How to spot a fake disabled person…

If you are reading this post to find out the clues I can teach you so you can spot that faker, then read on.  You saw a person park in the handicap space and walk inside unassisted, so you want to call them out.  You might have observed an individual use a wheelchair one day and a cane a few days later, and you want to bust them.  Well, the truth is: LEAVE THEM ALONE

People with disabilities can have physical challenges that are not visible yet cause struggles you could not imagine.  But unfortunately, sometimes, they are attacked by a self-entitled morality vigilante that assaults them verbally or worse.  I have heard of these onslaughts to be demeaning notes left on a windshield or a vicious verbal violation that left my friend in tears for hours.  This abuse was after she felt exceptionally jubilant because her illness had her bedridden the previous four days, and she was finally walking.

Just because you see a person using a wheelchair one day and a cane, the next only shows that disabilities change.  The pain level or physical abilities could be high one day and drop like a rock the next day.  When you see that person park in the handicap spot and walk in the building with no mobility aid, they could have a heart condition.  These invisible symptoms can be as numerous and varied as fish in a lake, meaning: LEAVE THEM ALONE!

The truth is I have heard whispers of a widespread scam of people faking disabilities, and it is simply not true.  I heard one person say they let these fakers know they are seen so the real disabled can park there.  I then asked him what an individual with a disability looks like, and without giving him a chance to respond, I stopped him.  I explained he might have good intentions, but in fact, he is probably about to ruin someone’s day.  A person with a disability cannot be spotted in a crowd like a guy wearing a fluorescent ball cap.  Some people with disabilities stand out because of a medical device like a walker, wheelchair, or oxygen mask.  However, many have unseeable disabilities that need your support not your condemnation and criticism. 

The ignorance of society and the way entitled people can treat others simply makes me sad.  To all those who do not have enough in their lives, making them want to criticize others, I say STOP!  Live your life to the fullest and let others do the same because what you think you see is not what you actually see.  If your life is that empty, find a hobby and spend every bit of your time controlling every aspect of the said hobby.  Most importantly, since you know nothing about strangers’ lives, allow them the peace to live their lives as well.  Everyone should make this a topic of conversation with friends and family as the truth needs to be shared.

You may think you know, but you have no idea.

Medication Marathon madness, part 2 …

I waited six months to consent to the doctor’s first time, saying the words wait-and-see-approach.  After the six months of degradation, I began my research, learning what I could about the MS medications.  I was puzzled when I read in 2001 how the MS meds all had success rates that were below fifty percent.  In other words, I would do better flipping a coin to treat my multiple sclerosis.  I then learned that the pharmaceutical companies make the rules about what passes and fail during their own meds’ clinical trials.  This disturbing information made me question everything about the intentions of big pharma.

After learning this information, I decided to change my research goals to find how others successfully treated their MS.  I found a plethora of people who reportedly had a cure for MS or others who managed their MS in various out of the box methods.  I read about everything from bee stings to witchcraft and how others preached how their treatment methods slowed the progression.  I would try witchcraft before I would purposely be stung by any stinging creature, just for the record.  Although many said they had a cure in actuality, there was no known cure.

I searched the web reading MS forums and research articles and stumbled upon a medication called low dose Naltrexone, LDN, for short.  LDN was FDA approved in the mid-’80s in much larger quantities for drug and alcohol addiction, so it was obviously safe.  I found a significant amount of trustworthy information that was not merely one guy who had a friend who got cured by drinking some special tonic water.  I found thousands of people in various forums who successfully took low dose Naltrexone to impact their MS positively. I also read about low dose naltrexone in medical papers and heard some doctors praising its benefits.  www.lowdosenaltrexone.org

I spoke with some who were taking LDN for other autoimmune diseases, like Crohn’s disease, with favorable results.  The more reading I did, I found medical papers and studies that showed benefits to those taking LDN for HIV and cancer.  There was also a very well educated Ph.D. pharmacist and various doctors who seriously understood the ins and outs of LDN. There was so much positive information in forums and research papers that it was impossible to be a scam just to make a quick buck from the infirmed.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17222320/

I quickly recognized the number of disbelievers who were against LDN.  Those who were vociferously against it were probably somehow in the pockets of the drug companies.  Big Multiple sclerosis pharma can easily make sixty thousand dollars a year from one MS patient’s medication cost.  Multiply that by one hundred thousand patients, and you get six billion reasons for them to be emphatically against anything else or even finding a cure, in my humble opinion.  An estimated one million people living with multiple sclerosis in the USA alone allow big pharma to pay, I mean, support the MS Society and other MS organizations.

Drug companies have employees who sit on the boards of and also financially support these MS organizations.  Sitting on the boards, they can influence and, in turn, control the way things are run.  They do this to encourage all MS patients to comply and simply take the big pharma costly mediations.  There is no way to calculate how much money this corrupting behavior creates correctly. Drug company employees who sit on the very boards of MS agencies who serve the MS population are a massive conflict of interest.  Doctors get paid handsomely to give speeches and to promote and recommend these drugs to their patients.  This is according to a doctor who shared the information with me after he turned down their lucrative offer.  These details gave me some inside information as to the untold truth about Big Pharma. 

The MS Society 2001 annual report showed that only a small percentage of their income goes to research to find a cure.  Sadly, I thought their main objective was to find a cure, but I guess I was wrong.  I also learned that drug companies do not do the research themselves that find these medicines.  Independent laboratories funded by our tax dollars do the research that finds the medications.  Afterward, the drug companies buy the finished product, mass-produce it, slap a hefty price tag on it, and rake in billions.  This practice is how the top three pharmaceutical companies made over a billion dollars last year alone (2019).

After two years of physical deterioration, the doctor finally changed my medication to Rebif, less effective in his earlier words. However, I soon decided that LDN was unquestioningly for me, so my new quest was to find a doctor to prescribe LDN. June 20th, 2004, I stopped my Rebif after one month and exclusively began LDN 3 mgs for thirty days and then started at 4.5 mgs.  I had a few symptoms that got better, but they were newer issues.  The primary goal of LDN, just like all MS meds, is to slow progression, which it has done and has not weakened my immune system.

LDN has been approved and on the market for at least thirty-six years, making it extremely inexpensive and safe.  It is mailed to me in Ohio from a compounding pharmacy in Florida, and my last bill was $101.00 for a three-month supply, including shipping. This $33 monthly cost not only means it is affordable, but big pharma cannot make money from it.  LDN is inexpensive, and it works, causing the pharmaceutical companies to despise low dose Naltrexone seriously. 

I have been on LDN now for sixteen years with the success of having none of the progression I had before I started.  I plan to continue taking low dose Naltrexone until there is a cure for this beast called multiple sclerosis.  That is a funny statement since, to me, a cure is as likely as me falling off the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.  Tanzania and its majestic mountain are 7940 miles away, meaning I will never see its basecamp, let alone fall off the top.  I wish greed and money were not such a corrupting force, and empathy and love for our fellow man were more important.  However, the power of money reinforces the corruption of this and other aspects of society.  In other words, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Addendum: I found this information too late to put it into the story:  It appears that Big Pharma has secretly realized that LDN works because now one of the newest MS meds OCREVUS operates eerily similarly to LDN.  They have taken effective and affordable medication and turned it into one that is extremely costly.  Coincidence?  I think not.

The more you know.

Medication Marathon madness, part 1 …

The following writings are my experiences with the multiple sclerosis medications that were available in 2001 and 2002.  These words may disappoint or anger some people, but as they say, the truth shall set you free.  This blog is my story loaded with the facts I attained from many months of research.  I got this information primarily from both the drug manufacturers and FDA alike.  However, I am required to say these are my opinions based on all of the facts I gathered.

My primary care doctor told me that my diagnosis was multiple sclerosis on a brisk October day.  I am not sure why the neurologist did not give me the startling diagnosis because he set up tests and read the results.  Instead, it fell to my primary care doctor to dispense the bad news because he had an established relationship with me.  After he felt this information soaked in, Doctor Cook shared that my neurologist would give me the big picture and all the pertinent details. 

The next few days were a blur, as the idea of being sick caused constant confusion because I did not feel ill.  The slurred speech issue that began my quest for answers had disappeared several months before.  I was heavy weight lifting three days a week, and my friend Mike had just started training me to run my very first 26.219-mile marathon.  I also held down a full-time job that I enjoyed, so everything seemed to be coming up roses.

A week later, I had an appointment with my neurologist Doctor Mann, to discuss my multiple sclerosis.  The doctor told me that I should stop taking the many vitamins and end or significantly reduce my weightlifting regimen.  I kept taking the vitamins as I could not waste them, and I was trying to break a weightlifting plateau, so I would not stop.  I decided against medical advice to not stop or alter my current fitness regimen at all.  I did not understand how any doctor would suggest doing no or less physical activity as they usually recommend more.  Most doctors have told me they know little about vitamins, so I was confused at his suggestion about that as well.  

I was intimidated by doctors and did not ask the plethora of questions that a diagnosis of this magnitude mandated.  I also did not know how to search the internet correctly for needed information, so my findings were typically slow.  I had even gone to a dinner for the newly diagnosed sponsored by one Drug Company and heard a lot but remembered very little.  Everything was moving so fast that I was overwhelmed and was swimming in a sea of medical terminology and doctor jargon.  

Doctor Mann started me on the MS medication Avonex, a once per week intermuscular injection.  We discussed all of the MS medications available, and he told me Avonex was my best choice.  That day, I learned all the MS medications were shots, and I feared needles causing me great trepidation.  The doctor explained that I would receive a phone call later in the week to set up delivery as there was a lot involved in this transaction.  A nurse would also be coming out to give instructions about everything concerned with this torturous treatment.

Over the next year, my multiple sclerosis had progressed enough to cause concern.  I deteriorated on Avonex even though he said it would significantly slow any progression of my MS.  I had dropped my diagnosing doctor and replaced him with my new neurologist doctor Carrol.  Sadly he left me on Avonex, which disturbed me as my body breakdown continued to prove this medication’s superfluous nature.  As my physical decline continued, my new neurologist repeatedly said we should take the wait and see approach.  I was deeply discouraged because if I was getting worse, what was the point of the stupid needles and the medication?  I also wondered what the purpose of the wait and see approach was; what on earth were we waiting for?

AVONEX FAILED ME

I waited six months to consent to the doctor’s first time, saying the words wait and see approach.  After the six months of degradation, I began my research, learning what I could about the MS medications.  I was puzzled when I read in 2001 how the MS meds all had success rates that were well below fifty percent.  In other words, I would do better flipping a coin to treat my multiple sclerosis.  I then learned that the pharmaceutical companies make the rules about what passes and fails during the clinical trials.  This disturbing information made me question everything about the intentions of big pharma.

With education this was getting real.

Blame it on the brain…

This blog is one that I did for the MSAA with the topic of mind/body wellness. There is a connection between the mind and body that most people do not realize. Do not blame it on the rain; simply blame the brain. Happy reading, and I hope you enjoy it!

Blame it on the brain…

pic 1 dem bonesThe knee bone is connected to the thigh bone; the thigh bone is connected to the hip bone, and it is all connected to the brain bone. Ok, so the brain is not a bone, but that line sounds better poetically. The mind-body connection is often ignored and overlooked, especially if there is nothing wrong. When something does go wrong, many people bury it deep in their psyche, like a squirrel hides his nuts for the winter. This disguise over our emotions can create catastrophic complications that cause the need for psychotherapy for many years.

However, we can avoid all the mess by understanding mental and physical health work together to make our bodies operate. We need to comprehend bad brain or sad body wellness has a negative impact on our multiple sclerosis. This association means if one is having a rough emotional day, they may ambulate poorly or have a tough day physically. It is essential to follow a few simple guidelines to make your mind and body wellness less a mess.

pic 2 laughingFirst, always surround yourself with jolly and jovial people who understand the importance of having a convivial attitude. Try to hang around those who are happy people by nature and do not need to force or manufacture jubilation. These individuals typically can see when you may be having a rough day and can entice laughter out of your face. With minimal effort, they can remove a slight sallow smear from your countenance before it becomes life-altering.

On the other side of the coin, fitness has not only physical but a plethora of mental benefits that make exercise imperative. Working-out promotes positive personalities by releasing endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. These happy chemicals help alleviate depression, anxiety, or even help if you are simply feeling a bit blue.

pic 3 stressFinding ways to minimize your stress, anger, or frustration is necessary to help keep you cheery and physically in good shape. This pleasant personality can make a difference and may aid you in ambulation throughout your day. It is crucial always to keep an effervescent attitude so people are more willing to help you when you are in need.

I find periodic purposeful pleasure in all forms of music, giving me mental wellness to take on the world. The melodious and rhythmic sounds that fill my house makes my soul sing with exuberant jubilation. Diverse styles of music from Beethoven to The Beastie Boys help my various moods keep under control. Not only do I listen to music at home, but just before I exercise to put me in a happy state and boost my fitness abilities.

pic 5 meditationMeditation is another great benefit to those who want a positive and excellent connection between mind and body. Meditation is relaxing, causing restful mental tranquility that allows peaceful slumber throughout the night. This quiet sleep is good for MSers as it enables our bodies to reboot like the PC that we have at home, giving a fresh start to our day.

pic 5 total welnesThe number of ways the mind and body are connected is staggeringly high. The key to a good MS life, such as it is, is to avoid all stresses like physical, emotional, and mental stress, to name a few. Lifting excessively heavy weights, yelling at a cashier, or anxiety over your monthly bills, are all stresses that can have a negative impact on MS. In effect, this relationship will likely have us sliding down a dark MS symptom hole that is difficult to recover. When stress starts getting you down or your body isn’t operating the way you desire it to fall back on my suggestions. Utilize the ideas I have shared and give you the tools for a better attitude and a great day. Remember: you have multiple sclerosis; it does not have you.

De-stress for de best MS life.

Scott Cremeans lives in Central Ohio. He is a US Marine who was diagnosed with RRMS in 2001 at the age of 27. Scott has successfully managed his MS symptoms on his own with his faith, friends, and funnies. You can read more about his MS journey by visiting his blog http://www.myramblings.blog where he muses about life in the slow lane with his literary wit.

I was wrong about MS…

For one to become a family doctor, they need a lot of schooling.  However, to learn a specialty like neurology, there is even more training required.  Doctors go to school and go through a residency program for ten to fourteen years to become a primary care physician.  Yet, to become a neurologist, you are looking at several extra years of learning in addition to the ten to fourteen years.  Some doctors have no concerns about not staying in their lanes by giving incorrect information about medical subjects they do not understand or have not researched.

After my MS diagnosis, I doctor hopped from one to the next for several years, searching for an excellent neurologist.   I received information about MS from each neurologist, and I assumed it to be accurate.  I was a novice to the diagnosis of MS, so I did not research anything I was told.  Instead, I studied diets, medications, and the success rate of both for those with multiple sclerosis.  My searching also led me down a path to seek out what non-mainstream MS treatments were people following.  For example, some MSers who live in Florida receive bee stings along the spine, no thank you, not for me.

I have heard about several MS patients who were given incorrect information about their multiple sclerosis. This situation disappointed me that a medical professional could make a statement definitively even though being wrong.  I felt sad that one of my MS brothers or sisters would be given inaccurate information.  MS facts alone make for a terrible day, and to be bombarded with Incorrect information that causes unnecessary worries makes life even more stressful.

Recently someone brought to my attention that some of the information I believed and shared with others is inaccurate.  Some of the doctors I trusted apparently gave me some incorrect data in my early days, and I fervently shared it with others.  For over a decade, I have passed out inaccurate info to everyone like water at a 5k race.  I now need to cautiously learn what part of my information is correct and, more importantly, incorrect not to spread bad facts.  Let me state unequivocally that only a portion of my knowledge is incorrect, and the rest is accurate.

Fast forward to today, I have now been researching all information received by doctors, friends, and reading material for accuracy before I pass it on.  So to my MS brothers and sisters and anyone who has received inaccurate information from me, I am sorry.  I will not be sharing any general MS info unless I have researched it myself and know it to be true.  I will only talk about my story and how MS has impacted my life and forced me to change many daily movements. Sadly I will have to rewrite some of my past blogs to correct them and change them from fiction to facts.  Thanks go to you, my friends and readers who share this journey with me, the good, bad, and the ugly.

And the truth shall set you free.

Help your friend fight…

Many people with disabilities struggle to get out of bed in the morning each day as I do.  However, this blog is not about the daily physical skirmishes, but instead a discussion of emotional conflicts.  These battles brew beneath the surface many times, carefully hidden from even the best of friends.  If you are willing to watch for a few signals, you might see the silent yet frantic cries for help and save a life or at least help soothe some internal pain.  The indicators could be subtle, but the dire desperation is begging for comfort from a friend.

Three hundred and fifty million people of all ages are impacted by depression.  If you read that line again, you will notice it does not say MS patients or even disabled people.  Anyone can experience depression, feelings of loss, isolation, and despair, making them question everything.  Sometimes this internal inquisition can include the value of their very own lives.  They often hide these feelings behind a painted-on smile that any movie hair and makeup team can only dream of creating. Look for these tell-tale signs to be the friend they need with the care they desire.

Your friend or loved one may have a loss of interest in previously pleasurable things.  Sometimes this loss of enjoyment may not be all activities but merely eliminating things that take the most effort. They may withdraw from friends and family as exemplified by only playing video games, sitting in front of the TV, or surfing the Web for hours and avoiding spending time with you.  Engaging with another person and meet that person’s needs require more effort than surfing the Web and may be an early sign of depression.

Sleep difficulties can easily plague your friend or loved one in several ways.  They may have significant struggles falling asleep or even staying asleep, possibly causing them to experience foggy brain throughout the day and an inability to focus.  Be aware of your friend always looks tired, talk to them, and be that listening person they may need.  It might seem like a simple sleepless night, but it could be that silent cry for help, so be that friend and a listening ear they need.  On the other hand, they may sleep extensively, finding it difficult to get out of bed and engage in normal routine activities.

Eating changes may occur, causing corresponding weight changes in the expected direction.  Eating either too much or too little, along with weight changes, can easily be misinterpreted as merely letting oneself go.  Yet this also could be a signal that your friend or loved one might have melancholy thoughts stirring deep inside.  This red flag could be the perfect opportunity for you to check-in and sincerely ask how they are doing.  Discuss their situation using open-ended questions to help them open up to you about what may be causing them distress.                                                                              

Anger and irritability can quickly come to the surface, making life a bit uncomfortable for anyone close. A depressed person battles to make it through the day, and everyday obstacles can make life downright infuriating. This action is another tell-tale sign of depression that is easy to take personally.  If this is how your friend is behaving, and it is not their typical behavior, you should take the time to help them tell their story.

Expressing negative thoughts can be another example of depression.  You may feel excited about something, yet your friend or loved one might give a downer response.  They could say something like, “What does it matter? It makes no difference” or “I don’t think that will amount to anything.”  Negative thoughts like these are a symbolic symptom of depression, and sometimes they feel almost required to throw a dampener on things.  The depressed person is not trying to make life difficult for others, even though that is often the impact of depressive thoughts and comments.  Negative thoughts and behavior can be a symptom of giving up, not thinking anything is important.

Suicidal ideas may take a passive form, such as, “I don’t care if I live or die” attitude or a more active way, such as “Sometimes I feel like driving the car off the road.”  Always take such statements very seriously.  The common myth says if a person is truly suicidal, they don’t tell others about it; they do it.  By this faulty logic, if the person is telling you about it, you might wrongly conclude that they won’t actually do it.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only are such statements key elements of depression, but they suggest that treatment is urgent.  Those contemplating suicide may want to give you a treasured personal belonging of theirs.  They believe they won’t need it after they end it. 

Now that you have found out how to tell if someone is depressed, here are some things you can do. Once you suspect depression, encourage your friend or loved one to seek consultation and treatment with a qualified person. This decision is not only for his or her sake but for yours as well. Sometimes it can also be helpful and comforting for you to offer to accompany the person to the consultation.

A friend in need is a friend indeed.

My new beginning…

pic 1 demonsIf you read my MS story, you know about the dark place where I was drowning as I fought my demons. This memory is terrifying; I was only a sneeze away from never eating another piece of carrot cake again. Many people deal with depression, feelings of loss, isolation, and despair that fiercely haunt them daily. I have made a concerted effort to ensure I will never return to that land of darkness filled with the vile whispering monsters. Here is what has helped me stand tall against the constant vitriol.

I have a strong support system that is larger than usual due to technology. I no longer am limited to those who come to my house and individuals who do not understand my multiple sclerosis. My circle of friends is now worldwide as computers and the internet has shrunk our globe massively. I have friends who are literally and even figuratively right next door even though they may be in a different state or country. This pandemic in which we are immersed has literally limited life, but these internet MS friends are available around the clock.

pic 2 tai chiExercise is essential for MS life, and before this virus forced us into lock-down, I was a regular swimmer.  I used a local community rec center pool and swam for two to three hours, three times a week.  Every time I got out of the pool, the water level dropped by a gallon as I think my skin soaked it up. I felt good after my workouts and could feel my endurance getting better, and when I had to miss my swims, recovery took longer. I now exercise at home using seated Tai Chi videos, fitness bands, or whatever I can do to keep my body moving. While I do these forms of fitness, I eagerly wait for the world to return to normalcy and reopen the pool.

Multiple sclerosis is known for negatively impacting your brain, causing a mental slow down. As MSers like to call, cog fog can come and go or affect us long term and challenge us daily. To combat this issue, I read books and play games to stimulate mental growth and counteract MS mental degradation. My research shows beneficial games can be more complicated, like chess or less complicated like Tetris, and still be helpful. Since I write a blog, I play mostly word games, although now and then, I play Tetris to help lubricate my brain muscles.

The advent of delivery apps has helped expand my existence in this confinement caused by quarantine.  I always had to eat very little because I had very little, causing me to become very little in size.  Even if I had the money, the delivery options from restaurants and grocery stores were nearly nonexistent, making me fall deeper into the void of life.  I now can have groceries delivered from various stores at my convenience, helping me keep my independence.  These apps also make my mealtime less limiting by offering a wide selection of restaurants from around town, making me feel normal.

Before COVID-19 threw us into this seclusion dilution, I was active in my church attending weekly services. I joined a small group bible study at the church to enlarge my social circle and expand my friends list. My friend Shakira comes over every two weeks to help me with cleaning, and afterward, we have lunch and watch a movie. This experience gives me more social interaction to shield me more from those venomous voices of long ago. When I hear those whispering words now, I can easily laugh at them and say not this time I am too strong.

last pic liteLife has significantly changed for me in many ways compared to that darkness of my past. Structure and routine, along with all of the tricks and tasks listed above, helps keep me sane in an insane world.  All of the technology that is now available makes the darkness harder to find as it quite literally and even figuratively lights every corner.

My story is not over yet.

My MS story, darkness before the dawn…

pic 1 lossI had no idea that, along with my MS diagnosis, I would lose everything I held dear. In 2004 I started losing my mobility and my eyesight, which caused me to lose a job that was important to me, and I loved. I also lost my ability to drive, eliminating my independence, making my life even more isolative. To add insult to injury, all my friends vanished, solidifying my feelings of loneliness.

In 2004 I had to stop working because of my MS and the debilitating effects of its symptoms. Over the next month, all my friends erased themselves from my life, teaching me the true definition of abandonment. I felt embarrassed and ashamed to be seen in public, so I kept all my window blinds closed. I would not check the mail or take the trash to the curb until well after dark, trying to remove myself from the public eye. I would go weeks without interacting with another human being. My walking had become extraordinarily shaky, so I used the walls to stabilize me as I walked around the house.

pic depressI had been in this depression for several years, and I began to slide further and further down this deep dark hole of sadness. I met a guy a long time ago who could get you anything, although he is not the type of person to hang out after work. Jeff is an individual from the dark underbelly of the city, someone no one should know. I called him up and hesitated to say anything. He asked, what do you need, green? No, I said. I have never done drugs in my life, I thought. After a slight pause, I said something shiny and metal. I could not even bring myself to say the word, and I could not believe this idea that was running through my head.  I have just what you need.  I will be over in a couple of hours, he told me.

When Jeff showed up, he had a sports bag slung over his shoulder. He pulled out a small handgun and asked how many bullets I wanted. I thought to myself, one? I don’t know, I questioned. Just one box is probably enough for now, He said. We talked for a few minutes while he asked me several questions as he did not want this gun to be traced back to him. I assured him it could not be traced back to him, and I explained I made up the fact that I found the gun in my backyard while I was mowing. That’s good, He said. As he left, he said, Let me know if you need anything else. I thought to myself, how about we hang out for a bit? I longed for human interaction, but he was not willing to provide that…just this instrument of destruction.

pic gunI sat on the couch, looking at this hunk of metal for a while. I was thinking about the best way to do this, is it better in the mouth, the temple, or the chin? I put it on my lap, and tears began to fall down my face as I thought about my plans. Later, I brought it back out and set it on my lap as I kept hearing this voice inside my head, telling me nobody cares. One minute I am holding this thing up to my head with my finger on the trigger the next minute I was crying because life simply felt hopeless. I cannot do it as the voices in my head continually whispered the word failure, and no one will miss you, so just do it.  I said a silent prayer to a silent master, and all I received was a silent response, and I felt even more alone.

One day I got excited because my friend and his wife were coming to visit. Life is better with friends. When they arrived, we sat in the living room, Bob and I talked, and Lisa, his wife, looked around. I could see the judgment on her face when Lisa said, you are lucky I would love not to have to work and get paid. I kept quiet because I did not know what to say. I wanted to tell her I would trade my situation for hers in a heartbeat. I needed to explain you would not think I was lucky if you understood how lonely I am. I wanted to say it honestly hurts to be alone, my chest aches from it. However, I said nothing, and once again, the voices whispered nobody likes you, loser, pull the trigger, it will fix everything.

pic 4 friends helpThey stayed for about a half an hour before they left. Was I excited about this? This visit did not have the positive impact I thought it would. I thought if I got to see friends, I would feel better if I got to see people, but the pain was still there. It felt like the walls were closing in, and the air was getting thicker, making it hard to breathe. I wanted the voices to stop and the unbearable pain to end. Why does nobody care? Pressing the gun’s cold metal against my head, I could end this hurt to eliminate the loneliness. Every time I thought I could do it, but I could not. The voices told me like a repeating record: you are a coward and failure, and I cried myself to sleep.

I will stop this story here as it is still difficult to talk about, although I am now much stronger than I was back then. I read how talking about a tragic time in life like this and writing it down could help the writer and readers alike. There is a stigma to depression, so I did not want to tell my story. I did not want anyone to judge me, and I did not want people to look at me like I was weak. However, a friend reminded me how some people are going to judge you no matter what. She explained that my story shows people’s lives are not all sunshine and rainbows, and they are not alone. I am glad I am here to tell my story.

pic 2nd to lastAlthough my depression lasted nearly ten years, the suicidal depression persisted less time. These are just a few of my stories, as I could not put them all in this blog. All in all, I missed my entire 30s because of this feeling of deep sadness. During this dark time, I rarely saw doctors as a doctor visit seemed useless since I did not know how long I would be on this Earth.

Gradually the darkness began to lift enough for my mom to notice, and she quickly got me connected with the Stephen Minister program at Grove City Methodist Church. After nearly a year of visiting with me weekly, my Stephens Minister invited me to the church. People at the church welcomed me with hugs and handshakes, and I felt the love and kindness I had not felt in over a decade.

If you, who are reading this are going through darkness of your own, hold tight. I know it is difficult, but search out a church or a social group and find people who will welcome you and love you for who you are. Kindness, love, and friendship will fill all those places in your heart that are hurting. I promise you will find it; I have been where you are. Just hang on.

pic lastIf you are lucky enough not to know what it is like to be surrounded by darkness, I tell you someone near you needs your support, love, and acceptance. They need it today, and they need it desperately, so share your kindness, talk with them, and get to know them. Trust me-compassion is all it takes to save a life.

Read my next blog to find out how I guarantee I will stay sane in our insane world.

My MS story, ominous cloud rumble…

pic 1 searchI must be pickier than most because I doctor-hopped for a while, jumping from one to another, searching for a good neurologist. I have met many people with MS who said they are unhappy with their doctors, which absolutely confuses me.  I cannot comprehend why they do not merely leave the doctors with whom they are displeased.  If I am going to pay a doctor, he or she must have excellent bedside manners and be personable.  There is a relationship between you and your doctor, meaning he should not dictate things like a king.  The doctor I choose should list options, give the pros and cons of each, and then let me decide.  It is their medical degree, but it is my body, so my doctor should talk with me like a person.

I soon realized that my diagnosing doctor had terrible bedside manners.  On Thanksgiving week, I had an appointment with the doctor, and his cell phone rang during my appointment.  He picked up the phone and stepped out of the room for five minutes while I quietly waited.  He returned apologetically and explained that he had to set up some holiday dinner plans. That was unacceptable to me, so I left his practice never again to return after that appointment.

pic 2 listAfter I left my diagnosing doctor, my search to find a new neurologist continued.  After all, I would be spending a lot of time with him, relying on him to medically take care of me.  Finding a doctor is like finding a friend; there are many great people out there, but not all are friend worthy.  The doctor must take your insurance, and they must be close to where you live.  Accessibility is an often overlooked requirement, although it is more significant for those with physical challenges. I saw one doctor who had one step and a removable makeshift ramp that was too steep for wheelchairs and unsafe.

The next two year period was full of doctor appointments, MRI’s, and weird MS symptoms.  It took me a while to find a doctor that I was happy using, making this time frame extremely chaotic.  It was not easy finding an acceptable doctor, and learning how my MS would affect me made life miserable and did not make sense.  Life now was like trying to get directions from a person who does not speak English.  You will get there, but you will make some wrong turns along the way.  Of course, all of this caused me stress and stress, and MS are mortal enemies.  Stress causes more MS symptoms, creating more stress it was and is a vicious cycle.

pic 3 symptomsI was learning all about my new MS body every day as changes happened just that quickly.  I had these strange symptoms, and I did not know how to deal. For instance, I was extremely temperature-sensitive.  I had weird symptoms like extremely itchy hands that sent me to the ER.  Itchy hands sound silly, but it was much worse than you are thinking.   My walking had become extremely unstable and required me to stabilize myself using any solid surface.  However, I was too stubborn to get a walking aid, so I wobbled every time I walked, trying not to fall.  Pre MS it was easy to push myself when I hit a wall, but now pushing myself had devastatingly adverse outcomes.

last pic madI began to avoid everything because I did not want to be a burden on anyone.  Things were starting to go downhill, and my attitude was getting worse as I was very grumpy, and I had an extremely short temper.  A depression had begun to settle in, but I could not see it, and no one told me. I rarely saw my dad, yet my sister, who I saw even less often, said she did not like the person I had become but did not tell me why.  I saw my mom twice a month when she had me over for dinner.  I turned into a hermit and looked like one too.  I could feel myself slipping away, mentally, and emotionally, and it was not good.

Like the words from a horror movie, the worst was yet to come.

My MS diagnosing story, confusion of chaos…

last picOn a brisk October day of 2001, Doctor Cook called me into his office. I waited for him, and I sat on the padded exam table as my trepidation made me ponder the worst-case scenario. When the doctor came in, he pulled out and sat on a wheeled metal stool that squeaked as he rolled towards me. In a calm and clear voice, Dr. Cook said, Scott, you have Multiple Sclerosis. I could not have imagined what was to come as the next two years were hectic, chaotic, and had me drowning in confusion. I would soon learn life is ever-changing as this tumultuous filled pandemonium became my new normal.

Right away, the doctor put me on an intermuscular injectable interferon, an MS medication. Genuinely I am not too fond of needles, yet at that time, all MS medications were injectable, so my fear of needles did not matter. I began doing a lot of research on MS and found everyone had a cure for this autoimmune disease. Let me let you in on a well-known secret about MS; there is no cure for Multiple Sclerosis. However, I found many scammers who usually wanted you to buy their product. They would sell you special tonic water made from the tears of butterflies or some such nonsense. This pointless potion is guaranteed to deplete your savings account and make theirs swell like a deer tick.

pic 3 netThe internet and I had a close relationship for a long time after my diagnosis. I felt I needed to learn as much as possible about this maleficent monster preparing for the fight of my life. I spent hours that turned into days on the internet, trying to soak up MS knowledge like a sponge. On my quest, I quickly became educated about the shysters and charlatans that are out there ready to take all of your money. I was not about to give away any of my hard-earned coins to some low down swindler.

I felt like someone threw me in the deep end of the wave pool, and I did not know how to swim. Multiple sclerosis symptoms were smacking me around like waves from all sides faster than I could move. My eyesight went haywire, and I became legally blind, although I could sort of see causing constant consternation. I woke up one morning, and my legs were as unsteady as a newborn fawn forcing me at times to drag myself across the floor. Sometimes I had to military craw to the bathroom and somehow get myself up and onto the commode. At times while driving, my legs would be as useless as the ay in okay, forcing me to control my legs literally with my hands.

pic 4 bad eyeSince I worked as a draftsman, and vision of details was paramount to my job, those crazy symptoms forced me to stop working. I also had to stop driving as using my hands to physically grab my pant leg to move to the gas or brake pedal was unsafe. My body was simply going crazy, and I did not know what to do or if there was anything I could do. It seemed like every day, my body was fighting me and not letting me get up to defend myself brutally punching me blow after blow.

So I was now unemployed, which required me to live off of my seriously small savings. Once I moved out of my mom’s house after high school, I never again asked anyone for money. I now had to become creative in my accounting to make my bank account last as long as possible. I made sure my mortgage was on time, so I always had a roof over my head and a safe place to sleep. When it came to my utility bills, I paid one bill per month. January water bill only and February only electricity in March only gas in April it started over with my water bill.

Primarily I lived like the downtrodden wearing clothes that were old and made me look homeless. However, I had a few less worn clothes I could wear to my doctor’s appointments and not look excessively destitute. I kept my house at an uncomfortable temperature, to help keep my utility bills as low as possible. I had forty watt light bulbs in a few places around the house, meaning I walked around my house in near darkness most of the time. I am an Eagle Scout and a US Marine, so I was not afraid of camping in bad weather or with no heat or electricity. I did everything I could to keep from spending money needlessly.

last too smallBy this time, my weight had fallen below one hundred pounds. My doctors would always ask me if I was eating, I would say I ate three meals a day. Little did they know my portions were kept ridiculously small to keep my food bill exceptionally low. I would count twelve biscuits or one serving of spoon-sized frosted shredded wheat cereal with powdered milk for breakfast. I may have a drained can of corn with some Italian dressing for lunch. Then for my evening meal, I would possibly have one cup of mac-n-cheese always drinking water because my water bill was always paid. If I got hungry in between meals, I would have a couple of multigrain saltine crackers.

My new MS life was not going well…