MS Adventures – Ode To My Bellyache

MS Adventures - Ode To My Bellyache

Back next week. Hopefully. 😦

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MS Adventures – Modafinil, Day Three – Coming to Terms With It

Three little pills, spaced over three days. I’m super jittery but I feel AWAKE! Alive for the first time in forever. Looking forward to testing my limits all over again!

And a little afraid of the crash. But only a little.

Yesterday I didn’t have my normal morning coffee, because I hoped Modafinil would do enough to keep me awake. What I FORGOT was that there’s no actual caffeine in Modafinil – it works on a totally different part of the brain. So by about 2pm I had the (by-now-familiar) withdrawal headache. I have a love-hate relationship with caffeine – we break up occasionally, but I always go back. Anyway, I don’t like drinking coffee after noon or so, because it can interfere with my sleep, so I just waited it out. I kept telling myself “You’ll go to sleep tonight, and in the morning you’ll get up and have your coffee, and it’ll be AMAZING.”

So I just went about my day, doing housework and stuff (MUCH more housework, and more quickly than usual, by the way!) and it was fine, my energy levels were still pretty good, even with the low-grade headache. Right up until about 7pm when the Modafinil, rather abruptly, stopped working. Left my system. Done.

I was at a Weight Watchers meeting. (I’ve discovered that the new system is PERFECT for me, in combination with the Wahls Protocol, to help me make sure I’m getting the nutrients I need.) Anyway, I got hit suddenly with a dizzy spell hard enough to stagger me. I was standing in front of a table, and I’m really glad the table was there, because I’m pretty sure I would have hit the floor otherwise. One of the ladies asked if I was alright, and I said “It’s fine, my new alertness drug just wore off.” But inside my head I was frantic: “How the hell am I gonna get home? I can’t drive like this!” Thankfully, I quickly realized two things: 1. I moved back home so I had LOTS of people I could call if I really needed help, and 2. the dizziness was already wearing off, even if the brain fog wasn’t.

And I honestly think the brain fog wasn’t that bad, it was just that the CONTRAST between the alertness I had felt and then the exhaustion when it wore off was so sudden and pronounced. I had just moved from what felt like my “old, pre-MS normal” to my “MS normal.”

And it scared me. And then I started to over-think the situation (as usual) and freaked myself out even more.

Modafinil isn’t a physically addictive drug. That means my body apparently won’t develop a tolerance, so once my Doctor and I find a working dosage, I won’t have to increase it over time to keep the same effect.

But psychologically? Whoa Momma! I’m incredibly grateful right now that I don’t have an addictive personality. The only addiction I’ve ever dealt with is caffeine, and I’ve weaned myself off it several times, just to make sure I still could. Heh. Another control issue?

But Modafinil? The thought of feeling normal, and all I have to do is take this little pill? One teeny tiny pill, to make such a difference…

That terrifies me. Because I want it so very, very badly.

But that means giving control to this little white pill, doesn’t it? And I know I’m going to do it anyway. The thought is accompanied by both exhilaration and fear.

So yesterday, as I said, I told myself “You’ll go to sleep tonight, and in the morning you’ll get up and have your coffee, and it’ll be AMAZING.” And it was! I actually sat and REVELLED in the coffee, quietly of course. Too early for loud revelling, and besides I hadn’t had my Modafinil yet, so I wasn’t feeling particularly bouncy.

But I was waiting for it, looking forward to it. Craving the thought of feeling normal, if only for half a day. And I understand now, in a way I never have before, how insidious addiction could be. How somebody (with fewer control issues maybe?) could be completely overtaken, suffocated by it. But welcome it anyway.

Holy crap that scared me.

And then I realized that, once again, I was over-thinking. Maybe, just maybe, I should look at Modafinil differently. I mean, if I learned that a friend was on antidepressants, I’d applaud them for reaching out and talking to someone, and taking control of their situation. Too many people, I think, still assume that therapy exists for the weak. I think it exists for those strong enough to talk to someone about their lives, people who are proactive and want to change things about their thoughts and situations. (Ahem. I finally made contact with a therapist, to discuss my control issues and learn to deal with “my new normal.” I’m now on a waiting list. But I’m still happy I finally reached out to someone about it!)

Anyway, maybe I should think about Modafinil the way I think about antidepressants: it’s a way to help regain control, not a way to give control away to a drug. So I asked myself a few questions:

Q: Is it a necessary drug for me to take? Will my condition get worse without it?

A: Well, no. Most likely not. There have been some studies indicating that Modafinil may slow MS progression, but not enough to make it “a necessary drug.”

Q: Will my experience of life be enhanced by this drug? Will it help me participate more fully in my own life?

A: Yes, I believe it will.

Those simple questions, that stated belief, has leached away most of my fear regarding any loss of control. In any case, it’s only day three, and I may have a lot more to learn about this lol!

So my lesson for today is this:

BE AWARE OF THE CHOICES YOU MAKE, AND WHY YOU MAKE THEM.

That’s it, that’s all. There are always consequences, so when you’re making what you feel is a major decision, think about it. Be aware enough that you can feel good about what you decide. Write down your reasons, because it’ll help to remind you later WHY it was a good decision for you at the time. Is the end result worth what you feel you’ll have to give up? If your answer is yes, then just do it!

MS Adventures – Modafinil, Day Two – Holy Dry-Mouth, Batman!

Modafinil. Mo. Da. Fi. Nil. My new drug of choice.

Modafinil is a powerful stimulant, and since I’ve had dry-mouth since my first pill yesterday, I’m attempting a caffeine-free day, and just hoping the Modafinil will take it’s place. I’ll let you know how that goes.

I was concerned that the drug may interfere with my sleep patterns, especially since I took it after lunch when I had the prescription filled, but I slept just fine last night. I woke up at a normal time this morning, with no headaches, dizziness or agitation. I’ve been keeping a close eye out for the listed negative side effects, but so far (other than the dry-mouth) there’s been nothing.

One other side effect I’ve noticed is that it’s acting as an appetite suppressant. Unfortunately, I’m hypoglycemic. That means I have low blood sugar naturally, and I really do need to eat every couple of hours. So I need to pay MORE attention to food, since regulating my blood sugar levels will be VERY important if I’m not getting as many hunger signals.

I foresee a possible issue here. Not because the drug doesn’t work, but BECAUSE it works really well so far, with liveable side-effects. I know that doesn’t really make sense. I think maybe it’s my control issues coming up again – I really dislike the thought of HAVING to take something every day.

Actually, I really dislike the thought of WANTING to take something every day.

This is ridiculous. When I get a sinus infection, I take antibiotics, I don’t complain that I have to take pills for that. When I’m really congested, I take a decongestant and an antihistamine, and I’m happy when they work. I don’t complain about taking them. Maybe it’s because I know the antibiotics are short term, and I only take the antihistamines when I feel like need them. So what’s the difference?

I’m willing to bet it’s another control issue. Heh. One of these days, I’ll have to see someone about that!

I’m not sure that anyone who hasn’t experienced a loss of control over their bodies and minds can understand how SEDUCTIVE the thought of “feeling normal” is. I’ve spent the last couple of years redefining my “normal” and so far, it’s not a destination, it’s a process. An alternately lovely-and-fulfilling versus horrible-and-frustrating process.

I guess the trick is to really savor the lovely-and-fulfilling parts, while passing by the frustrating parts, taking in the lessons as you go. I mean, that’s the whole point of the Edison Tally, right? To concentrate on the lessons instead of the outcome.

So. This drug. Maybe it’s a lesson in itself. Certainly, it’ll be a constant reminder that I still have some work to do around control! It’s funny how this one little pill brought up SO MUCH STUFF for me! I actually like it when that happens, because I really believe you have to understand what’s going on in your head, behind the scenes, before you can make changes. And I’m all about making the changes.

Is anyone else out there on Modafinil, or anything else for specific symptom relief? What’s your experience with your medication? Has any of your medication brought up unexpected challenges for you? I’d love to hear from you, just “Comment” below!

MS Adventures – Modafinil, Day One

Today I went to my Doctor and talked to her about going on Modafinil. For those of you who’ve never heard of it, Modafinil is an alertness drug that was originally marketed as a treatment for narcolepsy and other sleep disorders. It’s also marketed as Provigil in the US and Alertec in Canada. Ages ago, my Neurologist suggested I try it, since my major MS complaints are fatigue (Hah! Total exhaustion more like! I wish there were more descriptive words for it!) and cognitive dysfunction, more colloquially known as “brain fog.”

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT BRAIN FOG

At the time, I said no, because 1. I dislike taking pills and 2. I was in the middle of learning about behavioral- and diet-modification to try to control my symptoms. Now, I feel like I’ve taken those as far as I can, with some success (I’ll write about my diet discoveries soon) and I was ready for the next step. Pharmacology. In other words, pills. I’ve got a few articles below if you’re curious about it, or just do an internet search – there’s quite a bit of information about Modafinil, since it’s been out since 1994 or so, and used to treat several different ailments.

CLICK HERE FOR THE WIKIPEDIA ENTRY

CLICK HERE FOR INFORMATION ON MODAFINIL AND MS

CLICK HERE FOR SOME HISTORY ON MODAFINIL

So! I’ve taken my first pill. Once dose, once a day, in the morning. It’ll be up to me to discover if I need to take it with food or not. I just took it, so I’m not sure exactly how my system is going to react to it, but I’ll let you know tomorrow. I’m both scared that it won’t do anything and excited that it might!

PS I just noticed I used the word “colloquially” in the first paragraph. I feel smarter already!

The Edison Tally – Do Something New Every Day, Even If you Fail

I’ve decided that part of living life as an Adventure is doing something new, or something you don’t want to do, every day. Especially if it’s something that scares you. So, this morning, I finally took the plunge and did something I’ve been putting off for about 3 years, due to fear.

I opened a trading account with an online brokerage. And I funded it. (The fear is still making me a little nauseous right now, and I think I’m still in shock!)

A little history: When I started my blog, I was dabbling at learning about online options trading. I’ve been ghosting the classroom site for YEARS! I’ve been virtual trading (with fake money) on and off, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Mostly not – I really didn’t take it seriously since it wasn’t real money.

The ironic thing is, I’d started taking classes in the first place because I was afraid of what would happen if I lost my job or became unable to work. I didn’t trust the government to take care of me. But guess what?

IT HAPPENED!

The worst thing I could think of (in my privileged Canadian life) already happened. I could no longer continue working. And I still didn’t open an account. I was too busy. (Yeah, busy feeling sorry for myself!) I didn’t want the responsibility. I didn’t want to take anything else on. And then I moved. And then I moved again. And then I moved again within the town I moved to. But you know what? I got tired of the excuses! I came to realize that the only reason I hadn’t jumped in was FEAR. What if…? What if I haven’t learned enough yet? What if I don’t remember how to apply the principles? What if my brain discombobulates (again) and I can’t focus enough to do it? What if I’m too tired to concentrate? All these reasonable things covering up the real fear: What if I’m no good at it? WHAT IF I FAIL???

Today I found my answer in another question: What if, in a year from now, I look back and STILL haven’t even tried? What would THAT do to my self esteem, to my confidence, to my current idea of self-worth and ability? That’s where most of my fear comes from – not recognizing my current self in the memory of my abilities. I don’t know what I can or can’t do.

So what if I fail? Then I fail – but I don’t think I will. The other day on Twitter somebody posted one of my favorite quotes, by Thomas Edison: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” So I posted back “Dear Mr. Edison: I haven’t found 10,000 ways that won’t work yet, but I’m working on it!” I thought I was being tongue-in-cheek, but I was actually telling the total truth!

We can only succeed if we give ourselves the chance to fail.

Holy Crap!

That was a real “A-ha!” moment for me. Sounds so simple, right? But it totally shook my world.

Then I decided it would be a fantastic idea to keep track of my “ways that don’t work” as if they were successes, with a list I’m calling The Edison Tally! I mean, in the end, the only real failure is not trying. How can you succeed if you don’t even try?

So I’ve created another page on this blog, called THE EDISON TALLY.

It’s a list of “lessons learned” and I’m hoping to add to it every day, since I’m committed to doing something new every day, and it won’t all work perfectly right away.

I’m hoping you, my lovely friends and readers, will help me add to it too! Just leave a comment at the bottom of this post, or on the Tally page itself, and I’ll copy it in. It’ll take me a long time to get to 10,000 “ways that don’t work” without you!

Who Gave My Brain the Laser Pointer?

Do you ever feel like your brain is somehow smarter than you? Like it’s been toying with you, the way you play with a cat using a laser pointer? The cat chases that red dot wherever you point it, but can never chase it down.

Yesterday, that red dot was my train of thought. I could see it, I could tell it was going somewhere… but I couldn’t chase it down. I’d start with a thought, actually talking out loud to my Dad (trying to figure out how to build a wall with a big window through it that can still support a range hood – see the pictures on my Feb 23 blog post.) Then the thought would just… take off on it’s own, and trying to hold onto it long enough to finish a sentence was like trying to catch the wind. And the worst thing was that, on some level, I could see my self being stupid. Unable to communicate.

I used to be such a brainiac! As an architectural drafter, my whole job was about communication. I was the link between the architects (who had all the ideas) and the construction guys who actually put it together. That’s what I DID and I was really good at it. Now it’s easier to pull nails and screw 2x4s together than it is to visualize the result of my efforts. So frustrating, especially since my physical energy doesn’t last all that long either!

So I keep reminding myself “this too shall pass, it’ll get better and/or I’ll learn a cool work-around.” Either way, I’ll learn to deal with it. It’s just one more lesson in a very long list of lessons learned. I heard somewhere that any day you’re not learning you’re dying, so in that case I’m going to live FOREVER!!!

MS Adventures – How Do You Pace Yourself If You Don’t Know Your Limits?

Today I’m having one of those days. The ones where you wake up cranky and sore and you don’t want to be nice to anyone. I kinda feel like I’ve been hit all over the head with a frying pan – puffy in some places and flat in others. I just tried to be “normal” yesterday! Why do I feel like this today???

I volunteered to be on a friends’ team for a competition called “Winterfest.” It’s put on by the town, and has different types of competitions that all need to be completed as a team. Friday night was fun, there was a karaoke air-band “Mystery Event,” a “run and grab the paper bag and do what the note on it says” relay, and another I don’t remember. I felt fine when I got home afterwards, so I was hopeful for Saturday.

Saturday was a LOT more physical – we had to build a “Truely Canadian” ice sculpture, (actually, carve it out of a large hill of hard-packed snow,) start a fire from a log we had to cut and split ourselves, (I didn’t do that one – too many pointy objects!) a “do the stuff on the list and take pictures” scavenger hunt, and a crock-pot competition that I helped with by eating the results.

Winterfest 2013 Snow Sculpture - Front

Winterfest 2013 Snow Sculpture – Front. Yes, it’s a beer can with a tab on top. It’s Truely Canadian! You can’t tell, but it’s a 4 foot tall can poking out of a 4 foot tall maple leaf shaped ice bucket. With Moose. Mooses? Meese?

Winterfest 2013 Snow Sculpture - side

Winterfest 2013 Snow Sculpture – side. We wrote our names in yellow snow. Because if you’ve grown up in a small Northern Canadian town, you’ve tried it for real.

Other than the ice sculpture, I really didn’t do much, but with the -20 degree Celsius weather, even the sculpture was too much! I kept thinking “No one who isn’t dealing with this can possibly understand how much effort it takes to pretend to be normal.” I was feeling a bit sorry for myself, when I realized that EVERYONE on the team was dealing with something! Heck, we lost 3 out of 9 people overnight due to illness, and another friend had to leave at lunch on Saturday because his Krohn’s Disease was acting up. I tell you, we’d have WON that competition if we could have added points for every diagnosed condition our various team members were dealing with!

As it was, we didn’t exactly win. We actually got the “If You’re Not First, You’re Last” Booby Prize. I personally considered it a win just for being there, and staying for the entire competition! I think I convinced the rest of the team to look at it that way, and we may even make ourselves a trophy anyway.

But that was then, and this is now, and it’s easy to be all cranky and irritable when everything is sore and you can’t figure out exactly when you should have stopped yesterday. I could get all dejected and say “If this is the price for “acting normal,” I don’t want to do it anymore!”

But then what? I’m not going to hole up in a cave and NOT spend time with my friends. I mean, we’re ALL dealing with repercussions of some sort today. Do I just stop trying? That’s not me. Even a Booby Prize outranks everyone else who didn’t compete! But my limits have changed, my “normal” has changed, and I’m still not sure what it’s changed to. How do I find my new limits if I don’t push at them? Unfortunately, so far every time I’ve pushed, I’ve pushed too far. I’ve never been good at restraint! I’m really struggling with an “all or nothing” mindset. I mean, I feel fine when I do NOTHING, but I get bored and feel guilty for doing nothing, and I have to do SOMETHING. So I do SOMETHING and overextend. I’m just not sure how to find smaller SOMETHINGS to practice on.

So, any thoughts or advice from anyone out there? Have you found your new line, your new boundaries, your new limits? Are you still pushing? What small “somethings” do you strive for? How do you pace yourself in your new world? I’d love to hear some ideas! Just click the “Comment” button below and share some of your hard-earned knowledge!