Miscommunication

Miscommunication.  I have been learning a TON about this in many different areas in my life.  It’s just better to get rid of it.  Ask for prayer when you need prayer, and share the reasons/circumstances if necessary.  Ask for help (something God’s been teaching me lots since 2011, I think.)  Don’t just talk louder than the other person when you don’t like what they are saying.  Tell them you don’t like all that negativity or (insert whatever here), and why.

The miscommunication between my mind and my body is super-duper annoying.  Sometimes, I feel that if my body could keep up with my brain, I’d have to be a super-energetic child with no “off” switch. Other times, my body feels like it’s an old lady that should be in a nursing home but is really too stubborn for her own good. When my body keeps up with my brain, it can last like, and hour, tops. The miscommunication is not only the maturity or energy of either body or brain.  (I’m told that I have a “childlike” spirit….and yet, an “old soul.”  Figure that out.)  My body doesn’t tell my brain that it’s getting tired until after the fact.  I did physical therapy for, like, a month or two—twice a week!  It was awesome.  Until we realized that the PT was doing more harm than good.  I AM getting stronger, but I’m having a harder time than EVER with the body/brain communication thing.  Like last Monday.  The air wasn’t on in our house, and when I got up to walk around and do things, I was real weak.  Well, looking at the thermostat, it said 78 degrees.  In the HOUSE!  (Heat is an energy-sucker, too.)  So I turned the air on, and chillaxed for a while until I felt I had enough energy to do more chores.  Bleh.

I have also been working on the miscommunication that comes with two very different people being married and living together.  I don’t always tell Doug when I need help, or would like him to do something FOR me.  I would wear myself out until he notices.  (But, I AM getting better at telling him when I shouldn’t be doing things—it’s that bodily communication verbalizing and the whole pride thing of asking for help that I’ve been learning since I started this blog.)  And now, when Doug notices something needs to be cleaned or laundry needs to be done, he tells me instead of leaving the laundry room door open or setting out the broom (that I would put away because I thought he left it out after using it).  See?  We’re getting better at that.  We’re also getting better at telling each other our expectations of events or the rest of the day.  Communication is really cool.  I think what has also helped Doug and I be overcoming this stuff so quick is that we were long distance until we got married.  And I’m still not afraid to tell him my thoughts.

Doug and I have both (separately) been doing this Bible study through the YouVersion Bible App called “Lord, Hear Our Cry.”  It is all about prayer.  I have been realizing that there’s a lot of miscommunication on my part when it comes to prayer.  It’s okay to ask for things, but don’t get discouraged! Sometimes, when there is no answer, I assume it’s a “no.” Sometimes, that “no” may just be a “not now.” So don’t lose hope when God doesn’t answer us right away! It’s not miscommunication, really. It’s not that we’re not communicating. Maybe it’s because we’re not listening (receiving communication). Or the answer doesn’t come as soon as we want it to. That is our fault. God hasn’t answered me about healing me of MS. Maybe he won’t ever heal me or any of my family members who have also been diagnosed with this icky disease. But it doesn’t mean I’ll stop asking. This is one area that I feel like I know the least about. Why am I writing about it? Probably because God wants to tell me or one of you readers something.

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8, emphasis mine)

Now. Going back to previous topics in this post, don’t be a nagging spouse. But maybe if you tell your spouse something a few times, it’s okay. I feel like my body has been trying to learn the same lesson f-o-r-e-v-e-r. But persistence isn’t bad. Okay, like many of my posts, I have plunged into a topic and have since left it behind. Maybe it’s been too long since I’ve blogged. Maybe I’m having more miscommunication troubles with the world than I even thought. But, maybe not.

Be blessed, everyone!

Anna E. Meyer

Where in your life do you see miscommunication? What can you do about it?

Words

Words. I take them to heart, typically. I mean, words of affirmation has always been one of my top love languages, and I’m a writer. I like to encourage other people, because I like to receive love that way, as well. I mean, when people don’t say anything encouraging, I guess I try to let it roll off my back. But….that is MUCH easier said than done (it’s still a work in progress). In my small group on Sunday, we read all of James 3. It’s a short chapter, but we went two verses at a time, with much discussion and talk interspersed throughout our time together.

I don’t usually read scripture that’s in a blog post if it’s too long, so I won’t copy/paste James 3:1-12 here. Some of the biggest things I got out of it: The words we say are either a blessing OR a cursing; it’s black and white (there is no gray area). A fig tree can’t produce olives, a spring can’t produce both fresh water and salt water. Us, as humans, are the only creatures that can produce both life AND death at the same time (with our words!). James even goes as so far as to compare our tongues to fires, like the fires of hell! Matthew 15:18 says, “But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart.” Uff da. I’ll admit, marriage has made me more careful with my words, especially at home. As a med school wife, I didn’t really know what I was supposed to do to “support” Dr. Wile E. Coyote in med school, like everyone said was my job. I even freaked out a little bit because I just needed to know what that looked like. But then I realized, that I could just be me! Every time I encourage Doug, I see how my words affect him. If I’m crabby and in a pity-party, it’s a good thing he’s there to pull me up. And vice versa. If he’s in a pity-party about this or that, I take it upon myself to pull him out and give him a smile and a laugh.   Words. Get ready for some examples (because I like thinking that way).

Image from http://evanmoneyleadership.com/change-your-words-and-change-your-life/  (This is a good blog read, too!)
Image from http://evanmoneyleadership.com/change-your-words-and-change-your-life/
(This is a good blog read, too!)

While touring the Vatican with my family this last December, I rented a wheelchair (which was smart, because I wouldn’t have been able to do all that walking, especially because we’d seen so many Italian things already!). Every time we would get to some stairs, we’d turn around and backtrack until we found a lift that could get me in the wheelchair on another floor. To get to the Sistine Chapel, there was a very slow lift that could bring a chair down. The security on each end of the hall would halt all traffic for the wheelchair to get through, and then they would go again until another wheelchair came by. We had to wait a while for the lift, and I was just looking around. My sister, Laura, spoke up. “Anna, don’t you DARE feel bad about being in a wheelchair. None of us mind, really! Anna? Don’t you dare.” How did she know? Of course I was feeling bad! About how much strength it took Dr. Wile E. Coyote to push me up a ramp, or the fact that we had to backtrack so many times!? But Laura was right. Why should I feel guilty about having to use a wheelchair, when it was such a benefit? Yes, I hated it. I’ve always hated wheelchairs, because my dang pride is so big, and being in a wheelchair admits defeat. But really, it was the best thing. No, I wouldn’t have been able to walk the whole thing. Especially after all the walking we had already been doing that week, and all the walking that we still had to do in the upcoming week of our European vaca! Laura’s words meant a lot and did a lot for me.

The encouragement that Dr. Coyote gives me when it comes to my Mary Kay business is incredible. He believes in me when I have trouble believing in myself. I love the encouragement I get from my friends who are also in Mary Kay, as well! God is using Mary Kay to teach me MANY things. This includes the power of words. If I tell myself that I’m going to advance into this next leadership position, I will. But if I tell myself that I can’t do it, I paralyze myself and I won’t be able to do it. (Good thing I’m going to, anyway!)

I meet my friend Erika for coffee every Tuesday morning. It is SO uplifting. We tell each other about how our weeks are going, and then we’re just there for each other. I love our Christian fellowship, where we can just speak life to each other! I am always open to having coffee dates with more friends, they just have to respond to my text messages….. And when I tell somebody “We should get coffee sometime!” I am not one of those people who says it and then thinks differently. When somebody says that to me, I immediately want to put it down in my datebook. Because I LOVE talking with someone one-on-one. It’s where I THRIVE!

Words. Chatter. Emails. Letters, even. Love them! I am intentional about my relationships with people. God has been telling me this week that I need to focus more on relationships with people where I live, in Eastern KY. See? Even he says encouraging things to me.

How have words positively affected you? I’d love to hear some of YOUR examples!

The Spoon Theory

“The Spoon Theory” was thought up by an individual with Lupus. It always makes me sad to think about, because I don’t have to plan life as much as she does. She has to plan around her ability to button shirts in the morning or take extra time to look presentable if there are bruises on her arms or if her hair is falling out. You can view her original story here. Anyway, I was thinking about this as I read the article to Dr. Wile E. Coyote yesterday morning, and I wanted to create my own spoon theory. Anyone who is physically disabled or has an illness such as MS, fibromyalgia, Lupus, no matter how severe or not, can relate to the Spoon Theory.

spoonEach spoon represents energy that I have in my day. People who are not sick have an unlimited number of spoons, and even if they use them all up in a day, many are regained with a good night’s sleep. This analogy also works well with a gas tank, that once you run out, it takes another night’s sleep to gain it back. But for the sake of this post, I will stick to spoons.

I’ll begin this illustration by handing you, my reader, twelve spoons.

“Only 12?” You ask suspiciously. Yes. Only 12. Let us begin the day.

At 2, 4, and 7 am, we get up to go to the bathroom, so it is really hard to get up later. Luckily, I do not work in the morning, so if I don’t get up until 8:30 or 9, it’s okay. But I’m already behind. But I have 12 spoons. At 8:47am, I get out of bed. I get up, shuffle through the clothes in my closet, and get dressed. I go to the bathroom to take my medicine, brush my teeth, put on some makeup, and just in general be ready for the day. I then go and put a bowl and some cereal on the table, make a pot of coffee, and sit down to eat breakfast. Oops, there are only 11 spoons in our hands now. I was standing for much too long this morning. Unlike others who have central nervous system diseases, I don’t notice when a spoon is missing until I sit down and relax for a moment. You can see how this may be hard when I am go-go-go for too long. It also doesn’t help how stubborn I am at times.

After breakfast, I sit down with my Bible, journal, and cup of coffee to spend some quality time with Jesus. I love doing this daily for a few reasons: 1) It starts off my day with eternal thinking, which always puts me in a better mindset when it comes to other things. And 2) It doesn’t cost a spoon. : ) Then I go ahead and do some chores. I put some clothes in the wash, and I decide to get some supper started in the crock pot while I’m up and on my feet right now. If I went and sat back down now, I would not lose a spoon, but because I have all this energy and am motivated and already here, I shall continue—but I lost another spoon. After supper is started and clothes are put in the drier some 20 minutes later, I sit back down in my spot to rest and catch up on some writing or reading or something else on my computer. I have 10 spoons. I wanted to go shopping today, but I also have to work today. Shopping usually costs about 3 spoons, so I decide to go tomorrow. We’re out of milk, but Dr. Coyote will make eggs or something for breakfast for himself. Shoot, we’re out of eggs, too. “Well, then, I shouldn’t have done laundry and started supper if I wanted to do all those things today!” I say frustratedly to myself. I look at my schedule the rest of the day and plan it out.

I leave at 11am to go grocery shopping, and after I decide something, I’ll do it, even if I…shouldn’t. If I leave at 11, I know Dr. Coyote will be out of class in time to help me unload groceries (because I texted him as I left). But as I’m grocery shopping, I have to back track because I forgot that something on my list was in the second aisle, not the second-to-last like in my hometown. I skipped getting another thing that I really did forget on my list simply because I didn’t want to lose another spoon. I have 6 spoons when I get inside the hot car, and 5 spoons before the car cools down enough where I feel like I’m breathing fresh air and my body temp goes down.

As soon as I get home, I climb the stairs with eggs in my hand, put the eggs away, and sit down, exhausted, with 4 spoons left. I didn’t take as long as I thought I might, so it’s not even noon yet when I crash. I listen as Dr. Coyote gets home and heads right for the car, taking as many groceries in his hands each trip as he can. He then starts putting groceries away (because he is such a sweet guy like that). At 12:18, I get up to help with the last few things. I now have 5 spoons again, because that sitting break is exactly what I needed.

“What do you want for lunch?” I ask my husband. He has to leave for class again at 12:55, so that doesn’t leave us much time. Had I not went grocery shopping, I could have had lunch started, or even finished by now. I beat myself for it, but Dr. Coyote tells me to go sit down again, because he has an idea for lunch.

I join Dr. Coyote at the table as he finishes putting together salads on two different plates, thanking him for carrying up the groceries and for making lunch. We eat and visit. I still have 5 spoons left, but I think I can get another back before I need to go to work.

That is just the first half of my day, but I do have to plan a little more. These are some recent examples of some harder days I’ve had. But I learn from my mistakes. I haven’t always planned enough in my day, but I know what I can and cannot do. Unfortunately, I’ve had to learn a lot of that through trial-and-error, but I don’t make the same mistakes forever. I’m not always aware when I’ve just dropped a spoon or took one away until after it has happened. Sometimes, I take tomorrow’s spoons by mistake, and have a harder day tomorrow.

Dr. Wile E. Coyote is learning more about MS in me and MS in general, as well. I share with him little bits, but it wasn’t until I read him the original spoon theory article that he really understood. Reading articles from the MS Society, I do know that people who have MS use 5x more energy than people without. We have to think as we walk. I have a limp, and need to lift up my left leg, even when it feels s o   h e a v y at times.

In an article I read by Cathy Chester yesterday morning, I learned that there are a few different kinds of fatigue. There is primary MS fatigue, which Chester described as “waking up feeling somewhat energized, then feeling tired in the afternoon and less tired in the evening.”  There are also different forms of secondary MS fatigue. Nerve fiber fatigue is when you are doing something, like walking or playing the piano, and suddenly your legs or your fingers feel weak. Both of these happen to me personally. There is fatigue of walking with a disability, which I have already discussed. There is fatigue caused by disrupted sleep. I have experienced this, as well, as urinary problems and other digestive problems have woken me up in the night repeatedly. To learn more about MS fatigue and what you can do about it, read the article I read yesterday here. I have found that planning, as well as rest breaks, work for me. I have jobs where I can sit while I work, and I have family, friends, and an amazing husband who will all help me out when needed. They don’t even know when they step up and rescue me, but God knows what I need and makes sure I get it.

I felt like I should write this so that my friends and family can understand me better. I have told this story to one friend, who had tears in her eyes as I finished, because she simply hadn’t understood before. I don’t want people to always feel like they need to help me, because I am independent and can do plenty of things on my own. But when I can’t do everything that one might expect, this is why. I haven’t completely understood how to explain, nor have I wanted the sympathy that stories like this sometimes bring. But I have come to a place where I would just like you to understand.

I’d like to hear from you: If you have an illness, do you have to plan your day around your illness? What kinds of things do you do to help yourself? If you don’t have an illness, does the spoon theory help you understand other illnesses better?

With love,

Anna Meyer

My 10th Celebration of Life

On this day ten years ago….my mother and I traveled an hour away from my hometown to visit my neurologist to receive my official diagnosis. The results from the spinal tap had come back, and finally, Dr. Nelson would tell us for sure if I had a pinched nerve, MS, or a brain tumor. He had given all three of these as possibilities as to why my entire left side had stopped working normally, but his theory was that I most likely had MS. That is what we knew before we got to Wilmar, MN. I was CONVINCED that it was nothing but a pinched nerve, and for some unknown reason my name had been on the prayer list at church for the last few weeks.

On that day, ten years ago, I was officially diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I was started on some medical steroids, and I was shown how to use the Autoject for my three-times-weekly medicine shots, just under the skin. (It would be another year before I gave myself those shots….and, of course, I was bribed—because what other way is there for a kid to be willing to do something unless they get something in return?)

Since my diagnosis, we have called the anniversary of that day my “celebration of life.” It is the day when I can look back on a year and see all the things I have been able to do, even though I have MS. On this ten-year anniversary of this life-altering diagnosis, I reflect on the things I have accomplished in my life!

1. I’ve been on all sorts of cool vacations and stuff.

Who cares if I had to rent a wheelchair to go Disneyworld? I went to Disneyworld! I’ve also rented wheelchairs at zoos, and even the Minnesota State Fair. Those places take a lot of walking, and I don’t quite have the energy to walk all that way. But I still got to experience it and enjoy my visits! Those places, by the way, have been the only ones I rented a wheelchair for. I can still walk! ….just not super far. I’ve been to the Wisconsin Dells and the Black Hills of South Dakota, just doing the tourist thing because I could. In high school, I went to a youth gathering with a church denomination, and had an AWESOME time with my cousin Jenni and my aunt Sheryl! In college, I went on TWO summer mission projects. Just because I have MS, doesn’t mean I can’t have fun! So I have to plan a little extra, and the south is typically a bad idea in the summer. I STILL LIVE LIFE.

2. In middle school, there were no cheerleaders, and I wanted to be one, so I petitioned and found a coach for middle school basketball cheerleaders!

The January after my diagnosis. I am second from the right, front row. You know, the one with the big smile?
The January after my diagnosis. I am second from the right, front row. You know, the one with the big smile?

We were moderately good. Our most difficult move was when one cheerleader stood on the thighs of two other cheerleaders, but we stayed safe. I wasn’t really into watching sports, but I did notice that when our middle school teams had cheerleaders, the whole “crowd” was pretty riled up. You know, for a middle school game. Smiley face. Of course, this cheerleading team kind of left the middle school when I did. I always wanted to be a cheerleader. Our high school had football cheerleading, but by that time, I just wanted to play in the pep band. (We see why I became a music major?)

I was also on the golf team for a few years before the walking became too much for me and I acknowledged that I wasn’t that great.  But it was fun!

3. I got my black belt!

Actually, I started Tae Kwon Do in 4th grade.  In 7th grade, I got my junior  black belt.  I was diagnosed with MS in 8th grade.  In 9th grade, I got my 2nd degree junior black belt.  After I turned 16, sophomore year, I got my first degree adult black belt.  And senior year, I got my second degree adult black belt!  I was involved in Tae Kwon Do for 8 years; 5 of those years after having MS.  I remember difficulty in my first tournament after being diagnosed, but then I just focused on what I COULD do instead of what I COULDN’T.  I taught and I was a referee as my level advanced.  I became inactive in TKD after I graduated high school, but I will always be a second degree black belt!

4. I finished high school AND college.

One of my college professors once told me that he had never seen such determination in a student. So I wasn’t the best. Who cares? I did as best I could. I was DETERMINED to finish well and I learned a ton while in those college years. I wrote a post about what MS has taught me over the last decade or so here.

5. I played a senior recital of percussion music.

At that time in my life, I had skill, because I was playing on these instruments all the time. I played a piece on the marimba, the timpani, some toms (drums), the vibraphone, and even flower pots! (Videos of all these can be seen on YouTube.) I loved that season in my life, when I could go from instrument to instrument in the percussion section in an empty band room and just PLAY.

6. I’ve had a “grown-up job” since I graduated.

Even before I graduated, I’ve been giving private lessons. According to some of my other music-major friends, I wasn’t charging enough, but still. As soon as I graduated, I got on the substitute teacher list for a few different school districts. And when I got to Kentucky, of course, I began working at a music store—giving lessons! And now I’ve started up this Mary Kay business! Before I was married, I paid my own rent, bought my own food, and loved when Mom and Dad came to Sioux Falls to take me grocery shopping. And now, I don’t get many visits from Mom and Dad (because I currently live, like, 20 hours away), but I still get care packages of coffee brands that aren’t sold in the south. (Thanks, mom!)

7. I’ve written, like, four novels.

Only one I’ve written is decent enough for me to want to publish it, but I do want to publish it! [2015 edit: you can find my first book here.] I also write shortstories and blog posts all the time. And other little things when I feel like it. I’ve kept a journal since I was diagnosed! And things have just kept moving from there. I don’t believe they will ever stop, either.

8. I wrote music for a class in college and directed an ensemble playing it in church one time.

So I maybe didn’t take into consideration that band instruments play better in flats than sharps. And that high school students can’t pick up music as fast as college students. But I was so proud of that piece! I even published my college friends and I playing the piece here on YouTube.

9. I GOT MARRIED!

My handsome groom and I at our wedding this last July.
My handsome groom and I at our wedding this last July.

Just this last summer, if you are keeping up with me at all on this blog. (I’ve kinda talked about it a lot….) Never did I ever think I would meet a man who saw ME past the MS that has been so apparent in my life. I have a limp, which is the most obvious symptom to the world and the first turn-off to anybody who sees that instead of me first (which is pretty much everybody). But Dr. Wile E. Coyote, while he notices my limp, only notices if it’s a bad day or a good day and helps me stretch sometimes. Or if he’s walking with me, and I pull him around. (He’s not as sturdy as my sisters when they’ve walked with me, hehe.) I love Dr. Coyote, my best friend, and he is what I need. But God knew that. And I am privileged to be starting this med school journey with him and trusting the Lord until graduation, and beyond! (Like, forever. Every. Minute.)

10. I have become stronger than I thought possible.

Physically, mentally, and emotionally. I have had to push past the limits of where I would want to quit because something is hard. Being diagnosed so young (at 13), I had to face many decisions and situations that most teens shouldn’t have to face. I thank the good Lord for my always-supportive family who helped me so much!

On this day in ten years, who knows what things I’ll accomplish that I’ll be able to remember? The thing about having MS is that though we have to plan a little more, sometimes sleep a little more, and maybe be careful of what activities we chose to partake in, we still live normal lives. I haven’t felt normal for years, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I would love to wake up one day and the Lord tell me, “You’re cured!” But I know that when people see me walking with a limp, unphased, it brings God more glory.

Anna E Meyer

So I’ve talked about what I’ve learned and what I’ve done, MS wise. What else would you all like to know (MS-wise)?

How MS Changed My Life (For the Better)

I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when I was 13 years old. When I started the testing for everything (MRI, spinal tap, bloodwork, etc), I thought nothing of it. But then I was diagnosed with MS. Those two letters are pretty powerful. Mood swings are a symptom, and I always laugh when I’m taking a poll or something and somebody asks if mood swings got worse with my MS diagnosis. HELLO! I WAS IN PUBERTY! Hehe. But it did hit me pretty hard. I have posts about my diagnosis on this blog, so I’ll just skip to how it has changed my life.

1. It has forced me to rely on God and to trust him way more than I would have otherwise.

My faith has grown SO MUCH. I have very little control over this MS. I can do things to try and keep my body happy, like stretch or exercise, but I don’t have control over spasticity in my leg muscle or when my fingers will get tired or numb. Those things just happen. I have had to rely on the Lord to give me physical strength and energy when I have none. When I just want to crawl back into bed and skip the day, the Lord gives me exactly what I need. I’ve compared my MS with a thorn in my flesh before, but I don’t think of it that way anymore. Yes, it’s there, but it doesn’t always have to have an impact on every single thing that I do. Yes, I do take it into consideration when I’m asked to go for a walk and I reply, “Ehhhhhhh, I shouldn’t,” because I know what the next hours might feel like.
God is my physical, emotional, and spiritual strength when I have none. The MS has shown me I don’t always have physical strength. But, like the parables that Jesus was so good at telling, I have been able to relate it to my emotional and spiritual strength, as well. God is pretty sneaky like that.

2. It has allowed me to see what negativity can become, and weighed in my decision to be happy and positive all the time.

The MS community is split, sadly to say. About half of them cry, “Woe is me!” and have allowed the MS and depression to take over their lives. They are sick with a disease that is ruining their life. Nobody understands. Life sucks, let me drown in the sea of despair. The other half allows positivity to reverberate off of them, no matter what. These are the people that others who have never even heard of MS, look at and they say, “Now there is someone who I’d like to hang out with. Even though she’s in a wheelchair (or uses a cane or walks funny on her own or all these other things that MS can cause), she is a happy person. What an inspiration.”
I have been in the negativity boat. It is heavy, and doesn’t flow easily. It struggles to do everything, and there are many tears that cause the boat to start sinking in the water around it as it takes on water. But I have decided that while sometimes, pity-parties are what a person feels like they need, I don’t want to weigh the world down. I want to lift it up! (Pity parties DO affect others, whether we think they do or not!)

3. It has forced me to come out of my shell.

Kudos to my mother, who made me start talking to doctors and neurologists about what’s going on right away. Although I told her everything, I needed to learn to speak up for myself. I also needed to learn to defend myself, stand up for myself, and not let other people’s opinions be mine. I definitely did that. Now I’m the odd person who walks up to a stranger and says, “Hi. I don’t know you.” I will tell complete strangers about my MS and when they try to pity me, I will shrug and come up with a sassy comeback (that never gets out of my mouth, but in my head, it shuts them down). People can think what they want to think. But the people that know me realize that there is NOTHING to pity. I tell ya, some people!

4. It allowed me to see other people’s hearts first.

Most people, when they first meet me or see me walking on the street, see my limp. At least the people who look on the outside first. I had a bible study leader who once told me he’d never noticed my limp before. Because he looked at my heart. I like people’s hearts more than I like physical appearances. That’s what I see first. And you really ask me how I landed such a great guy? Hint: he saw my heart first, too. We actually fell for each others’ hearts before the rest of us. But, mmhmm. His heart is one sexy organ. And it’s MINE! 🙂

5. It has made me totally empathetic with illnesses and people who are not in the “norm.”

The people who society looks down upon and judges? I see them. I know what it’s like to be judged, and part of that feeling makes me feel a connection with that person, even if they don’t realize it’s there. I have no idea if it’s related or not, but I have a soft spot when working with kids, as well. So not all of them are at the same levels. I teach beginners and advanced students that range all ages. And it’s not always the older ones who are so advanced. Someone has a learning or other physical disability? We’ll work around it. Someone’s self-esteem is shaken? We’ll fix it. Too young? Too old? No such thing. I’m a friend to all, and I will teach anybody. MS? ALS? Autism? Cancer? Who cares. Let’s teach them something!
And I’m sorry for the people who are used to getting special treatment because of some condition. Who are seen by everyone as one way. Because I will see beyond. I believe this is what makes me a good teacher. And giving one-on-one lessons is my FAVORITE.

6. For some reason, my love of writing has been growing!

I don’t know if this is related to the MS or not, but I have been writing a lot more than otherwise. Nobody likes to listen to complaining, so I started writing about it in a journal. I wrote stories about it and overcame some of my own struggles through my characters. And now I write about all sorts of things. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that I can write from a seated position, because I get so tired on my feet all the time. I’ve always embraced the idea that, “I CAN do this now, so I WILL do this until I can’t.” That is why I happily finished my music ed degree and looked forward to being a teacher. Not because I’d be able to do it forever, because I don’t know the future. But because I liked it and I can do it NOW. Which leads me to

7. It has allowed me to value the NOW like never before.

Right now, I can type and write and walk and climb stairs and drive and work. I don’t know what my body will do tomorrow, or in 5 years. Maybe I won’t be able to do half those things. Maybe I’ll be able to do more than I can now. I have no control, and no idea. But right now, I can. That’s all that matters. Right now, I could WALK down the aisle to marry my love. Right now, I can support him as he’s in med school, because right now, that is where we’re at. Years from now, I don’t know where we’ll be living or what I’ll be doing. So right now, we are plugged in to a church. Right now, we are making a lot of close friends. Right now, we are involved in other people’s lives because right now, we may be at the same stages or at the same church or simply in the same neighborhood. Right NOW.

8. Since I was diagnosed, I’ve become an MS Activist.

When I was in middle school and high school, I was in the MS Walk and raised all kind of money for MS research. Since then I have become too busy for the walk (and I don’t have the same connections I did), but I educate as many people as I can about the disease. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge raised awareness and millions of dollars for ALS research. What challenge does anybody have cooked up for MS? Because I am excited to jump on board!

These are a few of the things that came to my head as I was thinking about the MS I have. Dr. Wile E. Coyote is actually learning about the central nervous system and nerves and all sorts of things that he’s been able to connect to MS, and he understands it better in that medical way. With all his resources, he has also been able to see what is up with MS research and what researchers are looking into. Apparently, they are looking deep into genetics, because there is something related to that. But that’s not ALL. It is so interesting listening to Dr. Coyote talk about the stuff he’s learning. Of course, when he starts talking, using all scientific terms, I know he’s no longer talking to me and can tune him out. (He’s only been in school a few months and I’ve learned that!)

Do you or have MS? How has it changed your life? Do you know someone with MS? How has it changed YOUR life, watching them? Do you see changes in their life?

Anna E. Meyer

Depression, MS, and Wit in a Poem

It tiptoes into peripheral sight,
And stays to take away the light.  
The darkness makes its home there;
Until you realize you were unaware.  

But I didn’t notice this until
I found myself climbing up the hill!
The flat and happy ground was green,
But this hill is dry and brown and mean.

Depression sneaks up to the unsuspecting;
It makes one think they are the one rejecting.  

It causes feelings that don’t belong,
It places monotone where there once was song.
This hemeola of emotions, this fighting of sorts
Leads to modulation that’s unwelcome, of course!

One day I’ll be down, and the next snap out of it.
It’s like this other unpredictable disease a bit.  
Depression is a symptom of MS, as well.  
Which is just my luck– but I won’t dwell!  

If it gets bad enough I’ll go see my doc.
But coming out myself wouldn’t be a shock.
Just like everything else I’ve been given,
I’m too busy to notice it–I’m livin’!  

So before you go and hand me your pity,
Allow me to give you an answer that’s wity:
I may not be from Mississippi, have a master’s degree or be a medical specialist,
But I AM Mega Smart, Mighty Sarcastic, and Marvelously Sweet.  
Just ask my sister mom husband. (We still qualify as “newlyweds.”) 

Things in Lists

Things I Find Easy:
– Being happy when Dr. Wile E. Coyote comes home for lunch and seeing him when we’re both at home in the evening (which, such as last night, was 9pm. Other times I’m home.  Other times I’m at work and it’s like 6 or 7).
– Writing Christian-based stories, poems, and blogs (and, if you’ve been following my blog here for awhile, may have seen a few stories and poems here and there, also! Feel free to check out the archives).
– Sleeping in our super-duper comfy bed (thanks, Papa Meyer!).

Things I Find Difficult:
– Remembering that my husband loves cell biology and is also a neat freak because of it (thus, the farm girl in me who doesn’t mind dirt and fat in meats gets only a tad annoyed).
– Researching agents who represent christian authors (and trying to figure out how to go about this whole “publishing” thing).
– Being a morning person after much disrupted sleep (because the whole symptom thing kind of stinks).

Things I Find Often:
– That I like to pray for my husband because God is super faithful.
– That I  looooove to write (and make lists, apparently) — I can’t stop, even if I tried.
– That I notice the MS, especially when I forget about a few of the exercises.

Things I Find Sometimes:
– A crabby husband (but don’t worry, he’s usually good at letting me in on why he’s stressed and a little….uncooperative?  Then I can help).
– An empty notebook (you know, the college-ruled kind that is on sale right now for back to school stuff.  *cough*).
– Stretching works!

Things I Find More Often Than I Thought I Would:
– An Anna hug when needed eases some stress and brings comfort; a Doug hug when needed is a release of tension and anxiety and no-more-words-just-ahhh.
– More than one book on our bookshelf by one author.
– Stretching works.

Things I Plan on Finding:
– Date night every week (smiley face).
– A whole lot of students that I can teach something at my music lesson job!
– A helpful exercise routine that my PTs keep telling me about..

Things I Hope to Find:
– Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment is amazing!
– An agent who is interested in selling my book!?
– What? Not even strangers notice the MS?

 

Other Things to Update You With:

– Dr. Wile E. Coyote is adapting to this med-student thing, and by next year, he’ll have it down.

– Work for me at Sound House Music has picked up a bit (and we expect it to pick up more with school starting and word getting out that I can teach all percussion, brass, woodwind, and piano).

– I have an infusion scheduled for Friday because THE ORDERS FOR MY MEDS CAME IN (after three weeks to a month of this hassle, mind you, but it did come!).

 

Sign-Offs:

– Peace out.

– Love you all!

– I like lists.

Anna

Cloud 9 has just landed in the real world. Gulp.

Today, it hit us.  All these changes?  Everything that’s going on?  Here is what we’re dealing with this year: first year of marriage, first year in a new culture, first year of med school, first year of my job.  New friends, new church family, new place to live.  All of this is catching up and trying to drag us down.  We’re not used to being married yet.  We’ve been married for a little over a month.  We broke down Dr. Wile E. Coyote’s schedule yesterday, and it looked great on paper.  But today, the FIRST day, it is a whole lot harder than it first seemed.  I don’t like when Dr. Coyote puts so much pressure on himself, and is that normal for med students?  And the headache that always comes with switching infusion sites, sending orders, and getting authorization AND insurance right where they are supposed to be has arrived.  I have gone more than two weeks past the last time I was supposed to recieve my medicine, and my symptoms are getting worse.  I have to be extra careful now.
But you know what?  It wasn’t long after we got here that we found friends and a church family.  They already love us and lift us up in prayer– I’m speechless.  And all the people at home that are praying for us?  We are so blessed.  I feel like that has been the theme of my life as of late: seeing all of God’s blessings in my life.  And, to top it all off, I started reading Ephesians today.  God chose us and predestined us as his adopted children.  He lavishes his grace upon us all, and we, his children, have access to his mighty power!  God takes every trial or bad thing that happens to us and uses it for his glory!  Not even the best author ever could do that!  Just God.  God, who loved us so much that he sent his son, who came to us and taught us and DIED for us.  When I love someone and I don’t see them for awhile, I might send them a Christmas card, but this?  Unheard of.  Everything God’s about is totally opposite of this world, and it’s quite amazing.
I have been warned by Dr. Wile E. Coyote himself that his appetite will be going through the roof (make four servings of every meal- two for Dr. Coyote during dinner, one for me during dinner, and one for my lunch the next day.  Got it!).  I have also been noticing that he is the best procrastinator ever (he is currently running a neck ahead of one of my sisters, who won’t read this blog post anyway).  Reason numero uno why he left his video game systems at home.  My husband is going to be an awesome doctor once he finishes up this adventure that he just began.  He is the only one I know that tells me excitedly, “I love this.  It’s biology all the time! Woo!”  He came home for lunch today, and I didn’t even get a chance to say much, because he was excitedly telling me what he had been learning that morning.  Everyone nerds out about something.  (What do YOU nerd out about?)
Prayers would be much appreciated for Dr. Wile E. Coyote and his studying, my MS, and my job.  We are trying to be spouses to each other at the same time as encourage one another and get things done.

I love you all, my readers!
Anna

Dating Someone with MS

I asked Dr. Wile E. Coyote to write a guest blog of his experiences dating someone with MS (hence the title) after I wrote this post about the importance of relationships while having MS. Oh, and have I told you, my readers, that I am marrying this man in like, two weeks?  🙂  Enjoy!  -Anna

 

I don’t know everything. I don’t know everything. I don’t know everything. I don’t know everything. I don’t know everything. I don’t know everything. I don’t know everything. This is the phrase that really humbled me and really began to sink in when starting to date Anna. She has a disorder called multiple sclerosis (MS). So what is it like dating someone with MS? I’m not sure if it is the same for everyone because every person is different, every relationship is different, and MS varies drastically from person to person, but I pray that sharing my experiences a little will help people out there understand what it can be like. Anna’s blog is so encouraging and I don’t want to stop that trend with this. I love you Anna! 🙂

 

The summer after I graduated college is when I really started thinking a lot more about moving our friendship to something more. Anna had shared with me glimpses of her MS and some personal things in day to day living that she struggled with, but not a whole lot of the deep stuff and really personal ways it had and has affected her. I’m not sure if it was soon after we started dating or right before (we will say right after to make things more consistent) I started getting afraid. What if we can never have children? What if she gets the JC virus and becomes a vegetable before we even get married or during our marriage? What if we can never have sex or it won’t be the same because of her MS? What if we can never run or walk together, because I like to run? Can I handle taking care of her in the future if things get worse? Am I ok sacrificing my dreams of being a doctor and beyond to take care of Anna if needed? What if she ends up in a nursing home really young? Can I be there to support her through all this? These are just a handful of the questions that would fly through my head. To add to this fear, my dad would ask questions like, “Do you feel like you will be missing out on some things in life by pursing a marriage with Anna?” Little did he know that was a very bad question to ask that made me doubt if my family even supported my relationship with Anna (not sure if he meant it that way, but that’s how I took it).

Additionally, my first time seeing Anna’s MS in action since we were dating was at her Mayo Clinic visit in Rochester. This was also our first time seeing each other in person for more than a day since summer 2011. This was August 2013. I was really nervous and tried my best to keep an open mind. Anna had described her limp to me multiple times, but to really see it was different. Well, up walked Anna and her mom, linked arms. We hugged and I got Anna’s arm and away we went. I was actually quite proud and giddy at this moment. Locking arms is kind of romantic. The doctor’s appointments raised a lot more questions, more out of curiosity, love, and concern, now. I am a born learner and observer though, especially when it comes to medical stuff and human body stuff.

Backtracking a little bit, leading up to the visit to Mayo with Anna, I did a lot of research and digging into her medicine Tysabri. This really triggered a lot of fears in me and my family when I shared some of the things I had learned with them. To put it simple, this medicine makes a person more at risk of getting infected by a virus known as the JC virus. This virus has the potential to turn someone very quickly into a vegetable with not much to stop it (at least that is what I remembered reading or what I perceived it as). *Disclaimer from Anna: the JC virus just means an increased risk for PML, the brain disease that can transform a human into a vegetable. D did his research months ago, and the risk for PML has also been getting smaller over time.* From what I remember, the odds are 1:1,000 of being infected while on the medicine. What was I getting myself into? For just starting to date a good friend, could I handle all this? Do I love her enough to be by her side if this happens? My doctor side kicked in as well and questioned whether there was other options of medicine (not knowing Anna’s whole story too well yet). So at the doctor’s appointment, her doctor never really mentioned if they found evidence of the JC virus infecting Anna or not. This scared the pants off me and really worried me because I wanted to hear it myself that everything was still okay. Anna and her mom weren’t too worried about it and tried to reassure me that no news was good news. I wasn’t convinced.

Basically, I made MS much larger in my head than it really is. It is a sucky disease, but by no means life threatening or aggressive (for Anna at least and most I know who have it). And with today’s research and medicines, can be controlled quite nicely along with its symptoms. Also, I distrusted Anna’s doctors and the LORD that the best decision was made for her to be on Tysabri. The LORD would protect her from getting the JC virus and has for about 6 years already. He would also give me all the strength and abilities I would need to take care of Anna how she needed it no matter what happened. He brought us together. He will help always.

Something else that made a difference for Anna and I was that I loved Anna for who she is before seeing her MS in full action. I loved her writings A LOT! I loved her optimism in the midst of MS struggles. I loved her musical talents. I loved her desire to hug people. I loved her relationship with Jesus and where they have gone together over time. I loved her spontaneous personality and go-get-um personality. I loved her Minnesotan and Olson dialect. I loved her many smiley faces. I loved her stubborness and affectionate nature. Okay, I love a lot of things about Anna and could go on for a long time with these things, but I must move on with this blog. Honestly, at Mayo clinic walking with her, I still saw her as Anna, not as someone to pity because they limp and have no sense of texture in their fingers. Not someone to feel sorry for because they have a life altering disease called MS and had it since 13 years old. How did I do that?

Two things really helped with this: 1) The love that Jesus has for me overflowed to the way I loved and saw Anna. 2) I had gotten to know who Anna was as a person for about 2 years through letters, emails, phone calls, and Skype. *Note from Anna: Skype didn’t start until summer of 2013. But spending, like, 4 hours at a time on a Skype call pretty much made up for that.* To see inside a person you have to get to know them. Talk to them. Ask them questions. Open up with them about your life and listen to them when they open up about their life. Then, you must remember that Jesus knows, created, uniquely designed, and loves that person and see that person with that same frame of mind.

So more about my experiences (sorry I tend to get more preachy then real). Walking with Anna is tough sometimes. We have to walk slower and I have to be more conscious of where I step or the space we have so we don’t walk off the street or on uneven ground (Anna can handle uneven ground or will walk on it anyway even if it really wasn’t worth it because of her stubborness or impatience). I never thought I would become a unit with Anna everywhere we went, but I grew to like the closeness. It actually made me kind of protective because I wasn’t sure if she could handle walking without support. Of course she reassured me often, sometimes I think biting her teeth, that she can.

On the note of protectiveness, I would be concerned for Anna a lot (and still am) when I don’t see her. She will tell me about her day of little energy or how bad she felt her walk was that day. She will tell me about getting super hot and not sure how she would continue with the day. She would tell me when any of her symptoms would flare up a little. This worried and worries me because I want to be there to support her all the time and be there to comfort her. I don’t want her to overdo it and burnout. I also want to see her care about her body and health as much as I do, so I encouraged her often to stretch and eat a little healthier (I still do both). Through this I learned a couple things and am still learning them. One, Jesus is always there to support, provide strength, and comfort Anna in her time of need. She knows this and looks to Jesus for that support. When we are married Jesus will use me to do this, but not always because her help is ultimately from Him, not me. Second, Anna has to make the decision herself to make lifestyle changes when it comes to her health. I can encourage her, but I can’t force it on her. Just like asking any person to change to or add healthy habits, that person has to find the motivation and need in themselves before the change will take place. I am learning to accept this and be patient with Anna’s decision making on her own health.

The toughest part about dating someone with MS is understanding the nature of the disease. I can never understand it because I can’t experience it without having it, but getting Anna to describe what happens to her body or how she feels in specific and analogical ways is extremely helpful. When I can go through a whole day even on low energy and still stay standing, Anna cannot. It took some time to learn her energy levels vary a lot because of fatigue and MS. I remember shopping at target together a few months ago registering items for our wedding. We walked around the store for a good 1.5 hours I would say. Anna had to stop and sit down. She was beat tired. I was fine. She was not. Also, Anna will get frustrated with her limp or energy swings often. She will try to push herself too far even though I may give her a very concerned look as I think, “I really don’t want you to overdo it.” I cannot fully understand the frustration inside. But I must let her work through it herself. I learned quickly to let Anna be stubborn if she is set out to be (at least to a point). I also learned that Anna is still an independent person. And like all people, needs help with certain things in life. Anna may need help balancing while walking a long distance. I may need help washing the dishes faster. I am not saying I learned this overnight, but trusting Anna that when she needs help, she will let me know. She is learning each day to ask for help when she needs it and it takes time for her to learn this. I try my best to be understanding of her learning processes.

This leads me to why Anna and I are complements. She is a get-r-done kind of person. I am a think-it-through kind of person. She has a disorder that forces her to slow down. I struggle with gettin-r-done when I need to. God has given me a spirit of understanding when it comes to people that is supernatural to me sometimes. I do not boast in this, for it is not of my own. This has helped me tremendously to understand Anna and her MS. I try to get into Anna’s world and perspective. I even looked up how much an average human leg ways to try to imagine what it would be like to limp like Anna. I sometimes think intently about what it is like to walk with a foot-drop and try to mimic it. I told Anna on a day or week when MS is made aware throughout the world, I will wear gloves and weights around my left leg, and potentially a device that forces my foot to extend so that I can experience at least somewhat close to what Anna does each day.

One more thing before I wrap it up. Psychologically, Anna has been to the depths of the dead sea and back. I count it a miracle she came back by God’s Great Grace. This scared me at first that this might happen again. But I see now it won’t. Anna now looks at only the potential for who she can be and what she can do. She loves people more than ever and pursues her dreams without letting MS stop her. Along these same lines, Anna has learned to deal with stares from those who don’t know her. I now get stares when with her. Maybe people pity me and her. Maybe I shine the light of Jesus that I love someone with a limp the way I do. Maybe they think I and/or Anna are both mentally handicapped. After a while, I learned not to care. I know I love Anna and I know who she really is. She is beautiful to me inside and out. A quick note on that: I honestly was kind of indifferent to Anna physically at first. But very quickly that changed. When I knew Anna on the inside, I think the inward beauty started transferring to how Anna appeared on the outside to me. Now she is my babe! And we are getting hitched in 13 days!

The past few days I have been wearing a bracelet Anna gave me that says, “I love someone with MS.” I use to look at that in pride, saying to myself, “That’s right.” or I would smile thinking of Anna. I still do the latter and as I wear it I think of the story Anna and I have to encourage and share with others about MS and our relationship. I am not perfect and do get impatient with Anna sometimes. I do have thoughts here and there entice me that I am missing out on something by marrying Anna. But I know that I will experience far better things then those things I am “missing out on” because I love Anna more than any person on this earth.

 

I hope this was encouraging and real.

 

Doug (AKA Dr. W. E. Coyote)

HOPE

Hope: noun (first definition) the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best

I took a quiz on Facebook today that told me in five simple questions what my happy word is, and it gave me HOPE. Normally, I take those Facebook quizzes for funsies and just laugh at the result. But I liked the description on this one: “You refuse to give up on anyone, including yourself. You see the best in others. You think happiness should be shared. You spread your message of optimism as much as possible. You will keep believing when everyone else has stopped. You think good will always prevail in the end. You believe if we trusted each other more, the world would be a better place. All we need is a little hope.”

I downloaded “e-sword” (basically, a really neat tool for studying the Bible in-depth, even though at first it looks like an old, ’90s computer program or something), and in the KJV, I looked up “hope” and got 130 matches. It’s interesting that modern translations substitute other words like “wait” or something. But the Hebrew dictionary entry for “hope” is this: “tiqvâh tik-vaw’ From qâvâh; literally a cord (as an attachment ); figuratively expectancy: – expectation ([-ted]), hope, live, thing that I long for.”

The word hope gives joy and expectancy. In the trinity, who is continually at work here in ways we can’t see; in the physical return of Christ. In each other. I do believe in sharing happiness with others. Smiles are contagious, you know. I can’t be in the doldrums longer than I want to because of my optimism (even before I was on anti-depressants and cried a lot and freaked….I still smiled, which is kind of weird when I think about it now). Hope is the word that was on those red rubber bracelets before the National MS Society decided that orange was a better color for their logo. Hope for a cure of MS and a better tomorrow. I have dreams and hopes for myself and for the way things will be. I hope to become an author (now with the name “Anna E. Meyer” instead of Olson, as I formerly wrote of often…smiley face). I hope to teach others of the subjects that I love—of music and playing it; of Christ and the many things I’ve learned and want to pass on; of simply living a hope-filled and a Christ-filled life. Because Christ is hope. He is my hope and the reason for my continued smile. It is he whom I trust, and my Minnesota-roots that have taught me to trust others, as well.

There is always a reason for hope. Even when life feels down or bad things happen, God is there. There is a silver lining. Hopes of mine have already become realities: my hope of a husband who loves me for me (well, that’s a month away still, but he loves me for me even now); my hope of writing for an audience (thanks to this blog and readers like you for my start), and my hope of a future, even with this blasted MS. I graduated college in 4 ½ years. I’m currently living in an apartment with three other roommates whom I love like sisters. And I’m getting married in a month! God is good.

Smiling,

Anna

What are your hopes? Have you seen hopes become realities?