When my niece was a toddler, if an adult tried to assist her with a task she wanted to do on her own, she would hold up her hand as if to stop traffic and exclaim in an authoritative voice, “I how know to do it!” I seem to have become a toddler at the ripe age of 47.
Slowly, since my diagnosis with MS in 2005, I have had to come to terms with ways the disease limits my abilities, both physical and mental. I have adapted to the sometimes bone crushing fatigue. I endure pain, which is always there and sometimes extreme. I understand that I cannot hold up to large amounts of physical activity, instead learning to do exercise or other tasks in bite-sized increments. I have learned that heat can be crippling because it short circuits the electrical signals that travel over frayed nerves stripped of the myelin. I know that my brain does not work as quickly as it once did. I am a compulsively self-reliant person; however, I have learned to make adjustments. None of that means that I am happy with these limitations, but it is what it is.
Now, I have a new enemy of my physical independence: spondylolisthesis. A vertebra has slipped out of place in my spine, most probably the result of some unrealized injury in my childhood or teen years coming back to haunt me. An old stress fracture put the bone askew, and it finally became unstable. For a person who is resigned to physical limitations and the ongoing degeneration that can come with MS, I must admit that a slipped vertebra is kicking my ass.
I thought I had this disability thing down. You know what I am talking about — the whole managing pain, exhaustion, embarrassment, and reliance on other people stuff. But now, I cannot walk across the house without agonizing episodes of pain shooting down my legs. I cannot bend over. I cannot lift anything. I am worn out from sleeplessness. I am foggy from drugs meant to alleviate the worst of the signals emanating from the nerve roots under pressure from the offending bone. I am finding myself needing a helping hand from those caring family and friends around me. I admit it: I cannot do this on my own.
Life, as it is wont to do, is once again teaching me that I have lessons to learn. I only thought that I how know to do it.