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MS Article

MS Memory: Remembering

Good Memories

about Ourselves

MS memory

Think of something that happened in your life to you that is a funny memory – something that reminds you about an experience that you had, before Multiple Sclerosis entered your life.

Even if you have problems remembering what you are doing or what happened to you last week or what someone said to you recently, you still can remember something about yourself. You are still you.  That hasn't changed.

How do I know this, because I have been there too. I have battled with more severe MS memory problems off and on, since I was given the Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis.  It is not easy when you could remember things before MS, but now you can not remember as much or as well as you did before.

Let me give you an example of what I am talking about.  I have a funny story that has to do with me and my good memory before Multiple Sclerosis entered my life. 

When I was in college, I had a Theater class.  I heard the teacher was very good and made it a fun class to take.  I have a brother, Dan, who is 13 months older than me and we went to the same college.  My brother and I did not take the same classes at the same time, except for this one, which we did take together.  This was a play directing class.

The teacher divided us into play acting groups and we had to pick a director.  We then were given a 1960s play called “Light Up The Sky” to perform a scene from.  The scene that we performed was a cast party for a group of actors on the opening night of the play that they were performing together. The play was called a comedy, but that did not mean that the play was supposed to be funny.  This just meant that the play was not a tragedy.

My brother ended up in the same play acting group as I did.  Our play acting group was mostly women and more of the parts were male than female.  I liked the character for the main male part, but my brother ended up with that part because the main female character had many lines to remember and she also was all over the stage talking to every other character, since she was the hostess of the cast party.  The main female character had to know where she had to be and she had to be able to remember who she had to talk to next and the rest of the women in our play acting group did not have very good memories, like I did at the time. 

Before Multiple Sclerosis entered my life, I had a very good memory, and so did my brother (who does not have MS).  I did not want to play the main female character because she had to go around calling everyone “Darling” and acting very girlie (and I was not that girlie).  But I played the part anyway, because my theater teacher specifically asked me to do it.  I was not sure that I could do well with this part because I had to step so far out of character from what my own normal personality was.

At the beginning of the scene that we were acting out, I had to do a dramatic faint.  I could not do it to save my life.  My younger sister could do this, so she tried to teach me, with no success.  During the rehearsals within the last
2 weeks before we did the play, I could not get into character. We had to come up with our own costumes and props for the play we were performing.  My mother sews and she decided to make me a costume. 

The costume that my mother made looked like the type of long flowing dressing gown that many of the actresses wore in the older movies that we had seen on TV and she dyed it pink by soaking it in beet juice until it developed the color that she wanted.  Once I put on the costume for the dress rehearsal, before we did the play, I became the character that I was playing.  My theater teacher told me that she never saw anyone do that before and I told her that the costume was everything to me and made the difference.

The only thing that the costume did not help me with was the dramatic faint.  When we actually performed the play, before a real audience, the scene opened with me doing the dramatic faint.  I was very nervous before we started performing our scene and I was very tense.  I could not relax.  So when I did the dramatic faint, it looked like someone had just chopped down a tree. I fell onto a couch, so that I would not hurt myself, but the who whole audience broke out laughing for at least 5 to 10 minutes straight.  We had to wait until the laughter died down before we could continue the scene.  I thought that I would be so embarrassed when the whole audience broke out laughing hysterically, but it actually felt like a relief and I finally relaxed after this. This actually helped me to do better for the rest of the scene.

But, if that was not enough, halfway through the scene, I went blank.  I totally forgot my lines.  My brother happened to be standing near me at that point and he tried to prompt me to help me remember my lines, but it did not help at all.  I remembered that somehow I was supposed to end up on the opposite side of the stage.  I remembered what my lines should be when I arrived at the other side of the stage, but how was I going to get there?  So, I improvised and just made up anything off the top of my head just so that I could get to the other side of the stage.  I confused everyone else in the scene, because I spoke to people that I was not supposed to speak to and I shook hands with people that I was not supposed to shake hands with.

My theater teacher was standing on the side of the stage while we were performing the scene and she was frantically flipping through the pages of the script, trying to figure out what I was doing. When I finally arrived at the opposite side of the stage, I went back to what my lines should have been.  My theater teacher finally figured out where I was at that point and had a look of relief on her face.  My theater told me afterwards that she never saw anyone do this before.  She said to me – you forgot your lines didn’t you.   I said yes I did, but I remembered that I needed to somehow get to the other side of the stage.  She said to me – you made that all up off the top of your head didn’t you?  I said yes I did.  Then my theater teacher told me that people in the audience didn’t suspect anything was wrong, because I did such a good job improvising.  At this, both my theater teacher and I laughed about all of this. 

During the play, we also had a make-shift bar set up on the side of the stage and the actors were supposed to go to the bar periodically throughout the scene to get a drink. My brother, Dan, had the main male character part, who had to go to the bar at least 10 to 15 times throughout the scene.  My brother is a real ham and he did something goofy each time that he went to the bar.  We did not actually have anything to drink during the scene, but one of the other actresses had brought in fake plastic champagne glasses that we could use as props during the play, that added to the effect of the bar in the scene.  My brother went to the bar so many times that many of the people in the audience were watching him most of the time and counting how many times that he went to the bar and to see what he would do the next time that he went to the bar.

After my play acting group was done acting out the scene and the lights became brighter again, we received a standing ovation.  That was incredible!  I loved it!  That was so much fun at the time!

My point with telling you this story is that when we have MS memory problems, this can sometimes leave us feeling like we are not a whole person any more.  But that is not true.  You are still who you are.  You may not be able to remember things like you could before Multiple Sclerosis entered your life and took away your ability to do a few or many things that you could do before.  You may not be able to remember what you did yesterday or what someone said to you recently, but I would suggest that there are some memories from your past that you do remember.  Some memories are good and some are not.

But choose something that you remember about yourself – something good or funny or brings back good memories about your past experiences and use these memories to remember who you are or ask your friends to help to remind you about reliving the good memories to help you remember your life does matter.  You are still you.  That has not changed just because you can not do the things that you could before Multiple Sclerosis entered your life and reduced your abilities to function.  Whether you can walk or not, you are still a valuable human being. Look for ways to be involved somehow in the world around you and connect socially with other people. Volunteer somewhere or try to help encourage other people not to give up or help other people to learn to laugh again.  I find that doing these type of things not only helps others, but it helps me not to feel like giving up so much when I take my focus off of me and my problems for even a short period of time.  We all need each other somehow.

There are also ways that can help reduce your symptoms of MS.  I have found that there are alternative and natural ways that can help to reduce the effects of MS on our bodies and help us to function better. 

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 2009. All Rights Reserved.


2009. All Rights Reserved.