One of the most fun things about General Anxiety Disorder (Did I say fun? I mean WORST THING EVER.) is that everything is a crisis. The constant thought stream of worst case scenarios running through my brain can sometimes make me a bit of a hypochondriac–WebMD is not my friend.
I’ve had this ongoing foot issue, “mystery inflammation,” causing pain and lack of movement. Doctors can find no reason for it, but it’s very real, and very frustrating. Then today, I suddenly have a severe tremor in my left hand. Combine that with my family history of MS, which has always been a fear of mine, and the rest of my brain issues…and, well, you can guess where my mind went. I had a very long conversation with my best friend about ALL THE ANXIETY. I’m sure I’m fine but…sigh. GAD, guys. GAD.
And then I started Love Sick.
From the title alone, it sounds like just a chick-lit, women’s fiction, etc, right? Something with bright colors on the cover, maybe a waist down woman with one leg kicked up. Maybe a cartoon dog. That’s totally what I thought. I was looking forward to it after The History of Luminous Motion.
Instead, I got EXACTLY what I needed. Cory Martin was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at 28. And on the day I’m frustrated and freaking out about all the health issues I’ve been having…I pick up her book. Of course I did.
Martin gives us her journey mostly in chronological order, although the chapters are broken into subject matter more than story form. She talks a lot about her love life in the context of learning about this horrible disease, along with golden showers and hot doctors. Cory handles MS with way more grace and bravery than I would, and I’m so glad I got to read about this today, of all days.
Growing up with a close family member with MS, I know quite a bit about the symptoms and the medicines, but since I was fairly young when he was diagnosed, I missed a lot of that part. The process is terrifying and painful, and there’s not always a definitive answer. Multiple Sclerosis is also a disease that sometimes takes you slowly, or quickly, and in unpredictable ways. So little is known about the cause, and while there is medication to help with the relapses–sometimes the side effects are as bad as the disease itself.
Cory was gracious enough to answer a few questions about Multiple Sclerosis for us, so that we could learn more about the disease and how it affected her life. I so greatly appreciate her doing this.
In Love Sick, you mention having symptoms for three years, mostly numbness and dizziness. But when you’re reading the web information, it mentions fatigue, pain, and depression and you say that was your past. How did your MS actually start?
Mine started with the numbness, it was in my arms and neck. But it was intermittent. I thought it was nothing at first but when I told my doctor I could hardly sleep she sent me to a neurologist. The neurologist did some reflex tests (I’m sure there’s a fancy name for them) and noticed something was off so she sent me to get an MRI of my brain. That’s when they discovered the lesions. I then had to start thinking back to other instances in my life that might line up with MS symptoms. There was fatigue and depression, but the biggest was Lhermitte’s sign. I had had it a few years before, but again thought nothing of it. That’s the thing about MS, the symptoms are kind of vague and hard to pinpoint and it’s different for everyone. I heard something once. I think it was on one of Jack Osborne’s “You Don’t Know Jack” videos. A doctor said, ‘once you’ve seen one case of MS, you’ve seen one case.’ MS is so different for everyone and sometimes it’s hard to tell whether something you’re experiencing is because of the MS or something all together different. It always feels like you’re playing detective.
The book focuses a lot on how MS affects your dating life, but how else did it affect your life? What other fears did you have?
For the first year, MS completely consumed my life. All I could think about was the ‘what if’, what if this symptom or that symptom happens, what if I have to stop working, what if I have to move home with my parents, what if I can’t write anymore, what if I can’t go skiing, or do yoga, or have kids, or live on my own? Anything I could think of went through my head. The flip side to that, and I only briefly mention it in my book (maybe there will have to be a sequelJ) is that I also started doing things I never would’ve done before. I took circus classes (the cirque du soleil type), I did triathlons, I took forty mile bike rides, I swung from a trapeze in Mexico and did flips into a pool of water, basically I started saying yes to everything, a whole lot more than no.
How is your quality of life today? Do you still teach yoga?
My quality of life is really good. Actually, it’s great. I feel quite lucky that my symptoms are very manageable, and for the most part I am a very healthy woman. I took a little break from teaching yoga because I wanted to focus on getting this book out there, but I still sub here and there and will definitely get back to it in a month or two. Teaching and doing yoga are some of the things that have kept me the most sane throughout my whole journey and I definitely won’t give those up no matter what.
What is your best advice to someone newly diagnosed or going through the diagnosis process?
Reach out to people for help. I had my family who is amazing and helped me immensely, but I wish I had reached out to some of the MS support groups sooner. I went to my first one two years ago (through the MS Society), and I couldn’t believe how much of a relief it was to talk to other people who were going through the same thing I was. I think sometimes those of us who are suffering, especially those with invisible symptoms, feel like we don’t have a right to feel down or sad or defeated because we don’t have it as bad as others. But we all have the same fears and finding someone else who you can talk to that’s in your same situation is crucial.
Go read Love Sick. It’s a beautiful book. 10% of all profits are being donated to the National MS Society, so make sure to click my link below and buy your copy!
And while you’re at it, go visit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. Donate if you can. Find out when the next MS Walk is near you–they are usually held in April/May. Walk, help participate in the fundraising, volunteer. It’s a great cause and the research is so needed, so that we can help people like Cory Martin.
NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Releases February 9.