Learning To Drive and MS

Christina McDonald shares her experience on learning to drive and the challenges she has faced along the way.

When I turned 29, I created a bucket list of things that I wanted to achieve before my 30th birthday. Driving was one of them. I passed the theory test with flying colours. As a new driver, it is only natural to be a bit slower and to struggle with multi-tasking. The instructor would give a lot of information and direction, but I found as the lessons were continuing, the less information I could process. I spent so much time trying to concentrate on his words that I became exhausted. I struggled to pay attention. I would be driving and then I would tune out and not know where I was or why I was driving. Dangerously I would lift my feet off the pedals and freeze, apologising for what happened to be honest it was like a daydream. I could list all the dangerous things that I did but that list would be too long! For example, not knowing my left from right, not being able to concentrate on what was around me, pulling out in front of cars and my reaction time being non existent. So many things were adding up to cause concern especially the amount of lessons I had. I would be so angry with myself, holding back my tears until I got home and then I’d break down because I felt overwhelmed and stupid.

One day the instructor pulled over and spoke to me about my co-ordination issues which he said is not something to be too concerned about as many new drivers struggle with multi-tasking. He said to me the main issue was my attention span. He knew that I was listening to him but was aware that I sometimes zoned out and said that he was concerned for my own safety and the safety of other drivers. He asked me to see my MS team or doctor to get a cognition test and if it were okay, he would teach me automatic driving lessons.

Everyone who knows me will know that I am a happy go lucky kind of girl. I am always trying to be positive and making a negative situation and turning it into something positive but it is hard this time. I have always seen myself as an academic, I have been to college and have a degree, I have been an avid reader since being a child. But now I can barely read a page without having to re-read it about ten times. I am struggling and it makes me feel sad. My speech has been affected too; I do not speak as fast as I used to. I usually speak so fast! It is like a part of my identity but now my words come out much slower. It’s tough because I know people get bored listening to me by the time my sentences get out. What they do not know is that I am working hard to get my words out. I struggle to listen to more than one person talk and when they’re speaking at the same time, I get so overwhelmed and frustrated that I need to leave the room. I never even knew that MS could affect cognition. I often “take the xxxx” out of myself before anyone else does. I do it as a defense thing but deep down I am sad. But I do not want others to know that. I put on a front because if I make fun of myself then no-one else gets to.

It’s difficult for me when I see others driving and learning to drive. It may sound silly to others, but I feel like a baby not knowing how to do simple things that I used to be able to do. I have spoken to my MS team and I have been referred to an OT for a cognitive test. If I am okay to drive, I'll just have to adapt and learn to drive automatic which isn’t a bad thing and if it turns out that I am not allowed to drive, it may just mean that I will have a personal chauffeur from time to time. MS throws so much at you and you constantly learn to adapt.

If you don’t see me driving in the New Year, you may just see me scooting past on an electric scooter!

Christina has her own personal blog www.whenyouresmyelin.com