You never know when it’s going to happen and you start to live in fear. Your balance is shot to pieces, the pain is uncontrollable. You start going out less, hiding yourself at home. You’re bullied at work because of the friend, who by now is an enemy. This will ultimately be an excuse to fire you from a job you love. Friends abandon you, leaving you even more isolated. Your family can’t begin to understand what’s happening to you, no matter how many times you try to explain.

Your income drops as you have to reorganise your working hours, your social life is non-existant. Simple tasks become mountains you have no hope of scaling. Just getting through each day in one piece becomes your sole aim. Fear and loneliness are now your constant companions, keeping you up into the small hours, frantically working out what your new future will look like, if you have one at all. Every area of your life is rapidly changing beyond recognition, so fast you can barely keep up. Your son cries in his bedroom. He can’t cope and you don’t know quite how to console him when you can’t even reassure yourself.

This is what MS feels like. Your body, your friend through life who has never let you down before, attacks you from every single angle.

Drugs, treatments and a superb support network have restored some kind of order to my life, although it is not the life I had before. But those black, dark days will remain with me forever. And they may, just may, reappear at any time. Carpe diem.

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Caring For The Carers

Carers WeekThere are 6.5 million carers in the UK and 6,000 people take on a new caring role every single day. Findings from the report, Prepared to Care? show that vital support is not being made available to new carers from the outset.

My experience as an MS support volunteer has brought me into contact with many people who care for someone with MS. Their stories are all different, but there is one recurring theme – their isolation and lack of joined-up support. They feel they have to fight their way through a complex, bewildering system and are unable to access all the services they need to support them in their role.

81% of carers in the report felt unprepared for the emotional impact of caring and 71% were unprepared for the change in relationship with the person they care for. I have a friend who often feels that the entire focus of support is for his partner, who has primary progressive MS that has left her housebound. They live in purpose-built accommodation, which although ideal for his partner, is unsuitable for him as it is far from transport links and shops.

The only respite he has is when a paid carer comes in for two hours a day, but as he explained, by the time he walks to the bus stop and goes to town, he has to turn round and go home again. He has also had to give up work, as 45% of carers find they have to do to continue in their role as a carer. He now leads a very lonely, isolated life and although he adores his partner, he feels increasingly frustrated.

92% of carers feel more stressed because of their caring role, a damning statistic, and one that can only be reduced by providing good quality practical and emotional support. ‘Prepared to Care’ recommends that there should be better public understanding and recognition of carers and that they should have access to information and the right support from the very beginning.

Carers are the forgotten heroes. Perhaps we feel it will never happen to us, but anyone can become a carer and most of us will not be prepared.

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