The Psychological Effects of MS and the Impact on My Dreams

Mandy Crest Health Guide
  • Larry King, when interviewing the late Christopher Reeve, asked, “Do you think about walking?”

    Reeve replied, “Oh, absolutely. You know, as a matter of fact, in my dreams -- I have never been disabled in my dreams, so my subconscious insists that I am whole, and I follow my subconscious.”

    Our minds and our bodies, while inextricably intertwined, can maintain separate realities. That's what allows we humans to imagine the unimaginable, to create worlds of our own making.

    I don't label myself as disabled. Not because I'm fearful of the term, but because my relapsing/remitting multiple sclerosis hasn't progressed to that point yet. At least not all the time. Sometimes I'm disabled, sometimes I'm not.

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    Like Christopher, my dreams have been an escape, a freedom from the restrictions that MS has placed on me. There, in my dreams, I'm younger and stronger than in reality. At least that was the case until a recent run of bad dreams lasting six nights.

    A series of dreams placed me in various predicaments relating directly to MS. Perhaps the fears that I dare not speak in the light of day were playing out in the darkness of night.

    I was lost, not sure where I was or where I should be. But I was on foot, having a terrible time walking and fearful of becoming mired in place. My cane was alternately too short to be of use and too tall for me to grab the handle. I stopped passersby and asked for directions, but they only laughed at my predicament. “You don't belong here.” They would not allow me to sit and rest, and refused to give me directions home.

    In one dream, I lost my vision. I couldn't see a thing and I knew it was the MS at work. But I didn't see the darkness. I was merely observing myself and my own reaction to going blind. "How frightening," I sympathized.

    Much has been written about the psychology behind dreams. One school of thought says that symbols in dreams have fixed meanings for everyone. Another says that dreams must be viewed through the lens of the individual. Viewing this particular week of dreams through my own lens allowed me to admit certain truths that I previously was able to ignore.

    With an unprecedented four-month run of relatively minor MS symptoms, these dreams coincided with the opening salvo of a major MS exacerbation. I knew what was coming and I was scared. Time off from work, inability to drive, pain, fatigue, loss of independence... and that ever-present threat of new and worse symptoms.

    That's the reality of life with MS. You're fine and then you're not. You're a functioning member of society and then you're not. You're on the roller coaster, baby, and it's for life.

    In my waking hours, I've made peace with that and take life as it comes. In the darkness of night, my fears play out.

Published On: February 23, 2009