Merriam-Webster defines lethargy as “abnormal drowsiness, the quality or state of being lazy, sluggish, or indifferent”. I learned that word when I was eleven but discovered its true meaning when I got sick. In addition to the physical damage, Multiple Sclerosis also affects initiative and can make getting out of bed or getting up from a couch a huge challenge. Depression joins the party and makes you sad about not being able to get out of bed. And since you’re in bed already, you might as well sleep. All the time.
I talk myself through pulling the sheets off in the morning and sliding my legs over the side of the bed, one at a time. My dog licks my knees and sits patiently, waiting for me to take her outside. I stare at her and wish she could talk to me. Say anything. Jolt me out of this fog that makes me move like molasses. So I shout at myself. “Get up! Just freakin’ get up before she pees on the floor!” Most of the time it works.
At the time of my last medical infusion, a fellow infusee (one of the few male MS sufferers I met at my neurologist’s office) was raving to me about a mood altering pill he was prescribed to fight lethargy. He went on and on about not knowing how he had gotten along before and that it had changed his life completely. He had a wife and daughter and was on disability from his job. He said he was virtually useless at home. He was unable to change diapers or prepare meals, or even clear the table. He said he could hear his little girl crying but couldn’t muster up the momentum to pick up the pacifier she had dropped. He confessed that there were times in the shower when he preferred to stay under the rush of warm water for more than an hour, becoming a human prune, rather than reaching to turn the faucet off. The thought of getting dressed and combing his hair was just too much. He said that sometimes he wrapped himself in a towel and slipped right back into bed.
But that all changed with the pill. His eyes widened and his eyebrows fluttered up and down as he spoke and gestured about how he became a new man. His anxiety was gone, he had more energy, he was able to sleep better at night. One pill up to four times daily and he was great. He could get out of bed, help his wife around the house, and was even contemplating going back to work. I imagined that if I could cut off the sound and only observe his body language, he could be talking about a crack habit or a visit from the Holy Ghost, or joining a cult. I wondered if there would ever be a time when he didn’t need to take this pill anymore and be fine on his own. I smiled and nodded, and decided that I would absolutely not be taking it.