Sunday, December 1, 2013

"The Dangers of Stretching" by Ms. Sad

Last Thanksgiving I was not in the mood to write a post.  I weaseled out of it with this post about Comfort Carbs. Don't get me wrong...the carbs are comforting again this year.  But then I confessed the following week that my heart wasn’t really in the post. The end of November 2012 found me exhausted.  As I read my old posts I can say with certainty that this year, so far…not as bad.  Knock on wood!  My autumn and winter fatigue is certainly a combination of MS and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  Call me “Ms. Sad”!   
I can’t always sort out whether I am tired from my MS or tired because I am depressed. The reality is that remedies for one will inevitably help the other. The addition of the Happy Light in the morning, attempts at eating more fruit and vegetables, getting adequate sleep, etc…have been intermittent this last month.  When one starts the slide toward the ‘sadlands’, efforts toward self-care often decrease. But I believe I may have caught myself this past weekend, grabbed hold of the handle at the top of the slide and I’m dangling there…angering all the other children lined up behind me who want to go down the slide…but I have changed my mind. I do not want to go down the slide. I’m going to scramble back up and find myself a teeter totter at the very least, because at least then we know that what goes down comes back up! I am not a fan of merry-go-rounds, but a swing would work as well. A comforting sort of ‘back and forth’, ‘back and forth’, as I make my way through the holiday playground.

Do you remember the Santa scene from “A Christmas Story” The one where Ralphie is on Santa’s lap and for the life of him he cannot remember that he wanted to ask for the Red Ryder bee bee gun. Everything is spinning around him, voices and faces are distorted and he cannot think. And then, just as he starts down the slide, he remembers- flash! A moment of clarity!  My moment of clarity was not quite as dramatic. It happened rather slowly over one or two days this weekend. I would catch my thoughts…thoughts that seemed out of place, overly grim or downright macabre.

One instance occurred after I returned home from an outing with terrible shoulder and neck pain. I decided that the healthy thing to do would be to stretch out on my exercise ball (that I don’t exercise on, so I should really call it a stretch ball). As I lay across it, arching my back and spreading my arms wide I could feel the tightness in my chest.  “Ah…this is good,” I thought. So I rolled back a bit more until my head was hovering a couple of inches off the ground. At this angle I had to put my arms crisscross on my chest so that it did not aggravate my shoulder. Thus my arms were folded in a similar manner to how I picture Count Dracula in his coffin. Then I thought, “Oooh, I hope I don’t lose my balance, I couldn’t catch myself in time. I wonder if anyone has ever broken their neck on an exercise ball? A person could break their neck!” Some of you would never have that thought and most of you would have at least stopped it there, but Ms. Sad was not done. In my mind I actually visualized myself falling and lying there with an oddly twisted neck, like you see when people break a leg or arm. The paramedics would arrive and not know how to pick me up. They would warn me that the movement might cause whatever spinal messages were still hanging on to totally sever and I could die. Or be paralyzed for life. My children would come down to my room before they moved me (Reminiscent of a morbid story I recall about a man pinned by a subway train making a final phone call home before they moved the train and he died). Yes, I gave my deathbed speech in my head whilst lying across the exercise ball! It was a fantastic speech- Oscar worthy! I nearly brought myself to tears. And as I rolled carefully off the side of the ball and went to find some Kleenex for my runny nose, I thought, “Judy, you are weird and you are depressed. That is not normal.” 
Dec 2012- me, my boys and the dangerous exercise ball...I think it ate Andrew's legs!

Now I am slightly embarrassed to admit that there were several such scenes, though none quite as dramatic, that played out in my mind over the next 24 hours. I found myself drawn toward, and fixated on, the negative or worst-case scenarios.

On Saturday, when I refilled my pillbox for the week I slipped an extra pill for nerve pain into each daily slot. It is coincidentally an antidepressant.  But then I took it out. My nerve pain has not increased. So instead I promised myself that I would exercise 10 minutes every day. It may seem a small amount but it has to feel doable because I have to do it EVERY DAY. Currently I am not really exercising at all. Sure sometimes I take the stairs instead of the elevator or park further away, but this will be a dedicated round of yoga, Tai-Chi, hula-hoop or weight lifting. Not all at once of course, though there may be a market for “Yo-Chi hoop lifting”. 

I was once the benefit of an intervention group in a research study that looked at exercise as a treatment for depression in people with MS. I know it can work for me. The extra pill might work too, but the beauty of exercise is that it will also help with pain, fatigue, stress and immune function, just to name a few. That’s right Santa, all I want for Christmas is steady exercise!

I will also work my other strategies to steer clear of the ‘sadlands’ this winter.  The exercise is the hardest for me and that is why I share it here. Public accountability! I will check in each week and post my success or challenges (nice word for failures). I will not deprive myself of holiday goodies and have even decided to reward myself with a weekly peppermint nonfat mocha. I believe I have grabbed hold of the slide’s handrail just in time. It’s hard work to drag myself back to the top, but easier than climbing up from the very bottom! Do you suppose anyone has ever died from Downward Dog? Broken a hip on a hula hoop? No? How do you stop yourself from going down the slide into the winter sadlands?


  1. My exercise ball is neon yellow - and half-deflated right now, but I want to get it out and blow it up and injure myself in the name of wellness. Motivating myself to do it is the hardest part - good luck with this new goal.

  2. There is such a metaphor in's too perfect! By all means inflate- and attempt not to injure, but you may get nauseous :) I haven't done my exercise yet today and was just pondering...I will go see how many squats I can do before I fall over!