Fear of the Future: Coping with the "Earthquakes" of MS

  • When is it safe to come back out of hiding? 

    You may have heard that central Virginia (and the entire East Coast) experienced an earthquake two weeks ago.  It rated 5.8 with aftershocks as large as 4.5 on the Richter scale.  One of my West Coast friends kindly did say that “a 5.8 earthquake is nothing to sneeze at.” 

    The intensity of the vibration was such that I stood frozen in my kitchen watching things bounce against the walls.  In fact, a few pictures did fall of the walls and several items fell off bookcase shelves.  Luckily not much broke, but I’m still noticing items which toppled over during the disruption.

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    Most members of the household handled the earthquake well.  I was shaken-up for a little while and was quickly joined by my female cat, Musette, who wanted lots of pets and gave many meows.  My two boys were frightened and quickly hid.  I saw them scrambling downstairs into the basement to duck and cover.

    One little guy, Oscar, came out of hiding about two hours after the initial quake.  He was a bit of a fraidy cat, but seemed to get back on schedule (ie. “Where’s my snack?”) in short order.  Once food was served on time, Oscar was his normal chow-hound self.

    The third cat, Pippin, had a different experience.  The earthquake frightened him terribly.  His world seemed to be turned up-side-down and he took to hiding for hours.  Literally it was nine hours before I saw a hint of him coming from behind and under a very secluded and somewhat hidden piece of furniture.

    Pippin withdrew from the family.  He couldn’t even be tempted with food or promised comfort.  He was waiting for the next big earthquake to hit.  A sensitive and cautious little kitty by nature, perhaps he was feeling each and every aftershock which were too small for me to take note of.

    The day following the quake, Pippin took to hiding out upstairs.  He didn’t join us in the kitchen for breakfast.  He didn’t come downstairs during snack time.  He didn’t even show up for dinner.  Food was brought up to him on the upstairs landing.  After eating he went back to his safe spot.

    The earthquake took place on a Tuesday afternoon.  It was Friday before the most terrified feline began to rejoin the family again.  He just had to be sure that it was safe to come out of hiding.

    With a disease that has flare-ups and attacks such as multiple sclerosis, it is easy to be afraid of the next big attack.  I know that I become fearful when symptoms begin to act up (more than usual) and it seems that a relapse just might be lurking in the shadows.

    I wonder sometimes... if I am hiding in the shadows in fear, would that relapse be able to find me more easily?  If I am looking for it, will it come as an expected visitor?

    I don’t want to live in fear of what MS will bring in the future.  I also don’t want to live in the past and lament what all has been broken or toppled over in the earthquake which is MS or RA.

    When I do look objectively at my situation, I see that my disability level has stayed fairly consistent in the past three years or so.  Sure I’ve had some ups and downs, but the general direction we are headed is a steady flat line at this time.

  • So it’s time to not fear the numbness or tingling - it hasn’t stopped me yet.  No fear of the optic neuritis - I can still read and drive.  Less fear of the fatigue - I have learned to adapt to changing needs.

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    No need to stay in hiding waiting for the next really big, damaging attack.  It may happen tomorrow (not likely) or not for many years.  We won’t know until it happens and at that time, we’ll deal with it.

    I’m so glad that my little guy, Pippin, has come out of hiding.  He’s cautious when he thinks he sees something in the shadows, but he always has been.  What is great is that he is back to “normal.”

    Our normals may change, but I hope that we each are able to rejoin our lives after each attack or setback put in our way.  That’s what I hope for myself and for each of you.

    Do you have any earthquake stories to tell?


    Lisa Emrich is author of the blog Brass and Ivory: Life with MS and RA and founder of the Carnival of MS Bloggers.


Published On: September 06, 2011