Vertigo & Multiple Sclerosis: My Life On a Surfboard

Mandy Crest Health Guide
  • “What was that supposed to be?” My husband often asks the question in a playful manner. Playful, because he knows exactly what it is.

    “What was that move?” I’m teasingly asked the question at work.

    Curious strangers avert their gaze and say nothing. I wonder if they are making silent judgments.

    So, what is it?

    It’s my inability to walk a straight line. I tend to veer right. I lose my balance. I lose my rhythm. I need a wide berth to accommodate my arms, which occasionally fly out to the side to correct my faulty steering.

    If I ever need to walk that straight line -- heel to toe, heel to toe -- for a cop at the side of the road, I can only hope I am able to post bail. If you didn’t know me, all appearances point toward alcohol or drug abuse, but that would be incorrect.

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    Multiple sclerosis took away any hint of grace I may have had. Lack of balance, lack of coordination, and vertigo have ganged up and forced me to live my life on a surfboard.

    Every day I ride the waves, arms working valiantly to keep me from wiping out. When my legs are weak and I’m using a cane, the problem is less pronounced. It’s when my legs feel stronger and I leave the cane in its rack that the big waves roll in.

    Oh, I've been known to bang my right shoulder or hip in doorways or against walls. But the thing is, I never fall down. No matter how goofy I look, I always manage to remain upright.

    This almost constant illusion of movement has been with me for awhile now. There was an adjustment period when it was very disturbing but, over time, riding the surf became just another normal part of every day life with multiple sclerosis.

    I've always had a powerful love and respect for the ocean. The sights, the sounds, and the smells make me feel alive and part of something much, much bigger than me. But the truth is, I've never actually been on a surfboard. I just like to imagine the feeling of the wind and the waves in my face as I work on the delicate balance of remaining upright. Imagery is a powerful tool.

    If you should encounter me out in the world, walking a crooked line and holding my arms up... I’m just riding the waves.

    Does MS keep you off balance? Share your story with us!

Published On: October 23, 2008