Like my previous list of weird MS symptoms, this one is not what anyone would consider devastating. It merely adds sadistic insult to the painful injury of MS.
To understand where I’m going with this, recall a time when you had to describe a particularly subtle auto malady to your mechanic. Trying to communicate that exact grinding sound in your brakes or the sway of the vehicle during a right hand turn is difficult at best, embarrassing at worst.
Magnify the difficulty by several hundred percent, augmented by the humiliation factor involved because you’re talking about a bodily function.
It’s hard to describe feelings, whether emotional or physical. That’s why we sometimes rely on silly love songs and sillier greeting cards to express our emotions and bizarre rituals (demonstrated here) to gauge our physical state.
It’s not bad enough that you lose the ability to walk, talk, stand up straight, control your bladder, along with a thousand other failures, you get these “feelings” that are impossible to describe.
Here’s a sample exchange between patient and neurologist. (All characters are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Even if it does sound a lot like my doctor and me.)
Neurologist: Any changes in your condition?
Patient: Yeah, I’m getting these feelings in my leg.
Neurologist: What kinds of feelings?
Patient: It’s sort of a numbness or tingling.
Neurologist: Well, which is it? Numbness or tingling?
Patient: Kind of both and neither.
Neurologist: That clarifies things. Is it painful?
Patient: Not really. But sometimes it is. Have you ever had “pins and needles”?
Neurologist: Yes. Is that what it’s like?
Patient: Not exactly.
Neurologist: Where are the feelings happening?
Patient: In bed a lot, but other times…
Neurologist: I mean, where on the leg?
Patient: Sort of on the surface, but more like starting inside the leg and radiating out.
Neurologist: Inside but out?
Patient: Exactly! But like I said, it also feels numb.
Neurologist: So you’ve lost feeling in the leg?
Patient: Not really. It’s actually extra sensitive.
Neurologist: Which is the opposite of numb, right?
Patient: Yeah. Crazy, isn’t it?
Neurologist: I’d say so. Have you considered finding a good therapist?
I know what you’re thinking: Stop whining. The neurologist is the real victim in this scenario. You have a point, but that just adds guilt to the mix for the patient.
Guilt can be the topic of another post.