Every one of us deals with something chronic. As a parent, you could be facing the challenges of health issues, tragedy, depression, etc., and trying to balance your family and multiples. This is something I face every day and I want you to know you’re not alone.
Five years ago I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and my life was turned on its head. MS is a disease in which your immune system attacks your nerves and because we have hundreds of billions of nerves, MS affects everyone differently. Symptoms can affect your mobility in different parts of your body and range from being slight to debilitating. With such a wide range of symptoms, MS has no cure. Medications do exist to prevent further damage and treatments available to cope but there is no fix. For many, symptoms come and go with no warning, and like all auto immune diseases, MS can be vicious. It attempts to cripple you, humiliate you, and basically steal your soul. For a while I was letting it control me.
As a former college athlete I spent my time running, playing pick-up sports, and working out but suddenly at the age of 29 I couldn’t do any of those things that I loved anymore. I suddenly could no longer run, heck walk, without stumbling and feeling exhausted. At 6’2’’, I became a very unsteady tree ready to fall at any turn. I started experiencing spasms in my limbs, muscle stiffness, and lost dexterity – a.k.a. the ability to reach out and grab a beer from the fridge. My speech is slurred and mumbling, which makes it hard for people to understand my amazing jokes. I used to be the laid back easy going jock now I was having uncontrollable mood swings that made no sense. I grew up at the beach and now I couldn’t step outside because the heat exaggerated my symptoms. Where in just an hour in the sun you may feel uncomfortable and a bit sweaty, I already feel like I ran a marathon wearing 5 layers of winter cloths, and I’m struggling to stand from exhaustion. I was horrified at what was going to happen to me. It took time for me to realize that my symptoms weren’t going to define me and it was time to live my life.
I owe everything to my wife who kept me going on days I didn’t want to move. She was the only person I couldn’t hide from and the one who saw me every day. She is compassionate and loving, but tough. She knew before I did, MS is in our life and we need to live with it rather than give up and throw in the towel. When we decided to start having children every fear and doubt I was beginning to overcome went out the window, especially when we found out we were having twins. I thought I was going to be a miserable dad because of my MS. I looked like a drunken person attempting to walk a straight line, EVERY SINGLE DAY. How could one expect to carry even one newborn safely? How am I going to teach them to ride a bike? What if I want take them to the playground? “We’ll do it together as a team,” my wife said.
So I found myself being a dad to twins, mainly because I had no choice, but also because I wasn’t making excuses. I just went slowly, and the twins kept me so busy that I had no time to feel sorry for myself. My wife and I use teamwork to counter a lot of my struggles. We plan outings for the morning when it’s cooler out. Whatever adventure we are off on we make sure there are plenty of places for me to take a break. I try recognizing (aka my wife telling me) when I am being affected by senseless mood swings. We divide and conquer with not only twin duty but everything. WE LAUGH A LOT!!! What we do has become so routine it makes life manageable for me.
I use my children for inspiration and show them that their father is trying and not letting MS define him. Sure I still feel my symptoms every day but I’ve learned to live with them and do my best to not use my disease as an excuse. I’ve come to realize I’m not alone in this fight. I just hope people can find what works for them and have support around them. I am still scared shitless of what the future holds for me, and my ability to be a parent, but then again so is everybody.
For more information and resources visit The National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
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Michael Ackerman is married to a loving, hard working momma bear and has 1 year old twin boy/girl cubs. He works full time as a Gas Leak/ Boiler Technician in NYC schools. He has a love for sports, video games, and chimichanga’s. He spends most of his time now chasing around his two maniac children and his two dogs Link and Sabre. You can follow him on Twitter.