The Check-In

Checking In: MS Symptoms

What good is discussing diet and lifestyle changes if I don’t reveal the ongoing results?

Doing an honest self-assessment of any sort is hard, particularly when trying to find ways to manage an unmanageable disease. There’s a huge desire to make everything a “success” or engage in placebo effect-like thinking, but that isn’t always the case.

Overall, I feel like I am managing my MS better, but on a day-to-day basis, my mileage may vary because of various external factors.

Current Health Self-Check

Currently, I am not doing so well. Not necessarily because of the MS, but I have a weird seasonal head cold. Drippy nose, sore throat, and exhaustion. I can only assume that if a person without MS gets a cold like this they may feel wiped out but are able to go about their daily lives with minimal interference.

With MS and any illness, I get so wiped out that getting out of bed is a hardship. Ash had to stay home until Jai went down for his morning nap on Tuesday because I was so worn out. I needed the extra couple of hours of sleep this afforded me before I was able to start the day and take care of a toddler. Jai and I stayed in our PJs and read lots of books and minimized movement so I wouldn’t overdo it.

This is a key example of why getting sick with MS is “dangerous.” It won’t necessarily cause any physical harm, but infections are a key cause of flare-ups so there is a risk of needing to get steroids to treat the inflammation. I don’t get avoidant if I know someone is sick, but I do recognize that even a simple cold can knock me off my feet for a couple of days that might just inconvenience someone else.

Normally I wouldn’t write about getting sick factoring into how I am currently feeling because I tend to not get sick all that often, but since having Jai it has become a more common occurrence. 

Beyond the cold, I am feeling okay overall. There’s been some emotional disappointment in not being able to maintain my diet as strictly as I wanted, but doing what is best for my overall health is more important. My brain fog and memory issues haven’t gone away or lessened it, but that may be because I am not doing enough mental exercises to help stimulate neuron repair.

Fatigue is still an issue, but not so much on the days that I am more active. I find high-cardio days means that I have more energy throughout the day and days I do yoga there might be a greater dip in energy by the afternoon.

Being completely honest: I haven’t noticed many changes since my last check-in after my diet reset. I feel more active, happier, less sluggish, but no appreciable changes to my MS symptoms.

Continue reading “Checking In: MS Symptoms”

The Check-In

Checking In: Adapting Eating Habits

One of the primary goals of this blog was to track my eating and exercise habits and see how it would help me manage my MS. I have found that some of the adjustments were easier to make, but there were other adjustments that were harder to maintain because of temptation or certain physical needs not being met.

I am still struggling with certain aspects of my diet, but after doing some research, I realized that it is more important to listen to my needs in a modified way than deny my body something it needs to refuel or heal from training.

Original Eating Intentions & What Worked

My overall intention was to drop all meats, dairy, gluten, sugar, and alcohol while maintaining a clean eating diet. The hope was it would manage my MS symptoms until I restarted my medication within the next year.

I started off strong, finding I had no problem dropping each food group week-by-week. I found that my weight would also drop because I was making healthier choices, and I was feeling somewhat better overall. MS symptoms abated and my neurologist was happy with the changes.

What worked best was dropping sugar, dairy (milk), and gluten; I found that I have issues whenever one of those items sneaks into my diet, intentionally or not. If I have cane sugar, my neck seizes up and I get a massive headache for the duration of the day; if I have milk/cheese, I find that I feel bloated and get a stiff neck; and if I have gluten, I find that my joints pop more and another stiff neck.

Clearly, my body does not like these food groups and so continuing to keep them out of my diet is to my benefit. I don’t know if it is an allergy per se, but there is a definite sensitivity correlation.

I am also happy to keep fried foods out of my diet as well, but this is mostly because of health reasons. I am still concerned about keeping high-cholesterol foods out of my diet and fried foods are unnecessary. I want to walk into my yearly physical with a low blood cholesterol level this year.

What Didn’t Work & Adaptations

I am in desperate need of protein.

I liked the idea of being plant-based for ethical and health reasons, but it was easier to maintain a vegan diet before Jai. When I was younger, I could spend a lot of time preparing high-protein foods that checked off all my nutritional needs, but between chasing Jai around the house and coping with fatigue, I really don’t have the time or energy to spend hours in the kitchen.

I found that I was sneaking meat-based proteins into my diet and when I “cheated” I didn’t cheat with “good” foods. It would be a high-fat beef dish or chicken that was smothered in salt/ high-calorie sauces.

So to stop this trend of making unhealthy choices, I’ve decided to reincorporate certain types of fish, chicken, and egg dishes back into my diet. Salmon is high in Omega-3 Fatty Acids which is good for brain health and chicken/eggs for running proteins.

I have decided not to re-incorporate any red meats, beef or otherwise. I will have the occasional “cheat” day, but by removing red meat from my diet I am eliminating a major inflammatory source that could affect my MS exacerbations.

Future Eating Habits

My diet will still be mostly plant-based, but once a week I will incorporate some sort of meat-based protein that will help satisfy any nutritional cravings I am feeling and prevent me from lapsing into unhealthy choices.

I have also hit a bit of a weight plateau and I suspect not being kind to myself with my eating habits is a source of sabotage. While I am a normal weight by BMI standards, I want to lose a little more to be solidly within the normal BMI range. By being more honest and adapting my diet to my individual needs I should start seeing my weight starting to drop again to a satisfactory number.

So while I had grand intentions to be gluten-free, sugar-free vegan, I am at this point a clean eating pescapollotarian that is gluten, dairy, and sugar-free.

I definitely recommend trying the diet shift, especially going slow through it so it isn’t a complete shock, but I am finding that it didn’t work as well for me at this point in time. I think once Jai is a little older I may have more time to focus solely on a plant-based diet again.

I don’t consider this giving up or losing – I consider this a win because I am accepting myself in this moment of time and doing what works best for my current needs.


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The Check-In

Checking In: My Exercise Routine

It’s been a while since I’ve last posted about my personal progress, so I thought I would spend this week checking in on my exercise, eating habits, and overall health.

I haven’t discussed my exercise habits other than tacking them on as part of my posts and social media updates, so I wanted to spend some time talking about the routines I do throughout the week and my eventual fitness goals.

Exercise and Me

I have always loved yoga and been practicing since 2005 when I took my first class in college. I want to become an instructor and started the certification process several years ago, but I was coping with flare-ups before my diagnosis,  so I had to put that on hold. I still want to get certified and will hopefully pick it up again.

Yoga always appealed to me because of the stretching and mindfulness aspects, but also because it was low cardio impact depending on the practice.

Growing up, I dealt with childhood asthma. I loved being active as a child, but there was always the concern of overdoing it and having an asthma attack. Yoga appealed to the desire to stay active and fit because of all the great breathing techniques and the low-stress it put on my lungs.

Likewise, as a child, I hated to run. I would sprint during games of tag on the playground, but I’d get winded pretty quickly and didn’t like the way I felt if I ran for an extended period of time. I was never a particularly strong or fast runner, either. I just figured it wasn’t for me and turned to yoga as a means to stay active.

My mom started running when I moved to Georgia and because I am super competitive, I was not about to be outdone by her. I started training informally and ran a few 5ks and worked myself up to a half-marathon.

I found that I actually enjoyed running, but I still wasn’t particularly good at it. My stamina was always bad: I would start a race really strong but I could never sustain myself past a certain point and the idea of running up hills always got me to walk.

I can’t specifically remember the reason why I dropped running other than I got busy with work, managing my MS, and life. When Ash and I discussed starting a family I wanted to pick it back up before I got pregnant but that never happened.

After speaking with my health coach around this time last year, I decided to get back into running more seriously. I trained with my mother and we ran a half-marathon back in October 2017. I’ve been noticing a lot of health benefits like mood improvement and more energy, so my two primary forms of exercise became yoga and running.

The Routine – In Theory

If I am having a good week: no bad weather, colds, toddler interferences, or MS fatigue symptoms, this is how my routine looks:

  • Monday: Yoga/Crosstraining
  • Tuesday: 30-minute run
  • Wednesday: Yoga/Crosstraining
  • Thursday: 45-minute run
  • Friday: Yoga/Crosstraining
  • Saturday: Distance run (5+ miles)
  • Sunday: Rest

I get 3 days where I have at least 30-minute intense cardio from the run and then 3 days of cross-training of some sort to help strengthen my legs and improve my breathing.

I use the Galloway method for stamina building and hill running. I officially started running back in August 2017 and couldn’t make it more than 5-minutes down the road and balked at hills. Now I am able to run 20-minutes before taking a break and hills are a piece of cake.

All of this is great, but unfortunately most weeks I am not able to adhere to this schedule as much as I would like.

Because we have to take Jai on the weekday runs, I have to be mindful of the weather and how he is feeling.

Continue reading “Checking In: My Exercise Routine”

Lifestyle & Blogging

Love & MS

We don’t get to choose whether or not we get MS, nor do we get to choose when we get that diagnosis. For some, it comes while in a relationship and for others it comes outside of one.

Either scenario forces the following self-reflection: does my partner stay with me? and, do I disclose my situation on a date?

MS is difficult because it turns partners or potential partners into caretakers.

It fosters self-doubt after the diagnosis: is my partner with me because they feel obligated? do they resent having to care for me? are they only interested in me because they have to “fix” me? what happens if they leave or die before me?

It is little wonder that many bloggers and experts refer to MS as the third wheel in a relationship. It’s an unwanted obstacle that can put a strain on any current or budding relationship.

 

The Third Wheel

MS is the unpredictable cousin that comes into your life and needs a place to crash until they get on their feet. They take up space on a centrally located couch and refuse to leave when you want to watch a movie with your partner (or bring a date home).

They say they are looking for a job, but really spend all day watching half-hour courtroom shows with ads for injury lawyers.

It’s that cousin that interrupts you everytime you want to have a conversation with someone so you forget what you were saying and is up at all hours of the night making it hard for anyone to sleep.

Simply put: MS is an unwelcome third-party to your relationship that isn’t going to leave anytime soon. No matter how many times you ask it to get its act together and move on.

Trying to figure MS out and how it factors into a relationship is extremely hard. As a person with the diagnosis, I am trying to learn what I am capable of doing and what my limitations are. How much do I put on or ask of Ash? Should I even ask him to help? Is the relationship lopsided? Am I really that bad that I need his help? Or am I just imagining things?

MS is always hiding in the background of every thought or action I take. I have to plan out my day to make sure I have enough energy for when Ash gets home to make any interactions with him meaningful. I have to pause frequently and ask myself: am I feeling this way because this is normal for someone who only got 4 hours of sleep with a teething toddler, or is this because of the MS?

As you can see, I ask myself a lot of questions. I tend to overthink things and so it takes a lot of energy to manage my MS. So when it is time for quality time with Ash, sometimes I just don’t have what it takes to be the partner I think he deserves.

Continue reading “Love & MS”

Parenting

Managing Parental Time

This is the final week in a 3-week series on parenting observations. Week one is based on gentle parenting, week two is about parenting with compassion, and week three is about parenting with a disability.

These posts are based on my personal experiences as a parent and are not meant in any way to judge other parenting styles or decisions. I am offering my personal research and conclusions as possible suggestions for others out there, therefore these posts will be as objective as possible. When it comes to parenting: provided the method isn’t abusive, there really isn’t a wrong way to parent your child. Be secure and do what works best for you and your family and ignore outside judgement.


With my MS, my disability manifestation breaks down into two parts: brain fog and fatigue.

Brain fog makes it difficult to remember to do things, important details, and conversations. Fatigue makes it hard to get through the day, especially after chasing a toddler.

One of my biggest fears during pregnancy was that I would leave the stove on or forget Jai somewhere. That’s how forgetful I can be, “pregnancy brain” aside. Likewise, my MS makes it difficult to make new memories, so I can lose the precious moments that many parents treasure while watching their children grow up.

I have had to reorganize my life to manage my MS and improve my ability to parent. I’ve recognized what I excel at and what my limitations are and changed my routine to better balance the MS and child-rearing.

What works for me may not work for someone else because each case of disability is different, but hopefully it will provide some insight as to how I handle everything. It may not be super efficient, but I am flexible to keep adjusting as needs change.

The main thing that helps me make it through the day with brain fog is managing my time. It’s not a strict adherence to a schedule, but an acknowledgement to the natural flow of the day and accounting for periods of high energy or fatigue.

Managing Time and Priorities

When I feel unproductive, I get depressed. Even before my diagnosis I would get frustrated if I didn’t tick off marks on my checklist. Because I combat daily fatigue, I deal with the reality of not getting everything done which can lead to momentary depression and personal frustration.

In order to prevent these low periods, I must figure out ways to manage my time better in consideration with my energy levels.

I have the most energy in the morning right when Jai goes down for his morning nap and that lasts until he goes down for his afternoon nap. On days that I go for a run or exercise, my energy level might be extended an additional 2 hours, but I can’t count on that everytime. If the run was particularly challenging or discouraging, I may not have enough energy to make it through lunch.

Tracking my natural rhythms, a typical day might look like this:

  • 5-6am: Jai wakes up and we snuggle or slightly doze depending on everyone’s tiredness.
  • 6-7am: Ash takes Jai for play time before Ash needs to get ready for work. This gives me an additional hour of sleep.
  • 7-9am: Go for a run some mornings, otherwise make Jai’s breakfast and let him play until naptime. I typically have more energy during this period of time so I am able to do minor chores while Jai is awake.
  • 9-11am: Jai’s morning nap. If I am particularly exhausted I will use this time to nap as well. Otherwise I will write, clean, or organize the house.
  • 11am-2pm: Jai wakes up and we play, I make lunch, and if any errands need to be run, now is the time we do it. By the time 2pm rolls around, if I didn’t rest in the morning I am feeling very fatigued.
  • 2-4pm: Jai’s afternoon nap. I make sure to take at least 30 minutes rest, but some days I will nap for the entire duration of his nap. If he ends up napping in the car because errands or playdates run late – I do not get a period of rest in and I am usually exhausted by 4pm.
  • 4-6pm: More playtime, I make dinner, and when Ash comes home – we switch so he primarily takes care of Jai.
  • 6-7pm: Ash and Jai spend time alone, playing together. I use this time to rest or work on any minor tasks.
  • 7-8pm: Put Jai to bed.
  • 8-10pm: Ash and I spend time together relaxing before heading to bed ourselves.

As you can see, I’ve worked periods of rest when I can, but I am flexible for the days where I have more or less energy.

I will unashamedly admit to this: on my bad days when I have absolutely no energy, I will make sure all of Jai’s needs are met (diaper, food, water, etc) and put him in the crib with some toys and lie down in another room with the monitor on. If he needs me or gets frustrated with being left alone, I will go immediately to him. But I take this time to recharge even a little so I can make it until Ash comes home.

The key to making it through the day is figuring out how to manage my time. I know when I have the most energy – I know when I need to rest. That helps me figure out when I will be the most productive and I attack important tasks during that time.

But as this article points out, time management only gets you so far.  So it’s a bit misleading to say it’s all about time management: it’s really about priority management. Time management comes naturally once priorities are established.

This is how I go about managing my priorities:

  • Each morning I figure out what is the most important thing I must do and add it to my to-do list with a priority assigned to it. “1” is most important, while “3” is least important. I add all other tasks for the day and assign priority.
  • Once I have established importance of priority, I figure out when during my day I am able to achieve that task. Some things must be done in the morning when I have the most amount of energy, while other things wait until later in the day because my energy level is less important to the completion of the task.
  • I do not underestimate the power of checking things off in order to feel productive. There may be days where I write every single detail of a task down on the to-do list because the only thing that keeps me moving forward are the tick-marks indicating “done.”

    I think one of my favorite apps said it best with this tweet:

If time management isn’t working for you, don’t scrap it completely, but adjust your focus to priority management. Once you’ve figured out your priorities, you can manage the time needed to get those priorities done.

And don’t be afraid of rolling those tasks over day-to-day. They will get done eventually.

The Importance of a Calendar

Maintaining a schedule helps keep things straight when it comes to my brain fog. I have tried physical calendars/planners in the past, and while I love the romantic notion (and flexibility) of them, I find that I am less likely to maintain or look at them.

I always have my phone on me and with Google calendar I am able to share my schedule with Ash. I also love how my Google Calendar integrates with my email, so if I am making plans via email I can click a couple of links in order to automatically add something to my calendar.

Because it’s always by my side I am more likely to look at the calendar, add reminders, and add in events. It is the most effective way to keep my time organized and prevent me from forgetting important things.

I have learned to tell people “hold on, let me put this in my calendar otherwise I’ll forget it.”  I still forget to add to my calendar sometimes, and therefore double-book myself or forget about something, but chances are decreased if I am comfortable stopping everything in order to update my calendar.

By removing the need to keep track of things in my head and placing them externally, I am taking control over my brain fog. While it won’t ever go away completely, I am doing something that is recommended to people without disability and therefore normalizing my actions (and not allowing the disease have control). This helps bolster my productivity and decrease my frustration.

Keeping Lists

While I love to have a digital calendar, I find that having a physical to-do list for my on-the-fly tasks helps more. I do use a digital to-do list for my repeatable daily activities, but as I am going along, I am more likely to write it down on some paper than enter it on my phone.

But list writing can be boring and cumbersome so to make it interesting for myself, I use Knock Knock pads around the house for my various lists. Below are some of my personal favorites:

*I receive compensation for these links.

Like with a calendar, I am no longer allowing my brain fog take control of my life by creating lists, but I am also making my abstract ideas more concrete. They feel more achievable when I look at them on paper.

The trick is to not lose the paper and remember to recycle them.

Remaining Flexible

I always remember that I need to be flexible throughout my day, no matter how well planned I have it.  Some days will be ideal and I will be able to get a lot done and other days I’ll need to accept that I won’t get everything done. Remember that that is okay is key to not getting depressed by low-productivity.

I make sure to build flexibility into my daily schedule.

I acknowledge my fatigue and brain fog by knowing that I might get over tired or I might forget to do something. I work in an extra 20 minutes for a project or an extra 30 to get Jai ready for a playdate because, well, toddler.

What do you do to help keep you focused and manage your disability (or if you don’t have a disability, yourself)? How do you combat the threat of low-productivity? This is something that interests me, so I would love to hear your suggestions and tips. Comment with them below.


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Parenting

Parenting with a Disability

This is the final week in a 3-week series on parenting observations. Week one is based on gentle parenting, week two is about parenting with compassion, and week three is about parenting with a disability.

These posts are based on my personal experiences as a parent and are not meant in any way to judge other parenting styles or decisions. I am offering my personal research and conclusions as possible suggestions for others out there, therefore these posts will be as objective as possible. When it comes to parenting: provided the method isn’t abusive, there really isn’t a wrong way to parent your child. Be secure and do what works best for you and your family and ignore outside judgement.


For many people, parenthood is fraught with challenges: getting enough sleep, the terrible twos, and the need for independence as children grow older. For a select few, there is the added challenge of balancing parenting and a disability of some sort.

Parenting without a disability is difficult and parenting with one presents its own unique challenges. With some adaptations, parenting with a disability is no harder than parenting without one. Remember: it’s comparing apples and oranges; each type is difficult and easy in their own ways.

The key is to know what the limits are, having a support system of some sort to help manage those limitations, and keeping everything in proper perspective.

In the final week of my parenting series, this week will be based more on observations from my own experience coupled with resources found online. If you are a parent with a disability, you may see some similarities in your own situation or if you know a parent with a disability, hopefully this will provide some greater insight to what they experience.

Nota bene: This post will be using the universal “you/second person” pronouns throughout, so while it may not speak to your experience directly, it may apply to someone else you know.

Visible versus Invisible

There are two different types of disabilities out there: the ones you can see and the ones you cannot. For people with invisible disabilities, this can lead to a lot of issues, particularly if a person looks “normal” but uses a handicap parking space. A person does not need to be in a wheelchair, despite the universal logo, to be disabled.

Multiple Sclerosis can be both: for those with PPMS and SPMS (and at times, RRMS), it’s a more obvious disability. The person can be a cane, walker, or scooter. It can be abnormal speech patterns, cognitive difficulties, or physical weakness. The outside observer can see the disability.

But many with RRMS don’t display outward symptoms of their diagnosis, yet the disability can still be there: fatigue, mental fog, or pain. Flare-ups can cause limb weakness or numbness which several limits mobility for a short period of time.

When it is hard to see the disability, it is hard for outsiders to understand the extent of the disability. This can lead to feelings of frustration, inadequacy, and self-doubt by the person with the diagnosis.

Parenting with an invisible disability adds an additional layer of complications: sometimes it’s hard to make playdate plans with others because you don’t know how you might feel that day, remembering simple details about another kid’s life that you’ve been told many times before, and seeming more disengaged with the parenting process from the outside. None of these reasons make you less of a parent, it just alters how you parent.

Ultimately, for those with an invisible disability, they can spend part of their day mentally preparing for outside judgement because people might not know or understand the situation. Judgement isn’t a daily occurrence, but when it happens, it stings because you are left feeling inadequate.

Continue reading “Parenting with a Disability”

Lifestyle & Blogging

Simple Tips to for Resolution Success

I have a hard time maintaining and succeeding in my New Year’s resolutions. I know that I am not alone, with many people either not making any resolutions or not making it past the three month mark. I find that by the second week of the year, for me, I start to flag in my motivation to keep my resolutions. By February I am like: resolution, who?

I have a few ideas as to why that is the case. I don’t plan. I am not organized. And I don’t take any productive steps to make the changes in order to be successful.

Usually December 31st rolls around and I am like: “Oh yeah, I need to make some resolutions to start tomorrow.” Then I hold them in my mind, but make no attempt to write them down or plan out my path to success.

This year is a little different. I have already listed my resolutions and I really want to see myself succeed. But I have to organize myself first. I may be a couple weeks late, but better late than never?

So now that we have the first week under our belts, I pulled together some hints to help succeed in maintaining those resolutions through the power of organization.

The Science of Success: Personal Organization

Organization, for the most part, is the key to personal success.  When I think of organization, I think of action plans, to do lists, calendars, and apps that flash reminders on your phone. To be fair, that tends to be the gist of organization. But what does it mean to be organized?

Organization is about seeing both the big picture/end goal and breaking it down into its smaller, more manageable parts. 

College advisors have web pages that are filled with tips and tricks on how to organize yourself for academic success. Transferring these tips into a real world application, these are great ideas for personal organization and managing your resolutions.

Maintaining Resolution Success

The first step is to ask yourself: what is the most important goal I have for myself this year? Look at the resolution as the journey to the end-goal, not the end-goal itself. As  fellow blogger, My MS and Me, put it best: consider your resolution “aims”, not as a resolution. An aim seems more achievable, whereas a resolution has the stigma of failure attached to it.

Keep in mind: you don’t need to wait until January 1st to make changes. If the date is important to you, consider starting at the beginning of the month, or the beginning of the week. Otherwise, don’t wait a whole year. Start now.

Below are some steps for organizing your resolution/aims if you haven’t already done so:

Continue reading “Simple Tips to for Resolution Success”