Early this week I noticed that my right eyelid and eyebrow felt funky and my right cheek felt numb. Those are my two major symptoms of multiple sclerosis, and they appear only rarely these days – typically when I’m overtired or under lots of stress. It took me a minute to remember the other situation in which they tend to pop up. But when I did figure it out, I practically slapped my forehead and said, “Of course!”
I am menstruating this week. And when my period coincides with my being tired and stressed out, as is currently the case, my symptoms often re-emerge.
I have a feeling that many women with MS will agree that there’s a link between menstruation and MS symptoms. But science has not yet done much to pin that relationship down. According to the National MS Society website, very little research has been done in this area.
The site notes that a very small study has found that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may benefit postmenopausal women with MS. That adds weight to the notion that hormonal changes may indeed affect women’s MS symptoms.
I have learned to take the reappearance of my symptoms, during my period or any other time, as a clear signal that it’s time to slow down. So this weekend I’ll try to catch up on my sleep and make sure I get plenty of exercise, much of it outdoors now that – hallelujah! – the sun has finally come out and warmed things up around here. There’s a new yoga studio in town that I’ve been meaning to check out; now would probably be a good time to do that. And I’ll make time to sit down with a book and a beverage to read for a while. Anything I can do to reduce my stress is bound to help.
Before I know it, my period will be over and done with. But it will have reminded me of a lesson that for some reason is very hard for me to learn, absorb, and put into action: Getting enough rest, exercising, and enjoying simple pleasures is an essential part of managing my MS.
Jennifer LaRue Huget was diagnosed with MS in 2001. A freelance writer and children's book author, she lives in Connecticut with her husband, two teenage kids, and two brown dogs. Her website is www.jenniferlaruehuget.com.