Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Notes from the Battle Front

The title does not reference Afghanistan, Africa, Tatooine, or anywhere else our brave troops battle the dark forces, and, even worse, the stupid people who will cause death and pain because they can, or because their version of a deity said so, or both.  Nope.  These are the MS and BP battle lines.  No one can see them, and the only map is what made be found on MRIs.  But we fight nonetheless.

I've spent quite a few hours recently in support groups for both MS and BP, and I think I've talked about them before, but the groups change to reflect the minute.  The two worlds collide along many lines, so its like you are fighting (or I am) two wars at the same time, and who you are fighting are Allies of a sort, but each one is looking for the advantage for themselves.

Some of the folks in the bipolar group take medicines I use for MS, and guys in the MS group take some of the bipolar meds,and mostly both are mood stabilizers (the meds,not the people). The MS group guys are mostly on the A/B/C or T group (all the possibilities are listed here ) but there are we hardy few who take no pills or  treatments because we there's no point at least in MS for us to waste time on them.

For the human factor, the people in both groups amaze me with  their acceptance and heartiness.  Both of these diseases can get to you and depression is their specialty.  Yet we press on.

Bipolar group meets in a local church and there are normally (to coin a phrase) four of us, and oddly I am the youngest most days. We get the occasional one shot visitor, whose story, if they share, are usually darker than our own, as they are still searching for the light out.

I live in a world of government work, and good pensions, and my wife in the health field. The economy never actually touched us.  In group, you hear it from others each time.  How are they surviving with lost jobs, homes, and health insurance, struggling with changes internal and external? I heard it certainly in my job from some of the poorest folks.  But this is a middle class neighborhood. This can happen to us?  There are a lot of hugs.  Not much in the way of answers, but we listen and understand.

In the MS men's group, time is marked by how many men are using walkers, canes or stumbling around.  We meet in a nicely paneled medical waiting room that has comfy chairs and coffee and cookies. It's after hours so we have the place to ourselves.  So that many guys in one room in the Northeast US means it's Yankees versus Red Sox (with the odd Mets fan - in my case very odd - here and there) but we all have MS and that we all share.  That and liking the cookies, and the coffee, and therefore needing to use the bathroom and you can see how guys struggle with just the trip there, those who will accept the help of an inanimate object rather than human help. It hurts male pride.  I was in my water therapy yesterday, and was changing back into my civvies when the dressing room door opened and in came a young man on crutches for his hour in the pool.  I'm used to opening doors for folks all the time, but this young man did not appreciate the help.  Son, I know you're macho, but you'll be glad of the help along the way, and pass it on.  I am lucky. I can walk fairly well without assistance, though I can sympathize with some of the guys who have memory problems.  One guy could not remember the name of his doctor that he had seen earlier in the day.  I still can't remember the name of my grandniece, and I've been trying for six months.  This can also show that my family is distant in more ways than one.

We do get interesting questions.  Is Indian or Chinese food better for you? What is tumeric? and With the passing of Annette Funicello, who is the patron saint (aka Celebrity Voice) of MS?

Is it                                                                          
Teri Garr

Or:
Squiggy
We can also add Jack Osbourne or the actress on the soap The Young and The Restless who plays Nikki and has MS (on the show).  It seems our group here is sort of on the "C" list celebrity type.  I'm open to others.

But bipolar, now we do OK:

Sting

Or:

Catherine Zeta-Jones

The support groups are basically white people.  One time in BP we had a gentleman from the middle east, but he might also be part of the "dabbler" bunch as he visited only once.

Both diseases tax your mind and body.  But you are not alone.  We're here hoping you'll come visit. There's a cookie waiting. 

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