When you have to think to swallow…

One of the scarier moments for me in this life with multiple sclerosis is when my throat closes up and refused to allow me to swallow. Many times I have to actually convince those muscles to actually function. Last night was one of those times.

I had water by my bedside, elevated the head of my hospital bed, reached over for my cup then took a sip. I held that water in my mouth a good two or three minutes as I tried to swallow. At one point I even thought about spitting it out but eventually was able to get it down. The harder times is when it goes down the wrong way and I end up having a coughing fit.

And people wonder why we are always so exhausted. Maybe it’s because we have to work overtime all day long in order to do the things everyone else takes for granted. When you have to think to walk, think to swallow, think to remember words, think to even scratch your nose…well, that’s a lot of exhaustive thinking and would wear out even the healthiest person around.

I wish there was a switch I could flip to make my muscles work as they were intended or a program I could write to override the glitches in my system. That would make my days so much easier to manage and would be a welcomed improvement.

My morning coffee is not as enjoyable as it used to be but I still make myself a cup each morning anyway. Sometimes I don’t get it all down and end up pouring half of it down the drain…but sometimes I don’t. This morning I finished my cup and for that I’m thankful. It’s the little things in life that really matter anyway.

Life has drastically changed because of multiple sclerosis but I will never give up looking for rainbows in the chaos. This morning I found a rainbow in my coffee cup, tomorrow maybe I will find it in the laundry. Hey, anything’s possible!

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About the Author

Penelope Conway

Penelope Conway
Penelope started Positive Living with MS as a way to help others with MS stay positive in the midst of a terrible disease. She believes that staying positive and holding onto hope is the key to waking up each morning with the strength to get through the day. Multiple Sclerosis may never go away, but neither will her determination and her drive to help others through the journey.

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  1. Rodger Ashton-Smith
    Rodger Ashton-Smith says:

    Thanks for your sharing Penelope. As you know I have muscle problems of a different type, but the same affect.
    The muscles that control my urethra tube have clamped up and I have had serious retentive problems that made me really sick and blotted. It has also cause many bowel play ups too, as they both use the same muscle center.
    I will be getting a built-in catheter early next year. I have an appointment with the urologist at our hospital to take me through the logistics of what to do or not with it.
    I am pleased they have finally found it but it has been a long 6 months (or a few more years of not knowing) of trying different things out. I could have told them what it was but it wouldn’t have mattered, they have learnt to do what they do and no one knows better than them. At least I haven’t had another UTI.

  2. Missi Ream
    Missi Ream says:

    This is me too … I thought it was just me. I have this very frequently and have problems breathing when it’s severe, but unfortunately it is very frequent and has even caused me to pass out on occasion. I have even fallen and gotten a concussion from it. Employers now consider me a danger to myself and others and won’t hire me to work. All we can do pray for strength everyday and be thankful for each breath we are allowed to take.

  3. Glenys Jackson
    Glenys Jackson says:

    It happens to me occasionally, usually when I’m swallowing something. I just concentrate on relaxing and breathing slowly until it’s over, with perhaps a sip or two of water to help. It’s worked for me so far, but anything connecting with your throat closing up is scary. Many of us are empathising with you. Stay calm as best you can, and I pray the difficulty you are having in that regard will soon sort itself out.

  4. Elizabeth Ferguson
    Elizabeth Ferguson says:

    Cannot believe I am not alone my friends and family don’t panic as they are so used to it happening. It’s so random you never know when. Annette Jolly your description is so accurate the noise is weird and taking a drink definitely does not help. I try not to panic to much when eating out I just escape to the toilet until it passes.

  5. Odette van Straalen
    Odette van Straalen says:

    Very glad to hear you’re feeling better today. Yes it’s very scary with no warning. I have to talk my throat muscles through the process too, whilst trying to stay calm. My biggest problem is getting pills down. Ugh…

  6. Annette Jolly
    Annette Jolly says:

    Yes, and sometimes when I swallow liquid, it becomes air locked and it sounds like the liquid is going down a drain. And then it decides to trick me by coming back up, shooting out of my mouth! Most embarrassing if you are out somewhere for a meal or a coffee!

  7. Shelby Fitzgerald
    Shelby Fitzgerald says:

    This happened to me before I even knew I had MS. It actually happened for years, and it was so terrifying. I didn’t know what was going on but also was so scared to tell my parents at the time (it started in middle school.) when I was diagnosed at 21 it all made sense. It always gives me such bad anxiety when I start feeling symptoms come on as I’m always scared this symptom will follow again. Thank you for sharing ❤️

  8. Samantha DeGroot
    Samantha DeGroot says:

    This is a daily issue for me. I have had to stop drinking water because it’s too thin. I have to add cream to drink coffee and my greatest fear is being “helped” when I choke. My kids are my defense in public. When my daughter was about six she physically blocked a well meaning man who wanted to Heimlich me. She screamed she would tell police he hit her. I was proud and embarrassed at the same time.

  9. Cindy Davey
    Cindy Davey says:

    Oh goodness, yes! Hubby came in yesterday while I am trying to calmly Zen my way through one of those episodes. It’s like whatever you’re trying to swallow is stuck! It hurts, it hinders your breathing & you sure can’t talk & explain it to someone! He keeps asking me: “what’s wrong? Are you ok? Talk to me!”. I’m motion ok & gesture that I can’t talk. About the 4th time he repeats this I give him an agitated gesture and get this! He says: “calm down, honey. Don’t panic!”. Are you kidding me? I was doing just fine with my non swallowing issue. You are not alone by far ❤

  10. Bob Swain
    Bob Swain says:

    Cathy, same thing happened to me awhile back while drinking, all of a sudden, couldn’t swallow, now all of a sudden my doctor has sent me for more blood work and a chest exray, anda scan on stomach. Does MS start with splean problems?

  11. Stephanie Redden
    Stephanie Redden says:

    My problem is it strangles me all the time. Wrist is when I take my medicine at night. At I have to let all the water out of my mouth into my had to make sure which ones I swallowed. I have to really concentrate at times to swallow my food. The struggle is real for all of us NEeds.

  12. Paulette Brown
    Paulette Brown says:

    I was recently at an MS conference and started choking on my own saliva-really hacking and coughing-the people at my table(strangers) were awesome-one filled my water glass and the rest (8 at the table) just kept an eye on me(discreetly) and let me cough it out-NO embarrassment! I’d say “it was great” but that would sound psycho? when is choking ever great? but the great part was they all understood and were there if I needed anything.

  13. Jo Sandeman
    Jo Sandeman says:

    Yes this is happening to me on a daily basis, sometimes even my own saliva chokes me. But I try to keep calm, difficult when you’re choking but, keep i trying, my MS nurse make sure when you eat you don’t get distracted and keep your chin tucked in, ie:don’t look up. Also the MS Trust do a free very useful leaflet on this subject, worth a read.

  14. Katheryn Marash
    Katheryn Marash says:

    It’s only happened a few times to me but when it does it’s so scary. I have found if I focus on my breath it relaxes my mind and then the moment passes. It works for me in my scariest moments.

  15. Nikki Basar
    Nikki Basar says:

    I don’t have to be eating when this happens now, just a normal regular swallow will sometimes get stuck for a few seconds. The first time (and I was eating) was terrifying but I’m used to it now.

  16. James M. Dorn
    James M. Dorn says:

    I think to swallow, choke more than I swallow, sometimes my wife wants to call EMS….. Food is chewed to a mush,,, and still choke. I can choke on Air… Managing is a learned experience…

    • Lisa
      Lisa says:

      Wow I thought It was just me!!! I will be eating and feel like l am going to choke cause i forgot or cant swallow!!! Thank you for sharring!!! Btw I ❤️ your posts!!! Stay strong!!! You make me stronger

  17. Randi
    Randi says:

    I just found your site and am so grateful, recently diagnosed in my 50’s, I don’t know each day what to expect! Your information is spot on… Thank you, and glad to be part of this community

  18. Judy Reed Brazzell
    Judy Reed Brazzell says:

    I told so many different doctors this and they tell me there’s no such thing ever happens I’ve had so much different symptoms going on some doctors will tell me if my respiratory some will tell me it’s my sleep apnea sad parts they don’t know half as much as I do but it’s terrible to be feeling like you’re choking and gasping for air and can’t breathe cuz your throat lungs are collapsed together sinus and allergies never been able to breathe through my nose blessings to all

  19. Geraldine Lowrey
    Geraldine Lowrey says:

    I used to cough and nearly choke so much. I was told I’m eating too fast! NO I’M NOT!! I do eat slower now but sometimes that doesn’t help. The damaged nerves do what they want when they want. That’s the story and I’m sticking to it because that’s the truth.

  20. Laura Sowa
    Laura Sowa says:

    It’s a very sneaky disease MS is, isn’t it? Legs, throat, head, you just never know what surprises are going to be there in the morning. Stay strong and go on!

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