Life Interrupted, It's Not All About Me
Chris M. Tatevosian
Sometimes a Nap is in Order
Copyright © 2011 by Chris Tatevosian
How important is it to get eight hours of sleep, you ask? When you're dealing with symptoms like mine –- paralyzing spasticity, intention tremors, numbness and visual problems – it plays more of a role than you might think. Consider the other day: I woke up at 6 a.m., taking care to adjust the firmness of my Sleep Number bed so that I would be able to sit up and slide out. A soft mattress just means that as I attempt to sit up I will just fall backwards increasing the spasticity and tone in my legs rendering my legs useless. The tone and spasticity only becoming greater with each attempt to sit up, of course it's morning so I have to urinate and the more I flop around on the bed like a flounder the more urgent that need becomes. And we all know that as the situation becomes more dire it becomes more stressful resulting in greater tone in my legs. From there, I managed to get into my motorized chair. (My power chair, grunt, grunt! Sounds masculine doesn't it? Well, hold on, because I'm about to be emasculated.)
I shot into my beautifully-renovated handicapped-accessible bathroom. Utilizing a jungle gym of grab bars I managed to sit myself onto the toilet but my legs were locked tightly together in front of me, toes pointing at the ceiling, not exactly the position most conducive for a guy to empty his bladder. What to do, what to do? Not much time to consider that. We were down to the buzzer, as they say. I grabbed a towel and threw it on my lap. Sometimes a guy just has to do what he has to do. Time for a shower.
Most mornings, I have no problems in that area. I have grab bars on all sides of the shower and a seat that I use to reduce fatigue. But, as I reached for the safety grab bars, bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash started falling over like giant dominos. I should have just started off by throwing everything in the bathroom on the shower floor, because that's where we all eventually ended up anyway. Oh yeah, I was down there too. My legs just buckled and gravity took over from there.
Since I already had the soap and shampoo all around me, I figured I would just lather up right where I was – which worked out great, at first. But getting off the floor is tough enough for me. Throw some soap into the mix and you have an X-rated episode of the Dick VanDyke show. Oh Roooob!
On to lunchtime. I chose to make a simple peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwich, which should have been an easy meal since I didn't have to stand at the stove and cook. I laid out four slices of bread and began spreading the peanut butter. Even with my numb hands that was pretty easy. I only dropped the knife twice, once onto the table and once onto the floor. Spreading the marshmallow fluff was more of a struggle. I dropped the knife several more times and the bread got torn apart, but I was close to completing the task. All I had to do was put the slices together, one slice with peanut butter, one with fluff. The result? You guessed it. Both slices ended up face down on the cat-hair covered carpet. It took more than an hour to clean up the sticky mess.
At that point, I cut my losses. I climbed back into bed, which turned out to be one the better choices I made that day. I slept for an hour-and-a-half, but awoke a new man. I wish I could say I didn't have MS anymore (no luck there) but what actually happened was that I was refreshed and able to function much better. I held on to my utensils at dinner, something many people take for granted but for me was a huge deal, especially given how I had functioned earlier in the day. By 11:30 pm, I was able to work out as usual. That's when I started to put it all together.
Although it might sound strange, I always try to exercise late at night, most often around midnight. That's because I've realized my “bad” time of day is usually 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., when I have the most severe weakness, fatigue and decreased neurological function. The physical losses are thought to be temperature related. During the evening and early nighttime hours, our bodies experience a slight increase in temperature. For me, that's enough to precipitate what I call my “neurological shutdown.” Late at night and during the early morning hours, my ability to function remarkably returns.
So, after my bad start on the day, I had to smile thinking about something neurologists seem to say all the time: a nap during the afternoon can be helpful. I learned first-hand that something that simple could be more beneficial than I would have thought. I had shrugged off the suggestion to rest time and time again, but it had truly had worked. A nap, what a truly rejuvenating idea.
Chris Tatevosian is the author of “Life Interrupted: It's Not All About Me,” published by Tate publishing. The book was written to help patients, spouses, caregivers, family members and friends deal more positively with the stresses put on one's relationships as a result of life being interrupted by chronic illness or disability. Chris grew up in Holliston, MA. and was diagnosed with MS while he was in his freshman year at Johnson State College in Vermont. He graduated in 1983 with a Bachelor of Science in ecology and chemistry minor but his career was cut short 10 years later when MS forced him to stop working. He, and his new wife, Jane, live in suburban Massachusetts.
The book's web site www.lifeInterrupted-nolonger.com