Parachuting my way through this life with MS

Living with MS can sometimes feel like losing control

Benjamin Hofmeister avatar

by Benjamin Hofmeister |

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Ten minutes away from the drop zone, we stood up and began the final preparations for the jump. The aircraft flew in anything but a straight line as it turned, banked, and swiftly changed altitude. This unpredictable flying technique was tactically sound, as it made the plane difficult to target, but it was quite unpleasant for us passengers.

Weighed down by parachutes and other equipment, we struggled to stand on a constantly shifting floor. As an extra treat, when the doors opened with what always sounded to me like a great gasp, I could see the darkened horizon outside. It seemed to rise and fall in the doorway and occasionally disappeared from sight, leaving only the night sky or the dark ground visible. Having a visual reference for what my inner ears were telling me was nice but didn’t make the ride any more fun. I found myself grimly holding on and hoping the pilots remembered to give us at least 30 seconds of calm, level flight to make it to the door.

Because of unusual experiences like this one in the U.S. Army, I was exposed to the frustrations of inconsistency long before I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2014. I dislike it as much now as I did back then and often find myself grumbling the same kind of sentiments at MS: “If you could just give me 30 spasm-free seconds to get out of the car, two back-to-back good days, or even an hour of clear vision to watch this movie, it’d be great.”

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In search of a target

Unfortunately, this disease isn’t something to be bargained with. Instead of being weighted down by equipment, I’m now burdened by disability and just have to grimly hold on. The difference is, in the past scenario, there was a drop zone coming up where I’d land and leave 45 pounds of parachute behind. I’m still waiting to see where this current journey goes.

I’ve written before that I’m not overly fond of heights. In a twisted way, I used to view uncomfortable flying as a motivation to get off the airplane. I never liked parachuting, but exiting a ride controlled by madmen pretending to be flying through the Alps was preferable. I hope I’m as motivated to try a promising multiple sclerosis treatment should one become available.

Motivational nap-of-the-earth flying aside, the moment I started heading toward the open door was when my fear of jumping was at its lowest. I was no longer in control after I left the plane. Some actions in the air and while landing were my responsibility, but on the whole, any uncertainty felt gone, or at least out of my hands. It may seem fatalistic, but once out the door, the parachute would either open or it wouldn’t.

In a similar way, the inconsistencies and uncertainties of MS are out of my hands. I should be calmer, but I’m not always that way. I just hope we’re heading toward a landing site — and there aren’t too many rocks, because I really can’t afford another concussion.

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Maggie O'Brien avatar

Maggie O'Brien

How appropriate to compare your life as an Army aviator to facing life with an MS diagnosis. In both scenarios, any amount of mental negotiation makes little difference. But just as you knew you were jumping out of the plane for a larger purpose, so can you look at life with an MS diagnosis bears your approaching every letdown has the purpose of teaching you that you cannot control the circumstances but only how you react to it. And having a positive outlook only defeats the negative events that you face day in and day out. It ain't easy, but all we can do is try.

Benjamin Hofmeister avatar

Benjamin Hofmeister

Thank you Maggie! I tried so hard to be in control at te beginning and just ended up frustrated (to say the least). Like you said, I just learned to react better and try.



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