At the National MS Society we understand the importance of managing your time and balancing your work, family, and personal life with MS. MS is an unpredictable neurological condition. No two people will have exactly the same symptoms. If you have this chronic condition, your symptoms can range from mild to severe. You may experience issues like fatigue and weakness, blurred vision, mood disturbances, muscle cramps, or balance and concentration problems.
Depending on the type of MS you have, your symptoms may flare up from time to time or you may experience new symptoms. The unpredictability of MS can be challenging, especially if you have a busy schedule at work, school, or in your personal life, such as parenting and household duties.
Emily Reilly, 33, knows firsthand the challenges of living with MS. Originally from Alexandria, Virginia, she was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS at the age of 17. At the time, she was an active high school student and athlete. “I was a soccer player and dreamed of playing college ball and had actually signed a soccer scholarship [a month] before my diagnosis,” she recalls. She had noticed leg weakness and general fatigue. An MRI revealed lesions on her spine. But an MS specialist prescribed the right treatment plan for her and encouraged her to pursue her soccer dreams and find ways to adapt to life with MS. “He said to me, ‘Let me not stop you.’ So I played college soccer. I played all four years. In fact, I was an all-American goalkeeper, which was really cool,” Reilly says.
But it wasn’t easy. People with relapsing-remitting MS tend to experience periods of new or worsening symptoms, followed by periods of partial or complete recovery. This is called remission. Symptoms can occur at any time and disrupt your routine or schedule. Reilly needed a lot of strategy and effort to adjust to life with MS: preparing for occasional relapses and dealing with constant fatigue. “During that time, I really learned to manage my energy as a college athlete and student and then also learned to live with a chronic disease that is so unpredictable.”
Reilly also credits exercise with helping her stay fit, healthy, and active. In fact, her passion for movement and its impact on her well-being led her to become a certified personal trainer. She teaches modified exercises for people within the MS community.
How MS Can Affect Your Work-Life Balance
MS is an autoimmune disease, meaning the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. The exact cause is unknown, but it occurs when the immune system is disrupted and destroys the fatty substance called myelin that surrounds and protects the nerves in the brain and spinal cord, forming the central nervous system. This leads to communication problems and confusion in the messages transmitted between the brain and the rest of your body.
Depending on the location of the attack, different neurological symptoms can occur in each person. This makes MS highly individualized,” says Robert Bermel, MD, Director of the Cleveland Clinic Mellen Center for Multiple Sclerosis.
MS symptoms can vary widely and range from mild to severe. Fatigue and mood swings seem to be the most common complaints. These „invisible symptoms“ can be disabling, making it difficult to perform everyday tasks and impairing productivity at work or at home.
Research shows that the socioeconomic impact of MS is high. People with this condition often experience reduced working hours, sick leave, poor work performance, and early retirement. The lack of energy continues when you run errands and try to balance the demands of your private life. Sometimes you may simply not have enough energy to get through your to-do list for the day. „I think you can describe the symptom of fatigue as a kind of gas tank where there is only a little fuel left. It’s like being, once you’ve used it up, somehow exhausted,“ says Bermel.
Common MS symptoms include:
MS hug. This is a tight pressure sensation around your upper body, which can feel like a blood pressure cuff tightening around you.
Difficulty walking and balancing
Numbness or tingling
Dizziness or lightheadedness
Bladder and bowel problems
Changes in cognitive abilities
Less common symptoms include:
Loss of taste
When to Call Your Doctor About Your MS Relapse
While MS symptoms can certainly affect your mood and daily life, they can vary in severity and not all are cause for concern. This is especially true if you have been newly diagnosed with MS. „The most important thing to find out from the beginning is to help patients with MS to distinguish the symptoms of a new MS relapse from fluctuations in existing symptoms, which can certainly come and go and have good and bad days. And sometimes these change,“ says Bermel. „Pseudo-relapses,“ but I like to call them symptom fluctuations,“ says Bermel. If it is a symptom that you have never had before, it is normal to be worried about it. But Brian Barry, MD, a neurologist and head of the MS Clinic at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C., says it is best to wait about 24 hours to see if the symptoms improve or worsen.
„Everyone can have numbness if they sleep on their arm wrong or something that goes away after a few minutes. But if you have a new symptom, something you’ve never had before, or something that is worse than you,“ „Before making any major changes to your routine.“
„Drowning myself with the water of unity“