Thursday, October 29, 2009

My addiction to fantasy

For some reason when I was about oh 8 years old I believe it was, I became addicted to fantasy settings. I can think of many catalysts to why this may have occurred. I had a second grade teacher named Mrs. Lucas whom I can scarcely remember much about. I know she was a large lady and everyone at first was frightened of her but she has a very pleasant mannerism about her and that soon faded. I remember she would turn off almost all the lights and sit in a rocking chair and read the hobbit to us. While I am pretty sure I only got about 10% of the story I still was pretty amazed with it. Then later when I was in 5th grade I went over to my friend Cindy Kline's house and played Dungeons and Dragons with her brother Mike Kline. And well that as we should say was the gateway drug that led me down the dark path.

Something about those years was magical in a way I could never put to words. As an adult I try to recapture those moments. In fact as I sit here and dream about a house I have to admit I also have a small dream of a basement with a long wooden table some creaky chairs and walls with book shelves filled with books. No I wont have to ask Mr. Engle the librarian for refuge in the basement, There wont be anyone leaping liberally onto the table doing fake fencing motions (unless I complete my evil plans to make one of my 2 children into a nerd like their old daddy) and it wont (I hope) have that slight mildew smell, but just maybe I can recapture some of those memories.

I don't know if I could cope today with the many issues I face daily were it not for the sense of imagination my parents thankfully allowed me to have. It is this same imagination I use to funnel into my writing, and I use to empower the many books I read, and I infuse into my gaming when the occasion arises to allow for it. It allows to make all those wonderful funny voices my kids love when I read and on occasion allows me to make my wife laugh at something I say. Being a dreamer allows me to sail past the negative and put the positive spin on things. Yes as I have grown older I have become more jaded and I still keep things in perspective but it allows me to overcome a lot of trials. If you will remember when I talked about the long hallway with blank walls and windows in a previous post. Well some of the windows in my hallway might have a dwarf wielding an axe charging down a nasty dragon. Or might be fondly recalling a great session from my high school days with fondness. Its there very windows I need when the needle is pressing into my spine, or I'm being shoved into a small tunnel for a MRI and 30 minutes of mind numbing pounding sounds every so many months. When I am leaning on the toilet after a nasty spell of throwing up, I can clear my mind and think of something my daughter said about her princess adventures.

So I guess in all this I am saying, I think god gave man and imagination to allow him to create things beyond reality. And to sometimes turn those dreams into reality. I think he also blessed us with it to allow us to focus past everything that is wrong in our life and instead recognize exactly how his blessings have made many of our dreams come true. The very brain that I curse because it doesn't let me leg work right or let me sleep, also lets me sail off to worlds unknown, tell wondrous stories to entertain friends and family and stores all these beautiful moments in life to recall with everything else around me is not going so well. I thank god for my my imagination, I thank my parents for never stifling me (ok maybe a little but lord knows where I would be if you didn't give me a reality check from time to time) and my wife for still putting up with me as I constantly flutter around trying to nail ideas down for the next game or my next story concept or my need to game on my computer or ps3. Most of all my children for reminding me from time to time where dreams begin.

Keep your chin up

Friday, October 23, 2009

The fine art of holding a conversation when you have CRS

Another problem that sometimes plagues us MSer's is the CRS disease. CRS or (can't remember Sh*t) is a problem for some of us as the centers that deal with short term memory get affected by our disease process. As aggravating as this may be for us, it is even more so for those around us that are holding a conversation with us. How many times have you been deeply involved relaying a story and poof its just gone. Worse yet, the other person looks at you expectingly, thinking perhaps this is a dramatic pause for effect or something. Fear not friends for there is a solution. And best of all, I learned this one from my wife.

If you are male, and married then you have probably created what I call the barrier of importance. Your brain already knows your wife is going to relate information to you that is them, but because our brain is smaller we have a built in safety mechanism to prevent us from storing to much information. Sorry guys, women know this. They have built in detectors that sound off "WARNING! WARNING! he is not paying attention to you" When their internal alarm sounds off what do they do? That is right, they ask a question. They ask this question to see if you were paying attention. The male mind sadly is not swift enough to do things like scan for details so you can parrot information back to them in paraphrase. Nope we are hosed when it comes to this. So ultimately, she knows you were not listening and at some point you will pay for your transgression.

Now learning this little practice from my wife, I have turned it into a health tool for myself to survive with when my CRS flares up. Quite simply when my brain completely forgets what I was just talking about for the last 10 minutes, I stop and then pose a very wife like question "so what do you think about what I just said?" Now if its another dude, he isn't going to remember because unless it had nudity, drinking or sports involved he probably tuned you out, in which case your safe anyway (unless its your boss, treat bosses like your wife and always be on your guard) If its a lady, well she more then likely was paying attention and will only be to happy to cite her various opinions. And by doing so BOO YA instant reminder of what the crud you were talking about. I put this in practice today with a group of folks and it worked perfectly. I haven't tried my wife yet...I think I need to beta test it a few more times before I risk the evil stare of "do you really think I'm that dumb?"

On a side note ladies, I know this will work for you, after all your the one's who gave me the idea in the first place.

Keep your chin up

Keep your chin up!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Whats wrong with that guy?

Sometimes I forget that now I am not a norm. By that I mean, sometimes I end up drawing attention to myself that I do not mean to draw. Tonight I went into my favorite game store Attactix. Its one of those places that the nerds run to to hide from the high school bully, or the chick with more piercings then skin cells leisurely strolls around in. The owners are warm and vibrant and you never feel pressured to buy something but instead to take your time and look. In fact I often worry for the store's welfare because the owners are so warm and accepting I often think, "Gee I hope they sell something". Of course I buy something every time I walk in the door (sorry Wendy) because there is always something that catches my eye.

But I digress, so let me proceed with the reason behind the title. So I walk into the store, dragging along my right foot a bit and leaning on my cane. It just happens to be the part of the month where my MS decides I really don't need to use that nifty right leg of mine. No big deal, I am getting use to it now. Sometimes I don't move as fast as I would like, sometimes I trip over that perfectly smooth sidewalk, and sometimes I stare at the three flights of stairs to my apartment like they are taunting me, standing at the bottom and gauging what my strength level is at. A lot of times with MS its as much as mental battle as a physical battle. I have gotten use to getting stares when I walk my son to the bus stop. I deal with the looks in the grocery store. When I sometimes fall out of the truck because the steering wheel doesn't fit right and my right leg doesn't negotiate the move, I don't get frazzled when people just stare and move on. But tonight when a few of the folks in the gaming store looked at me like I was a freak, for some reason that bothered me. Here in a house of inequity, where half the patrons spent a part of their childhood in fear of the bully down the street, laughed at by the prissy prom queen types, and alienated for being to smart or to weird, I stand out.

I don't know why the stares bothered me this time. I am not even sure that tonight was any different then other nights at other places. But to me tonight was different. The one spot I felt safe to not stand out besides a hospital and I suddenly felt the burning heat of the spotlight once more. To be fair, the gamers I came to meet were very cordial and polite. I had a lot of fun playing the game with them. But even amongst them the question was asked "So, what's wrong" Suddenly I just wanted to be home around my wife and my kids to go hide in my cave again. I simply said "I have MS" and the guy kind of passively said "oh" and we moved on.

People look at me even weirder when they ask what I do and I say I am medically retired. I use to proudly say I was a disabled veteran, but anymore in Denver that seems to be synonymous with homeless or being a bum. Its funny how we change the way we look at ourselves to avoid the opinions of others. I will be the first to admit I often assume that folks are thinking I'm doing something wrong. At some point a little bit of my self confidence went out the window, maybe its when I lost the ability to walk normal, or string coherent thoughts together in a conversation. Maybe its when most of my friends pulled away from me because I made them uncomfortable by not being healthy. (and if your reading this you know who you are, you stop taking phone calls stopped calling me, but oh if you needed a shoulder to lean on I was the first person you would come to)

I have come to terms with the fact that people just don't want to deal with anything that is scary or unknown. MS is very scary for the people who have it and more so for the people who don't. I actually had a boy at the store ask me if he could catch it from me before he would help me pick up some kitty litter. But there is a positive spin to this. The shop owner Bill at Attactix didn't even blink an eye at me, neither did his wife. The GM as well as the other two gamers didn't blink an eye either. My friend James doesn't do anything less then completely help me (and put up with me) and my family in Indiana only seems to talk about it when I bring it up not because they are avoiding it but because I think they have realized that sometimes I want to talk about things that make me feel anchored to my old self. My wife, between my rotten stomach, being forced to drive everywhere, and having a husband that seems to be asleep more then awake (not really I'm just always TRYING to get some sleep to no avail) and two evil cute children that drive her insane, well between all that the woman should get sainthood. Yes being the odd duck does seem to push most people away, but it also seems to draw the people who really matter, the ones who will stand by you through any diversity closer in. God really does see fit to bless and its not always in the ways we are expecting it to be. Keep your chin up.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What three in the morning looks like

You ever just have those nights. You go to bed exhausted, sure that once in the sanctity of your bed you will pass out cold to be disturbed by nothing other then your alarm. You get in the bed get the sheets just right, have your wife turn and suck the sheets away, wrestle them back, get the sheets just right again, slip your mask on (I wear a CPAP mask to bed as I have this fondness of stopping breathing in my sleep) and doze blissfully off. You get in a good dream, then without warning your awake.

It doesn't happen right away, you get a good 3 - 4 hours sleep. But without fail your awake, and NOTHING will let you go back. You stare at your alarm clock and see its 3:02 went to bed at 11:30 pm. You lay back down, give it 20 minutes, 30 minutes,45 minutes and sleep will not come. To millions of we suffers of Multiple Sclerosis this is an all to common occurrence. To make matters worse, it is an occurrence that is only met with a marginal amount of success in solving. You can try sleeping pills, stronger sleeping pills, (even had a friend who would take Tylenol pm with a few glasses of scotch) but eventually these methods either stop working due to building up a tolerance, or in my case don't seem to make one bit of difference.

You slog through the first part of the day with those eyes that feel like they are laced with fire, the rims of your eyelids stiff and sore and dry, and that sort of jet lag feeling. And around 9:00 am when everyone else's day is just starting your body says ENOUGH...and you feel compelled to go back and lay down again. The longer your fight it the worse it gets. Yesterday was my son's sixthbirthday and I stayed up all day long not letting myself go down for a nap because I didn't want to miss anything. I know many of you think, "Chris what the heck you get to nap?, I wish I could do that". Trust me, its not what it is cracked up to be, those naps turn into 5 hour losses of my day. 5 hours I don't get to spend with my daughter or my beautiful wife. 5 hours I didn't get anything productive done (and with MS the days you feel able to get something productive done can be few and far between so you begin to cherish simple tasks like dish washing or taking the trash out, don't laugh, its true) 5 hours I don't write on my book or play any games or read a book. You begin to resent those naps for robbing you of your window time.

"What the heck is window time?" you may ask. Well simply put window time is something in my mind I thought of to describe a lot of how MS feels. MS is like walking down a very long hallway, The drugs you take, the drugs you take for the drugs you take etc, can leave you feeling pretty numb. To me the numbness are the plain white walls, blank empty nothing, the windows though, the windows are the good parts, The parts where your kids play with you, or you see them accomplish something, a good date with the wife, a funny movie. Quite simply the windows are where you stop your travel and just enjoy life. Every time I go to the Rocky Mountain MS clinic I find myself surrounded by a lot of folks who don't have many windows in their hallway. Those folks make me ensure that my hallway will be filled with LOTS of windows.

Yes, as I write this I am tired beyond measure. I yearn for sleep, but my son will get up soon and all these desires for sleep will go away for a bit. I think I am going to look out one of those windows for awhile.