Nature vs medicine

I saw that someone recently read one of my old posts. Whenever I see that people have done that, I like to go back and reread what I wrote before and reflect on it.

In the post, I was wondering if I really needed disability and if my symptoms would go away if I got off all medications and started exercising more. The truth is not quite that simple.

I’ve discovered that the most important factor is actually sleep (or lack thereof.) When I have jobs with standard office hours, that’s so contrary to my natural body clock that it causes my insomnia. I get anxious that I won’t wake up on time and that anxiety reaches a point where it’s so strong that even sleeping pills won’t override it. Voila: no sleep and the whole cycle of pain and fatigue begins again or gets worse.

I’ve tried to change my schedule to no avail; I’ve been this way since I was a young kid. I could resolve it with a job that works on almost any other schedule, but few other schedules pay well (unless they’re in fields I can’t do) and it takes away time I usually spend with the family. Not sure how to address that.

But the medication question is something else entirely. For me, I realize that the question isn’t nature vs. medication, as though those are the only two choices. I just needed to be on different medications.

First of all, I had to stop taking so many muscle relaxers. They were too sedating. True, I have quite a bit more pain in my legs now. But I’m learning to work around it. I suffer but in a way that has a worthwhile trade-off.

But I also had to start taking new medications. I’m probably not taking any fewer meds than I was before. I feel vaguely ashamed of that, like I wouldn’t need any meds if I were determined enough. However, the truth isn’t like that for me.

My disease-modifying drug Tecfidera works by reducing inflammation, which means that it makes me better in itself. My brain is already much clearer and less foggy after only a month on it. My cognitive symptoms are better, though that benefit disappears if I don’t get enough sleep.

I finally have medication that’s effectively treating my depression, which has been extremely rare in my past experience. But this drug cocktail (which includes both an antidepressant and low doses of two other drugs, including one for my seizures) seems to work well together.

As a result, I can finally do the exercise I need. The exercise does help. But at this point, I can only exercise as much as I do (walking about 25-30 miles a week) because of my medications. I was too depressed to do so before, even though I wanted to do it.

I also still take a handful of other supplements that are supposed to help MS, like high-dose Vitamin D, biotin, and B12. I see that all these things work together.

I’m working on other things to help as well: meditation/prayer, journaling, setting goals. I try to keep my stress low and get enough sleep. And I’m also trying to cut out junk food and eat more fruits and veggies.

I find that feeling well isn’t just about taking pills and then doing nothing else to get better. I can’t get better with just the pills alone.

I realize how much the natural health camp has influenced me because I feel incredibly guilty for taking meds. Like I took a cop-out because I was too lazy to do things the hard way. But in truth, the only thing that matters is that I can do the right stuff now.

And for better or worse, I need the pills to do well enough that I can take it from there. Trying to get well when I was so mentally foggy and fatigued, before I took the meds, was like trying to run if someone throws a heavy blanket over your head and you can’t see anything or move freely.

Does this mean I don’t really need disability? That remains to be seen. I’d still greatly love to work and to go back to grad school. But I don’t know yet if I can. I’m just glad that I’m starting to feel a bit less miserable.

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