Chronically Cranky

That sums up my condition, though there never has been an official diagnosis. No one has stood, head bowed, next to Meredith and softly said, I’m sorry, ma’am, but your husband is chronically cranky. May I ask you a question? he might have continued, how can you stand it? That certainly would be the appropriate question.
The most common symptom of chronic crankiness is an unrelenting scowl. If I could stand on my head, my smile would light up the room. Instead, Meredith walks past me at home and asks, “What’s the matter?” Nothing, I answer glumly. “Something is the matter,” she continues. “What is it?” If she sits down next to me, I know I am going to have to talk about it. I do not feel like talking about how I am feeling. That is because I feel lousy. The subject is boring.
Also I am tired. Big deal. I feel weak. So? Just hobbling around on my cane takes a lot out of me. I have to go to the city today. That will mean walking. Crossing streets. Moving through crowds. I did not sleep well last night. I am exhausted. This is small stuff, but it adds up, like the tab at the r wine store. We pay for every bottle, and we try not to complain. After all, everyone deals with something.
My wife cares, but I want to be alone. I cannot tell the lady to take a hike. So I retreat upstairs to the computer and say little, if anything. I worry that I cast a pall that spreads invisibly around the house like a virus, infecting anyone and everything in its path.
The lights grows dimmer as the clouds move indoors.
On some days, I just do not want to do anything. Too often, a book replaces a new movie. We share another evening at home. I am supposed to meet an old friend at Grand Central Station in the morning for coffee. I like this guy and have not seen him for a while. I am dreading our date. I feel crummy now and see no reason to believe tomorrow I will feel any better.
Usually I am an optimist, though you might never know that. Sometimes I peer into a mirror and wonder who I am looking at. I surprise myself with this tired sense of self. But the phone does keep on ringing. Friends reach out and want to get together. They do not get it, or they do.
Even as I am acutely aware of my dips into darkness, friends and acquaintances continue to act oblivious. Even Meredith has learned to go about her business and leave me alone. She does not cause the problem. She cannot change it. Self-awareness may be my salvation. I tell my pals to get a life when times are tough. Maybe I should do the same.

54 Responses to Chronically Cranky

  1. Gina July 16, 2014 at 9:07 pm #

    Hi Richard:

    I love that you write on your good days and on your bad. You’re human! Like us. There are some days I’m convinced you’re some sort of uber- man-a deep and intelligent thinker and outstanding writer. Then you tell us you get cranky too and I’m reminded that we’re lucky to read your blog because you give us hope. Be cranky. Tomorrow is another day.

    • Richard M. Cohen July 17, 2014 at 8:59 am #

      Oh, leave me alone. Just kidding.

      R.

      • Jana July 17, 2014 at 9:40 am #

        That reply made me chuckle! Good one!

  2. jeanne July 16, 2014 at 10:33 pm #

    I am sure you have been told that depression is a major ms symptom…are you

    speaking to you doctor about this? It usually gets better after its addressed

    Grandma

    • Richard M. Cohen July 17, 2014 at 9:02 am #

      Granny-

      I am not depressed. I do not have the gene. I think there is a difference between down and depressed. Sounds like denial, I know.

      R.

  3. jeanne July 16, 2014 at 11:30 pm #

    Cranky is cute and depression is depressing. You’re too cranky to be depressed.

    Please try to cheer up and feel better

    • Richard M. Cohen July 17, 2014 at 9:04 am #

      No one credible ever has suggested I am depressed. I really am just cranky.

      R.

      • jeanne July 17, 2014 at 10:20 pm #

        my husband says I’m incredible

  4. MB July 17, 2014 at 12:32 am #

    I’m with you on this one.

    • Richard M. Cohen July 17, 2014 at 9:04 am #

      Thanks.

      R.

  5. Christopher July 17, 2014 at 2:29 am #

    You sound just like my dad. He didn’t want to share his pain either. Just wanted to sit in his chair and be left alone. I hated seeing him that way because I knew there was an awesome guy in there somewhere, shackled underneath all the pain and fatigue, who just wasn’t able to climb out into the light. His world was really dark, and out in the light was too bright and uncomfortable. Catch-22. He had a right to be cranky though.

    Makes me wish I could literally kill pain.

    I’m sure you have your moments of respite. I wish for you, and many others, that those moments become more common… the rule rather than the exception.

    • Richard M. Cohen July 17, 2014 at 9:08 am #

      I do have moments of respite, especially when I go out and when I am busy and productive. Does not sound like depression to me. Maybe petulance.

      R.

  6. Mark July 17, 2014 at 6:36 am #

    Cranky is good, isn’t it? We’ve probably earned the right. Think of all the people in this world that are cranky for no reason. Now that’s a problem! Besides, being chronically cranky makes those fleeting moments of well-being all the more enjoyable.

    • Richard M. Cohen July 17, 2014 at 9:09 am #

      Amen.

      R.

  7. Linda Lazarus July 17, 2014 at 7:29 am #

    Hi Richard,
    Have you ever stumbled on Lamar Freed’s paper on fatigue? Just google Lamar Freed fatigue.
    It is one of the best descriptions of MS fatigue that I ever read.

    -Chronic Crankiness- Sounds like a book title.

    • Richard M. Cohen July 17, 2014 at 9:10 am #

      Will do.

      R.

    • Betsi July 17, 2014 at 10:24 am #

      Linda, I’m so glad you mentioned this paper! It should be required reading for all of our loved ones–it describes my reality to a t.

    • Yvonne July 17, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

      Linda-people like you are why I love this blog. Thanks for sharing the resource. That paper was so good I shared it forward. Very informative read and a great source for explaining my fatigue to people who don’t understand the difference between tired and fatigued.

    • Betty July 17, 2014 at 6:11 pm #

      Linda et al,
      Lamar Freed’s paper gives the best description of fatigue that I have seen thus far, with great examples and realistic advice. Freed is a doctor who lives with the disease, and I bet he’s no stranger to the crank. A must read for all bank robbers.

    • JoanBee July 20, 2014 at 10:07 pm #

      I just read it, and it suddenly stopped at:

      “For this reason and many others, it is well worth any effort to reduce and control fatigu”

      I’m not sure if it was a malfunction of my Kindle, or if the author had become fatigued. (?)

  8. Bill Garcia July 17, 2014 at 9:04 am #

    SOUNDS LIKE MY HOUSE. WHEN I’M HAVING ONE OF “THOSE” DAYS MY WIFE WILL WALK BY AND ASK WHATS THE MATTER? SHE KNOWS WHAT’S WRONG BUT IT’S AS IF SHE WANTS TO HEAR ME SAY IT. MY WORDS ARE ALWAYS THE SAME ” I’M EXHAUSTED AND I DON’T FEEL GOOD.” SHE THEN GOES ABOUT HER BUSINESS AND LEAVES ME ALONE.
    I DON’T KNOW WHY IT’S SO IMPORTANT FOR HER TO HEAR ME SAY IT BUT IT SEEMS TO GIVE HER SOME GREAT RELIEF TO HEAR IT.
    LIKE OTHERS I THINK WE ARE ALLOWED TO BE CRANKY FROM TIME TO TIME!!

    • Richard M. Cohen July 17, 2014 at 9:12 am #

      Agreed.

      R.

  9. Betsi July 17, 2014 at 10:15 am #

    If you don’t want to discuss “depression” (not that you’re in denial!) how about grieving? Adjusting to the ravages of MS is a constant state of grieving. We never get through all the stages before we have to begin again.

    • Richard M. Cohen July 17, 2014 at 7:51 pm #

      How about just pissed off?

      R.

  10. Louise July 17, 2014 at 10:15 am #

    Hmm. I read your blog regularly and I have been thinking you may be depressed. If anyone without a progressive, disabling disease made your recent ” jokes” about hemlock, I’d be quite concerned, but as a fellow sufferer I get the hemlock thing. My standard has evolved to “when you and everyone you love would be better off, hemlock it is”. But because of your particular circumstances,( plenty of money, plenty of friends, a well read blog) you don’t meet the standard. Go to the city and carry on. Also, don’t you think most people in their sixties feel the occasional surprise when they look in the mirror?

    • Richard M. Cohen July 17, 2014 at 7:53 pm #

      Yup. I am not depressed. The thought is depressing.

      R.

  11. Jack July 17, 2014 at 10:39 am #

    Shortly before I was diagnosed but was experiencing symptoms, I went through a period of what I now believe was depression. It was clearly very different from run-of-the-mill sadness. It was overwhelming — all consuming. It lasted for weeks. It hasn’t happened again.

    Crankiness is the way I let those I love know that I am frustrated with limitations and discomfort of my physical condition. I am never cranky with strangers or casual aquaintances. I can control my crankiness — turn it on and off at will. Sometimes, I even use it in a humorous way to elicit a smile. Sometimes, my wife doesn’t think it’s very funny.

    Cranky can be good, so long as it doesn’t become a dominant personality trait.

    • Sandy July 17, 2014 at 11:18 am #

      AMEN JACK

      YOU NAILED IT.

      ITS REALLY A CHICKEN AND EGG THING FOR ME. THE FATIGUE AND THE CRANKINESS. I AM GENERALLY AN UPBEAT PERSON AND USE HUMOR TO DEAL WITH MY MS. BUT SOMETIMES IT ALL JUST PILES UP AND I WALLOW IN CRANKINESS FOR A BIT.

      SANDY

    • Richard M. Cohen July 17, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

      I agree.

      R.

  12. Yvonne July 17, 2014 at 10:43 am #

    Sometimes it’s eerie the way you write exactly what I was thinking. I really hate accepting invitations for future events because I never know how I will feel THAT day! Then I have to cancel and have to once again try to explain how I was not depressed just because I turned down another invite. I’ve even started lying about what I was doing to avoid questions about why I don’t want to go or do something. It’s easier than explaining that maneuvering through crowds, uneven sidewalks/lawns/huggers(balance issues) and annoying questions is challenging and sometimes I’m too exhausted to engage. So now, I will say proudly “I’m not depressed, I’m CRANKY for various reasons and just need space. I promise that if you give me some time alone, eventually I will get bored and rejoin you in laughing and socializing.” Thanks Richard for the idea.

    • Richard M. Cohen July 17, 2014 at 7:58 pm #

      Bless you. Why do people want us to be depressed?

      R.

  13. Betsi July 17, 2014 at 11:49 am #

    Lamar Freed’s blog is another excellent MS resource. This is a very good discussion called “MS and Mental Health.” Crankiness may not equal depression, but I think it’s somewhere on the continuum.

    http://msandmentalhealth.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/depression-and-ms/

    • Richard M. Cohen July 17, 2014 at 7:59 pm #

      THANKS.

      R.

  14. Elizabeth July 17, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    Like Yvonne, I could have written this same exact post, down to my husband asking me what’s wrong. Well, I have MS, I feel horrible, the steroids didn’t work this time, my mother is dying from cancer, we’re bankrupt, our house is being foreclosed on, my asshole boss terminated me when I disclosed my MS so I’m broke AGAIN, I can’t think well enough to fill out the mounds of paperwork for the disability review, patient assistance program, financial aid to go back to school, or pack the house so it’s ready when we have to vacate, a compromise offer for the back taxes from our failed business…and on and on. I’m ashamed, humiliated, yes depressed, grieving and feel hopeless. So what was the question? “What’s wrong?” Nothing, I’m fine just leave me alone! Whew, thanks for letting me vent Richard. I used to be strong, now I’m just cranky. The term brain fog pisses me off. It’s more like a white-out. Pity party? Maybe, but I don’t like not having control over my future and I’m feeling like a burden to my family. I want one of those fancy treehouses in a remote area, my laptop, a couch and a bed. That is all. Does that make me a bad person? And I see a psychologist weekly, until these losses stop, there is no fighting the depression. They haven’t made a pill for that yet.

    • Richard M. Cohen July 17, 2014 at 8:03 pm #

      Just do not be ashamed, Not your fault.

      R,

  15. Karen July 17, 2014 at 1:23 pm #

    You might consider joining a wellness gym. I can’t walk unassisted but I can sit to push & pull weights. It’s a bit more rewarding than physical therapy. You can do it with a smile on your face as you’re leaving with a small challenge accomplished.

    • Richard M. Cohen July 17, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

      Thanks.

      R.

  16. Nik July 17, 2014 at 1:23 pm #

    Cranky! Hey, that’s it. I’m cranky too. Perfect word for what those around me call me being a pain in the a**! You see, in my short 41 years I have had DVTs, SVT which eventually required an ablation. Two surgeries for huge pesky kidney stones, 7 years of infertility…Then just as I lose 60 lbs on a three year fantastic, get my butt healthy boot camp I get the diagnosis of MS! Excuse me for being ‘cranky’ folks, but this just can’t be! Feeling sorry for myself is not one of my best qualities and my crankiness is probably just my defense mechanism.
    Another thing. When you mention going into the city Richard, I always hope for the day where I’d be crossing the street and run into you. I’d probably be so excited that I’d trip and fall (not sure how much of that lately has been from the MS or from me being a total clutz) , but not I know that if I do run into you I probably just say something like , “Good morning cranky!” and just keep walking. Heehee. All seriousness , I hope your day went well. Beautiful day for coffee with a friend.

    • Richard July 17, 2014 at 8:11 pm #

      Good night, Cranky.

      ]E.

  17. Matt July 17, 2014 at 2:29 pm #

    There are people with nothing wrong with them that are cranky and bitch all the time. We are only human.

  18. jeanne July 17, 2014 at 3:40 pm #

    ms depression is the same as ms muscle weakness and spasms,ms vision disorders,ms cognitive thinking problems,ms balance issues etc. Crankiness is the end result of all of these.

    Grandma

    • Richard July 17, 2014 at 8:12 pm #

      Agreed.

      R.

  19. Wendygilmo July 17, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

    It is very depressing to read all these posts about being depressed. I’m just sayin’!!
    Let’s have some fun people!!

  20. AJ July 17, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

    I would be more sunshine and rainbows if I didn’t drop my pen at work because I don’t have full control of my hand…or if I could walk through midtown without being afraid the dizziness would cause me to fall under a bus…all the while pretending everything is fine to everyone who knows me and daring strangers on the street to comment on my careful pace.

    I love your blog. I was diagnosed with MS earlier this year and appreciate your honesty for the good and bad.

    • Richard July 17, 2014 at 8:15 pm #

      Take iit slow.

      Best,’R.

  21. Sandy July 17, 2014 at 6:57 pm #

    Wendy is right these posts are depressing.

    I had a psychologist friend who worked with agoraphobics. He actually got them to leave there homes and come to a group session by promising them that only their own kind would be there. After a few sessions he changed the old adage “misery loves company” to “misery loves miserable company”. In the end he did not feel as though they got any “better” but they made friends….albeit miserable friends.

    So my miserable friends….here’s to celebrating our crankiness.

    I personally think mine may be compounded by the lack of gin in my system. When my disease is active (I am an RR MSer) I tend to lay off the alcohol. We are in the middle of the gin and tonic season here in Wisconsin and I am not participating. Pretty soon the “remitting” will begin and I can celebrate the season again. Of course its hard to find the remitting….seems like its less and less all the time. Its more like I just stop getting worse. I declare it to be “remitting” and thats that.

    I like to declare things. Sometimes in a discussion or argument I will say, “I am the queen of ________ and I declare it to be so.”

    I declare that I am done now.
    Sandy

    • Richard July 17, 2014 at 8:17 pm #

      Please pass the gin.

      R.

  22. Joan July 17, 2014 at 7:50 pm #

    The familiarity of this post, and all of the replies, spoke to me loudly and clearly. Everyone seems to get the obvious physical challenges, but very few realize the relentless hidden challenges. I stopped answering the “how are you doing?” Inquiries when it became obvious that nobody really wants to hear. Not the raw, unvarnished truth. For me, it isn’t the physical issue, it’s the relentlessness of the onslaught. That’s what makes me too tired to fight, try, be upbeat about potential fixes. I sometimes just get tired of hearing my own voice just not being nice. We know how we should act, just sometimes don’t care enough to be nice. Sad, I know.

    • Richard July 18, 2014 at 9:20 am #

      But true.

      R.

  23. Wendygilmo July 17, 2014 at 8:26 pm #

    MS bas robbed me of so many things and I’ll be damned if it takes away my happy disposition and my personality!! I’m still fighting to be ME!!

    • Richard July 18, 2014 at 9:21 am #

      You will win that one.

      R.

  24. Wendygilmo July 17, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

    By the way I do love the term “chronically cranky” it’s a classic!

  25. Sarah July 18, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

    To me, cranky and MS go hand in hand. The doctors’ always want to diagnose me with depression and I get so mad. They’re the ones who make me depressed. Like you Richard, I don’t have the gene. I’ve always been too busy to be depressed, even now. Worried, concerned for myself and my son, yes, I am – but I don’t get depressed over it. We can only do what we’re physically able to do.

    I go out pretty much everyday and do the things I have to do, always with great difficulty, but I do whatever needs to be done, no matter how uneasy I feel having to do them. I’m totally uncomfortable in the grocery store or any place where there’s a lot of people, which are most places. I hobble along on my cane too, and it takes the wind out of me every single time, but I only go out when it’s absolutely necessary.

    But, you can’t explain crankiness to any doctor because they would feel better if you were subdued. Hell, they’re probably crankier than anybody at the end of their day, having to put up with CRANKY, bitching, griping patients all day. And besides, I was already mildly cranky before I got sick, so whatever.

    Your Meredith is my Dad. When he asks me everyday what the matter is, I could blow a fuse. I’ve gotten to the point where I just let out the biggest sigh I can muster up, then he drops it (a ‘look’ can usually get the point across too). Everyone else in the family seems to understand, generally, how crappy I feel day in and day out, but I guess Dad forgets what chronic means.

    Crankiness + Depression doesn’t equal the same thing. Like apples and oranges, they’re in the same family, but not the same thing.

  26. Cynthia July 21, 2014 at 8:49 pm #

    I think cranky sums it up nicely. To me, depression implies unreal negativity. With MS, every day presents uncertainty in our reality. And dealing with the day to day, or even minute to minute, variables in our reality can rob us of our tolerance, humor, and spirit.

    So, let those “others” wear our moccasins for a while and see if they are “butterflies and rainbows” after the experience. It’s not depression, it’s our reality.