Walking the tightrope of ms relapse prevention and symptom management while juggling life stress, heat intolerance, sensory overload, the ogre of depression and its craptastic partner-in-crime, anxiety.
We spent an incredible weekend in Vancouver, going to see the Psychedelic Furs, a band I started listening to in 1985, the year I met my husband. Nostalgia aside, they were maybe not the most exciting live band but we had a whole second show play out in front of us. It ended with a very eccentric, obnoxious man throwing his drink in his ex’s face, spraying all of us nearby. Oh, the drama.
Going to Vancouver usually stresses me out with all the traffic, the dreaded George Massey tunnel, the smells, the noise, the people everywhere. The chaotic energy of a big city is exhausting but it’s worth it to spend a night away watching live music with my husband.
This time traffic was mellow, even on a weekend at the height of summer. Everything fell into place beautifully everywhere we went so there was little stress and the monster was quiet so I felt pretty great, all things considered. Happy hour cocktails at the Cactus Club may have helped a bit, too. 🍹
Even the drive back out to the ferry, because we left the city early and went to check out the new mall, Tsawwassen Mills, was a fun, stress-free adventure. I’m not a mall rat and typically think a mall is a mall is a mall but they have done a very thoughtful job of incorporating First Nations artwork and unique elements that make walking around the ginormous space a mall experience unlike any I’ve had before.
Part of the joy of being an island-dweller is the hurry-up-and-wait experience of riding the ferry. I’m mostly patient and can amuse myself pretty easily but we all know how hot this summer has been in the northern hemisphere. Sitting in a truck on the end of a man-made jetty covered in concrete, full of metal cars and huge semi-trailers is a special kind of torture for every traveller.
Heat sensitivity is a common symptom of multiple sclerosis. Being the annoying mofo that it is, my body can tolerate heat or cold just fine most of the time. Until it suddenly can’t and all hell breaks loose. I think my thermostat’s broken.
So, my sweater is hanging off the sun visor shielding my body from the sun, doors and windows all open to catch the cool ocean breeze, all is well. Then the wind dies, the sun’s still beating down on me through the side window and a mushroom cloud of heat wafts up from the pavement.
Knock knock. Who’s there?
Hot, too hot.
Brain frying, can’t think
Panic starts, ears ringing.
Anxiety is another special gift the monster has given me in the last few years. It is closely related to depression in that they share the all-encompassing feeling of doom. The only thing that makes it controllable is knowing that it is a result of the damage in my brain, it is not real.
On the tarmac, I ended up going into the relative cool of the marketplace, to be faced with all the other overheated humans seeking relief.
Hello Sensory overload.
Tune it out. Blinders on. Focus on stationary objects.
Jewelry. Oh, pretty. Slowly inspect.
Cool down. Calm down.
Sea salt scrub. 50% off. Sure!
Hot, too many people.
Stuffy. Loud. Too much.
When I got back to the car, we had the bright idea of using the air-conditioning. Oh, sweet relief! I don’t love idling a car for any longer than necessary but when it comes to being either environmentally responsible or saving my brain and body from total meltdown, I will be unapologetically selfish. Please remember this if you’re tempted to judge someone for idling their car in the future. It can be a case of life or death for some people in this kind of heat.
People always worry about the dogs but, you know, humans.
Just after we boarded, a camper van got stuck partway on to the ferry, delaying the other cars and ultimately, our departure as they eventually had to back off the ramp. I could feel the spinny, bubbly feeling beginning again in my head that happens when my thermostat’s awry and I overheat. Then, anxiety prickled its knives that I was stuck in this hot car with no air moving for who knows how long and idling your car on the ferry isn’t an option, so no air conditioning.
Sensory overload or not, up I go just until the boat starts moving. Normally we stay in the car the whole time to avoid the crowds as I’ve always had enough after two days in Vancouver but again my thermostat was in control. I go up the stairs straight into the line-up already building for the buffet.
I quickly veer myself into the small hallway by the chief steward’s office and prop myself against a window, watching the hordes of people boarding and lining up. I try to enjoy the enthusiasm of the young Japanese tourists on a ferry for the first time. Their excitement is adorable and appreciated.
Then they swarm around me to look out the window and take pictures. Of the ugly piers.
Over my head.
Wait. Breathe. The ferry will be moving soon.
One window further over. Look out at the water.
See the diamonds dropped by the sun
Sparkling all over the water.
A bird, diving.
When will the boat move?
Look back at the growing noise.
Buffet line has sealed off my exit.
Swallow down the fear.
Line will move. Boat will move. Time will move.
I am only grappling with one tentacle of the octopus of anxiety. Many people are paralyzed in their lives, unable to function because they are crippled by the many facets of this mental monster. Yet again, there is still such a stigma about mental illness. I wanted to share a small glimpse into what the experience is like for me, just to open the discussion and share information to spread awareness.
Thanks so much for stopping by. I always appreciate any comments or insights about my posts but if you’ve taken the time to read it at all, I am honoured, and I appreciate it so much.
Have a wonderful week!