MS can take away a lot of the things you love in life. When you’re diagnosed you go through a grieving process for your ‘old’ life; you have to learn to make adjustments and somehow embrace the ‘new’ life that MS has forced upon you. I’ve mentioned before that MS has taken away my love of walking, cycling and smashing it at the gym. It has even ruined ironing for me (see my post, ‘For The Love Of Ironing’). It has robbed me of my bounce and, believe me, I used to be a VERY bouncy person – leap-frogging all over the place, mounting stairs 2 at a time and generally jumping about A LOT. What I am most baffled by, however, is the impact my MS has had on 3 of my most favourite hobbies – reading, cinemagoing and theatregoing. Three pastimes that involve sitting down and relaxing. How can such chilled out activities be affected in any way by a condition that often FORCES you to sit down and relax? Well, while none of these involve much physical exertion, they do require some level of mental exertion – reading in particular is EXHAUSTING, as is writing for that matter! When fatigue strikes just lifting a book and keeping it raised is challenging enough, but when you add optic neuritis to the fray, you’ve no chance.
So, what of cinemagoing? Surely you can simply rock up, sit down and enjoy? Absolutely, unless you suffer with restless legs or extreme spasticity that is made worse by sitting still for any length of time. Narrow leg-room is an MSers worst nightmare; as is the need to remain still… Known for my punctuality, being late does not sit well with me. However, if I go to the cinema these days I aim to avoid the (painful) 30 minutes of adverts and trailers – my legs seriously have no chance when you add that half hour onto an already lengthy film.
And going to the theatre? I am in an incredibly privileged position when it comes to theatre going, it is one of the perks of my job. Before I had MS I was in that auditorium almost every week experiencing the most awe-inspiring work that the theatrical world had to offer. I discovered a love of ballet, opera, quirky modern dance, all kinds of music, comedians, funny plays, serious plays, mystery plays, musicals and circus – the list goes on. But, that dastardly MS has made all this pathetically challenging. I rarely make it past an interval nowadays. The pain and built-up tension in my legs makes the whole affair somewhat traumatic. Mortifying of all, I find myself longing for shows to end. At my theatre we have an accessible row, reserved for wheelchair users and others with access needs. It has the best view of the stage and is highly sort after. But even sitting there with my legs outstretched I find the experience very uncomfortable. Just the other day I was soaking up a bit of culture with ‘The Scottish Play’, or ‘Macbeth’ for the more daring amongst us. The play had everything you could want from a Shakespeare play, it was moody and menacing, full of gusto and real oomph – why oh why couldn’t my legs just enjoy the show?? I sat there enthralled but in agony. My legs just kept kicking out and tightening up. The poor guy to my left was sandwiched between myself and another twitcher… knowing what he must have paid for those seats I felt awful and resignedly made the decision to abandon ship at the interval. Sorry, Shakespeare.
Right, I’m off for a nap – all this typing and thinking is tipping me over the edge!