Losing Touch, Finding Intimacy - repost from NY Times

Elizabeth Jameson, living with MS, wrote this most beautiful account of finding intamcy.  With her permission we are reposting to share with as many people as possible.  Thank you for helping us spread the word!    This is a REPRINT of NY Times Opinon with permission.

  
DISABILITY

Losing Touch, Finding Intimacy

I had come to believe I was unable to break through my physical disability. I was wrong.

By Elizabeth Jameson and Catherine Monahon
Ms. Jameson is a fine artist and writer living with multiple sclerosis. Ms. Monahon is an artist and writer.


Sept. 19, 2018

One of my oldest friends is here to visit. For as long as we’ve known each other, we’ve been in sync, weaving in and out of each other’s lives and reaching milestones together. We married our partners around the same time, went through law school and medical school at the same time, got pregnant with our sons in unison and lived as neighbors for years. Although we have visited each other frequently, time has slowly gotten away from us. I haven’t seen her in more than a year.

She gingerly lies down on the sofa while I sit nearby. She isn’t looking good. Thinner than I’ve ever seen her, weak and in pain. “How are you?” I ask.

“Well, I have cancer,” she says plainly. She changes the subject, not feeling the need to linger on her recent prognosis or to specify that it is terminal. All I want to do is hold her hand, rub her shoulders and tell her how much she means to me with a firm, loving touch. I stay distant from her, unable to move. I imagine stroking her hair or giving her a pillow to feel more comfortable, but I cannot do anything.

"Emerging"
by Elizabeth Jameson

Our conversation ebbs, flows, then trickles into silence; there is not much more to say.
She rests her hands on her stomach, where she holds the most pain. Five years ago, I would have bridged this silence with a gentle hug or touch. But I am stuck, immobile, unable to express my thoughts and feelings. I don’t allow myself to cry as we say our goodbyes.

When I lost the use of my hands, I lost my love language. I have multiple sclerosis, which has resulted in the loss of the use of my limbs. My disease progresses so slowly that I am caught by surprise when I can no longer do something. Little did I know I have been losing my range of motion by a fraction of a centimeter every day. Nerve by nerve, I lost the use of my legs, arms, wrists, hands, pointer finger, thumb.

I can’t tell you when exactly I became a quadriplegic, only that I know I am now a part of the club. My paralysis limits me down to my fingertips. I can’t operate my wheelchair, can’t hold a coffee cup, let alone someone’s hand — I can’t actively touch in any way. Like a fortress, my wheelchair is both impossible to leave and difficult to enter. If others want to reach out and touch me, it can be
intimidating to make the first move. It feels like there is a thick pane of glass separating me from the outside world, and because of my physical disability, I begin to believe that I am powerless to break through.

Over the years, I have tried to make a home out of my fortress, my glass bubble, uncomfortably settling into my grief. There are times when I feel connected to others, but in most situations, I become passive. I work hard to forget the joy of touching. I am a positive person, I tell myself, I can deal with this. I set up camp at the base of my Mount Everest and try not to glance up at what I am missing.But I feel the loss of touch as if it were a limb that has been severed from my body, an invisible, open wound I painstakingly cover up each day.

Lisa Jameson, artist, writer and living with MS

I am hyper‐aware of the moments when words are not enough. When touching someone’s hand is the only way I can truly communicate my feelings. When I can’t greet someone familiar by warmly placing my hand on their shoulder. Or when I know someone is sad, and it’s not appropriate to talk about what’s wrong; I can’t reassure them affectionately. It is like not being able to breathe. This loss, in combination with the guilt I feel when I grieve it, is overwhelming. I resign myself to the idea that I will never experience consensual, nourishing, intimate exchanges of touch in everyday life.

It is in this state of numbed resignation that an unexpected crack forms in the thick glass that has been separating me from “normal” people: A ray of light that reveals a world of intimacy I have been overlooking.

I am visiting with another friend at a coffee shop. My voice is weak and hard to hear in crowded spaces, so I use a voice amplifier. The amplifier has a microphone and a headset that make me look like an aerobics instructor who happens to be teaching in a wheelchair. I’ve got my headset in place, but when my friend leans in to hear me, it’s no use. My voice is too faint. I motion with my head toward the dial on the device, which can be turned up to make my voice louder. He tentatively discovers the dial, locking eyes with me to check the loudness of my voice. As I keep talking, he turns the dial up, then up and up some more until, yes, there, he can hear me. We nod and smile in unison, return to our conversation.

As he settles back into his chair, I feel lightheaded. By increasing the volume of my voice, he had turned up the very essence of “me.” The fact that he cared so much to hear me. That he took the time to learn how to connect with me.
I had rediscovered intimacy, without touch.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

 My mind continued to reel long after we said our goodbyes. Maybe I can experience intimacy, I thought. It’s just that the language of it all has just changed. I had to redefine intimacy for myself. What is it, without touch? The freedom to express myself. The joy of being recognized, seen, accepted, equal. Letting my guard down, no longer burdened by society’s version of me, by my version of me. The feeling when the stigmas of disability and illness are lifted. I eyed my version of Mount Everest, thinking that maybe there was a way for me to fully rejoin the living.

After that day in the coffee shop, intimate moments emerged from the fabric of my everyday life. I began to notice how friends, loved ones and total strangers could make me feel visible and whole in completely mundane ways. Appreciating them took my breath away: that someone driving my wheelchair is making love to me, that someone kneeling to my eye level is giving me a gentle caress, that someone feeding me is a joint experience of pleasure and tenderness.

Within the mundane there are beautiful surprises, too. On a busy day, before work, my husband pauses his morning routine to make me a poached egg, his specialty. Something he wants to make for me — I didn’t ask. A friend tries to feed me a cookie. He does it “wrong” at first, but the process of figuring out the best way is like an intricate dance. Over the holidays, a family member puts on Handel’s “Messiah,” music that I love and everyone else in the family finds annoying. They usually refuse to put it on, but this morning they play it just for me, blasting it so that I can hear the music through my bedroom wall.

I savored these moments, and as I did I was propelled and empowered by them. I realized I could play an active role — I could give as well as receive. So I took my intimacy into my own hands, even though I am still grieving what I cannot do. I leave base camp behind and begin my slow, labored ascent; the fluid, open concept of intimacy spurs me onward.

I have always loved food. I muster the courage to ask someone to join me for a luxurious, two‐ hour pastry‐eating session. We take the time to savor every crumb of a single pastry, eating at the same pace together, and I feel honored, loved.

I start seeing myself in others: I am a part of a tribe. Wheelchair users, people with multiple sclerosis, the elderly with canes and walkers, people struggling with aphasia or spinal cord injury. The list goes on and on. We are everywhere. I lock eyes with a 90‐year‐old man in a crowded elevator. He tips his hat to me with a warm smile. I see a woman with a mobility aide in the street and we grin at each other, comrades. Neighbors. Strangers. Visible, invisible.

I poke fun at my own disability, creating humor where there was once shame. When I’m drinking water, I have no way to stop, so when someone cracks a joke I laugh and spit water down my front. It’s humiliating, but hysterically funny at the same time. I have a damp front more often than not.
I now know intimacy can be everywhere. Moments I’ve noticed, received, created. You and I are sharing an intimate moment right now — because if you’ve gotten this far without turning away, you are a part of that exclusive tribe of people who truly see me.

But eventually, my quest for intimacy brings me back to the beginning. To touch.
My good friend is back to visit. We are trying to see each other more often — with less time left, it’s only natural. She lies on the sofa, and I verbalize all that I kept inside last time — how badly I want to stroke her hair, squeeze her hand, sit next to her. She smiles appreciatively, but moves the conversation along, not one to linger in the spotlight. She directs the conversation back to me.

We talk a bit more, and emboldened by my confession, I ask her if she would take my hand, if it isn’t too painful to move. Slowly, she sits up, and my caregiver rolls my chair as close to her as possible. She extends her hand, resting it in mine. We look at each other and breathe.




Elizabeth Jameson (@jamesonfineart) is a fine artist, writer and former civil rights lawyer. Catherine Monahon (@cxmdesigns) is a mixed‐media artist and writer. She collaborates with Ms. Jameson on writing projects.

Disability is a series of essays, art and opinion by and about people living with disabilities. The entire series can be found here. To reach the editors or submit an essay for consideration, write opinionator@nytimes.com and include “Disability” in the subject field.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTOpinion), and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.
4/4

I was just diagnosed with MS. Now what?

New to MS?  or want to feel better with your existing MS?   

There is so much to cover with this title which is why my new book is in production!   But in the meantime take a look at these comments and tips.  Most tips below are linked to articles that I have written as a Patient Expert, Health Journalist and Life Coach.  Please click on the link to see studies, articles and more.  

Become an MS Warrior


1.  Take a deep breath.  It will all be OK.  You are in for a change, but the levels vary for everyone.  Just know that things will get better and life will continue.  MS hits everyone different.  It will be important to be very compassionate toward yourself and your life as this disease unfolds.    

1.    Find a good neurologist – an MS specialist.
2.    Understand you are going through a change.
3.    Emotional balance may seem to slip away – seek help. 
4.    Talk with your MS Dr. regarding Disease Modifying Therapies (DMTs)more
5.    Love YourSelf!  Its good for MS!
6.  Check out My Favorite Resources Page - full of supplements that have worked for me.  

2.  Modifiable risk factors:

MRF's are choices we have control over. Things we can start or quit depending upon our needs.  While none of these in particular cause MS, there is substantial proof that the following actions are beneficial for MS patients:

1.    If you smoke cigarettes, quit. 
2.    Reduce, respect or quit alcohol.  
3.    Limit salt intake.
4.    Reduce, respect or quit caffeine
5.    Do not use artificial sweeteners such as aspartame  (excitotoxins)
6.    Take additional Vitamin D(if low)
7.    Take Vitamin B12 (if low)
8.    Take an NRF2 activatorsuch as Protandim™ to fight oxidative stress. 
9.    Eat a healthy diet.  Nutrition is everything!
10.Eat a diet high in fish
14.High-dose biotin and potential for MS. My FAVORITE high dose biotin is Myetin.  Click to Order. 
15.Creating your own health:  using diet and nutrition to help MS

My FAVORITE probiotic:  VisBiome.





3.  Alternative therapies that might interest you:

1.    Yoga
3.   Massage



4.  You may find these fact-checked articles and “MS connections” interesting:

1.    MS and Epstein Barr Virus
2.    MS and antidepressant
3.    MS and decision-making
4.    MS and Sunshine
5.     MS and stem cell treatment
6.     MS and brain stimulation
7.     MS and horseback riding
8.     MS and laughter therapy
9.     MS and sense of smell
10.  MS and Exercise



5.   Life-skills.  Tips  and articles.  

1.    Keep a health journal using Health Storylines APP
2.    Start a hand-written journal.  Handwriting is great therapy.  
3.    Build your support team.  Write down who is on your “Team”:  friends, family, doctors, pharmacist, nutritionist, massage therapist, yogi, God, whomever works for you. This list will grow and evolve during your MS.  
6.    Why me?  3steps to managing your angerwith MS.
7.    For better health, watch your words.  
8.    Can video games help MSsymptoms?  
9.    8 cooling and healing rituals for summer.
10.Get outside for 5 stress-busting exercises.  
11.Superhero saladrecipe for summer
12.3 recipesto help transition into spring. 





Contact me for any question!

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Guest Blog Post: Dr. Terry Wahls Recruiting for Diet Study


TWO MS DIET STUDIES are RECRUITING

MS Diet Study Research Opportunity Worldwide 
Many people with multiple sclerosis (MS) are very interested in dietary approaches to managing MS-related symptoms. 

Unfortunately, there is not a lot of research on which diet people should follow. Research has mostly focused on which supplements to take. Studying food choices and diet is much more complicated and equally as important. 



Right now there are two studies planned to examine if there specific diets that help reduce MS-related symptoms.

To find out the impact of specific diets, we need participants. Please consider enrolling in these two studies. 



  Dr. Terry Wahls  

1st STUDY:  Dietary Approaches to Treating MS-Related Fatigue 
Dr. Terry Wahls does clinical research at the University of Iowa, studying diet in the setting of multiple sclerosis. We are conducting an interventional study to understand how diet can affect fatigue. 

In our study we will be comparing the effectiveness of the low–saturated fat diet (Swank) and the modified Paleo (Wahls Elimination) for reducing the severity of MS-related fatigue symptoms and quality of life.   

The study lasts 36 weeks. We conduct baseline assessments and ask participants to continue eating their usual diet for 12 weeks, during which time there are repeat assessments. Then patients are randomized to one of the two study diets, trained on their assigned diet, and receive coaching calls to help them successfully adopt and sustain the study diet. There are repeat assessments 12 and 24 weeks later. 

We are currently recruiting participants and will continue recruiting through early 2019. Participants must have a diagnosis of relapsing-remitting MS, fatigue, and live within 500 miles of Iowa City, Iowa. This includes the states of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Wisconsin, and parts of Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. 

Individuals interested in being considered for enrollment in this study may complete screening questionnaires and use code JMJPYEJHP. 

For questions, please email MSDietStudy@healthcare.uiowa.edu or call 319-384-5002.



2nd Study:  Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Multiple Sclerosis  
The second study is an observational study being conducted at Bastyr University for people with MS, optic neuritis, or clinically isolated syndrome. The survey asks participants about their diet, complementary and alternative medicine use, current symptoms, and quality of life. 


Participants are asked to complete surveys twice a year. Because it follows people over time, this study can also help answer questions about which diet is associated with better quality of life and fewer MS-related symptoms. 

Also, because this is a survey-only study, people can participate from all over the globe. You can learn more about this study and complete the surveys using this link.

Please consider participating in these important studies and encourage others to consider participating as well. Changing clinical practice so dietary advice is part of the care for people with MS requires research that asks the question, “Can diet reduce MS disease severity?”  

We have two studies asking that question. MS researchers from around the globe including myself and the MS community are anxiously awaiting the results from these studies. I hope you’ll consider participating. 

We’d love to include you! 

Creating your own health: Using Diet & Nutrition to Treat MS

Probably one of my biggest factors in managing my MS symptoms is the use of diet and nutrition.  During my three years in the double-blind, T-cell study, back in 2001, my hopes were on nutrition and all things alternative.  I willingly went off all DMD in search of a cure for MS.  But then reality set in, and it was all engines forward in the battle of natural ways to fight the progression of this disease.

Sporting my flower peace wreath
There is a lot of incoming research on Diet and MS.  There are also some active clinical trials.

Click this out:  Here is my article on Diet as a treatment for multiple sclerosis.

Diet - or better yet, a nutritional protocol, is essential in my daily battle against MS.  If my daily intake has too much salt, too much caffeine, too much gluten, too many processed foods, then I will pay the price.  And while that price may not be paid that same day, trust you me that it will not forget and will rear its ugly head.  And, more often than not, all of the prices will want to be paid on the same day at the same time, wreaking complete havoc on your life.


Go for color when cooking and creating healthy menus 
Fresh lemon is key!  Use in water, tea, baths, etc.

 #refresh
Click here for my article on Diet as a treatment for multiple sclerosis.

Become friends with your body and find a new level of wellness.  

Welcome to living with multiple sclerosis.   As you know it often does not bode well for us MS patients.  Out diseases are random and progress willy nilly.  But there are modifiable risk factors that we can take into consideration to help us strive for the best life possible despite's our illness.  These risk factors include cigarette smoke, alcohol, nutrition, supplement intake, exercise, and other situations that we have control over.
~if need be - pee on it and walk away~

Cig smoking is bad.  Bottomline, cut it out.  Alcohol is considered OK in moderation.  Consult with your neurologist or medical expert.  Often people find that Vitamin D, B12 and Biotin can all be beneficial supplements.  In addition, the nrf2 activator, Protandim, is found to be great at fighting oxidative stress.

So, that brings us to Diet, or nutritional protocol.   Everyone is different so finding a protocol that works best for you is key.
Gluten free bread is an option.
Here it is paired with home-made soup and fresh salmon salad.
One person who is making a difference with diet and MS is Dr. Terry Wahls and her Wahl's Protocol. I had the great fortune of speaking with Dr. Wahls a few weeks ago for an article I was writing for Healthline.com - "Diet as a possible treatment for MS".   And wow!   So much great information going on with diet and MS.

The Wahl's Protocol is a modified paleolithic diet.  More about it click here. For those who do not know, Dr. Wahls has made diet a form of treatment for progressive MS.  Thank you Dr. Wahls!   I have been following and almost identical diet based on my own experience for over 15 years.  It is the number 1 "go to" when things are going bad with my MS.

And if you don't have fresh flowers, the fake ones are fun too!

First, I ask myself:  How is my diet?  Where am I going wrong?   And most of the time, this usually fixes it for m!   Like I say, everyone is different.  This is one reason I love the Wahl's Protocol - as it suggests elimination type diets to see what you personally are sensitive to and this is BIG!

Here is my article on Diet as a treatment for multiple sclerosis.

Here are some food common sensitivities:

Processed foods
Salt
Gluten
Red meat
Simple carbs
Sugar
Sodas
Diet anything / excitotoxins or NaStY for MS
Dairy....

FYI - I eat dairy.  Cheese.  I tried to take it out of my diet once and my boss told me to add it back as the rest of the staff was complaining about my horrid mood.  That was near 30 years ago and I haven't tried to remove it since~  I don't eat a lot of it but like it now and then.   I will willingly cut everything else out, before the cheese~

Lately I haven't been able to eat much meat.  My body, probably due to the warm summer months, is craving cooling salads and fresh fruit.  Unfortunately I like beer, especially in the summer months.  It's not the alcohol that bothers me but rather the carbs and gluten.  Talk about a weight gainer!  And then if I add bread....Oh dear save me.

Last winter I made the mistake of letting way too much beer, bread and gluten get into my diet.  Showing no restraint at all for about six months eventually led to a 15 pound weight gain, horrid dry skin and then the dreaded MS relapse!   Ugh.

My vertigo and vision got so bad that driving was out of the question...even just to a friends house.  Lethargic and inflamed my life consisted of laying in bed and "trying" to motivate.  Oh how I hate this feeling!   My skin was dry and eczema appeared all over.  Hair loss was abundant and my breath was so bad it even grossed me out.   What have I done?  So healthy last summer and then wowza, what a defeat brought on by my own weaknesses.

Time to make a change!

Feeling the summer spirit, light and fresh!
Nothing huge at first, just cut the carbs back down to no more than 10% of diet or so.  Eliminated processed foods again and removed gluten for the most part.  A little now and then does not bother me.  But a six pack of beer and loaf of bread is not considered moderation.   That's OK, the change feels good.

Back to juicing and healthy eating.  Beautiful summer produce combined with beans and grains cooked fresh are making the table.  Herbs from the garden and cheeses and meats from local farmers inspire this cook to create.


Some of recipes for your enjoyment:

Anti-inflammatory Rice Pudding

Obsessive Gaspacho 

Juice Recipes

Chia Pudding


Words of Advice:

Try different diets.  Work with nutritionists who understand MS and the different trending diets.  This is your health - it is your body.  Do not try whack-doodle eating schemes.  Try stuff that has worked for others, the key word being "try".  Give yourself a chance with different foods and see what you might be sensitive to.  Everyone is different!  

Add color and energy throughout your house with fresh flowers.
Here is my article on Diet as a treatment for multiple sclerosis.

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