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Driving and MS 

By Mary Pettigrew

I don’t know about you, but driving has become a problem for me and my multiple sclerosis (not to mention my issues with IBS). For the most part, I feel perfectly comfortable driving during the day and around my neighborhood, but highways and nighttime are an issue. Whether it be eyesight or nighttime vision issues, I’ve had to alter my routine quite a bit and it’s taking a while for my friends and family to understand and get on board with my needs. This includes using my disabled placard whenever necessary. Ugh! It’s hard to explain when people don’t understand, right?

Over the years, I’ve noticed how uncomfortable I am when driving on heavily trafficked roads. I suppose it’s a sensory overload issue. Therefore, I tend to choose byways and off-road ways of getting to where I need to be, such as when getting groceries, pharmacy needs, and doctor appointments. I also tend to choose times of day when traffic is not particularly an issue (rush hour or lunchtime). I don’t schedule appointments far away. I don’t schedule appointments during heavy traffic times. I don’t travel too far from home unless it’s an emergency, even then, I try to seek driving help. Nighttime is the worst, so I do not drive at night anymore, period.

The holidays were challenging for me, my mom, and other family members. I found out my father, who lives in California, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and doesn’t know who I am anymore. I know this has nothing to do with driving, but it does add to the anxiety of driving and getting together with others these days.

Long story short, it’s important to set those necessary boundaries as to what you can and cannot do – and driving is one of those.

I do have a very close relationship with my mom, and we live nearby to one another. That’s a good thing. but I’ve tried to make it clear to her that unless it’s daylight, I can’t drive. She likes to have dinner at a certain time, and I’ve told her it’s not possible until summer when I can drive home when it’s still daylight. This has been (and probably will be) a continuous battle, but my safety comes first. Therefore, I’ve told her unless we do breakfast or lunch together, I’ll have to Uber. She does not like this idea, but again, boundaries. It’s hard when it’s your mom.

It's been interesting to hear from others who go through the same thing when driving – sensory overload, depth perception, headlights, etc. It’s also been comforting to know I’m not the only one in these ‘shoes.’ 

I live alone and I used to get jealous when hearing about others who have people around them to drive and help bring people together. That’s not always the case for a lot of us living with MS. 

I write a lot about boundaries, and this is just one extra tidbit that falls into the same game.