Tuesday, May 27, 2014

WED/RLS Wordle

Recently the WED Foundation created a wordle that has generated a lot of interest.  What is a wordle?  Glad you asked, since I didn’t know what it was either.  A wordle is a “word cloud” created from various words on a topic.  The WED Foundation asked people to describe in one word what living with WED/RLS was like, then used those words to make a very unique wordle.  If you haven’t seen it, please go to the WED Facebook page and scroll down a ways.

This wordle is amazing.  It is informational.  It is truthful.  Most of all, it is scary and depressing.  Terms such as “herky-jerky legs”, “buggly”, and “ikky” can make this disease sound trivial and bearable but also describe what it feels like.  “Misunderstood” is a fact of life most of us have lived with for a long time.  We have not been taken seriously and in many, many cases that is still true.  Finding words that will accurately describe what we feel is almost impossible—it is so different in many ways for each one of us.

Even when we get brave enough to admit that WED/RLS is “insanity”, “unending”, and “tortuous”, friends, family and the medical profession don’t take us seriously.  In their minds, having restless legs, arms or other body parts is minor; a small annoyance at best.  I remember when fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome were considered maladies made up by people who were just simply lazy.  Now they are accepted and widely known as real conditions; the public at large knows exactly what they are.

I was thinking about what words might be used to create wordles for other chronic conditions or diseases.  Probably most of the words from our wordle such as “relentless”, “excruciating”, “unrelenting”, and “incurable” can be used to describe other diseases.  Take out those words, plus the ones such as “heebie-jeebies” and you are left with two that are major players in our world.

The first is “chainsaw”.  While that may get chuckles, it is a deadly serious word.  Too many people have said they would like to cut off their legs just to get away from the misery but are afraid of phantom restlessness.  Again, this sounds funny but it isn’t—name one other disease where you would think about cutting off part of your body rather than endure the feelings.  We are not talking about pain here (although many suffer with that along with the restlessness); pain is accepted in our society—having jumpy legs/arms is not.

The other word that makes this wordle unique is “lonely”.  I fully understand that every person at one time or another feels lonely.  But there is a loneliness that comes when you are surrounded by people who have no clue what you are going through.  Chemo patients, dialysis patients, people with dementia, all have enormous support networks, which is wonderful.  WED/RLS affects 7-10% of the population and yet we walk the floors at night with no one beside us, we look out at the darkness without having anyone holding our hands.

This wordle can be depressing—just like our lives can be dealing with WED/RLS.  But I prefer to look at it as something new and refreshing that can be used to create awareness, open conversations and best of all, remind us that we are NOT alone.  I may not have the exact same symptoms as you, or take the same medications as you, or have the same outlook as you—but I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GOING THROUGH.  The same moon shines over us all.  So while we may not know each other personally, we can work together so that one night, if we find ourselves walking the floors, WED/RLS will not be the reason.