RELAXATION CAN
BE IRRITATING

    I always called it "claustrophobia of the legs," because thatís the way it felt. My legs felt trapped, with a desperate need to escape.
    For 30 years, since I was a teenager, Iíve lived with this affliction. It would only happen late in the evening and only when I was relaxing.
    My legs would get a creepy-crawly feeling running through them. The more I would try and relax, the more tense and tingly the legs would become. The only way to alleviate the symptoms was to stand up and move around, which kind of put a dent in the relaxation thing.
   Imagine sitting in front of a roaring fire late at night, hopelessly trying to slap your legs into submission. Imagine watching a late night video and rolling around the floor in a feeble attempt to get comfortable. That was me.
    Some nights were far worse than others. And some nights there were no symptoms at all. Because of the variations, I was convinced the problem was at least in part psychological.
    I didnít want to talk about it much because I thought the more I dwelled on it, the worse it would become. And the few times I mentioned it to doctors, they responded with blank stares.
    Then one night not long ago, when my legs felt like thousands of worms were crawling, very slowly, up and down my veins, I turned to the Internet, just for the heck of it.
    They donít call it the Information Age for nothing. Iím no expert, and I certainly had no expectations, but with a little luck I came up with a web site called the Restless Leg Syndrome Foundation (www.rls.org).
    My claustrophobia of the legs not only had a new name, but it had plenty of company. Approximately 12 million Americans experience abnormal, uncomfortable sensations deep within the legs while attempting to sleep or rest.
    I wasnít a hypochondriac after all. In fact, Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) was a neurological disorder that could appear at any age from the teen years on, and can vary greatly in severity from case to case.
   For 30 years Iíd had a neurological disorder and didnít even know its name. And the best was yet to come, because right there on the web page menu was the heading "CURES."
   I took a deep breath, both blessing the Information Age and cursing myself for not investigating this problem years ago. With the advances in medical science, I should have known that someone had discovered a simple supplement I could take which would relieve my irritating late-night symptoms.
    I clicked on "CURES," and it only took a micro-second for the screen to flash the answer. "THERE IS NO CURE FOR RESTLESS LEGS SYNDROME."
    That was a little disappointing. After thinking about it, though, I realized that if 12 million people had it, the cure couldnít have been working too well.
    So while no relief was in sight, I took solace in knowing I was not alone, and also that my symptoms were minor compared to some of the more severe sleep-deprivation cases stemming from RLS which I read about while surfing the web.
    I also took the opportunity to join the RLS Foundation, based in Rochester, Minnesota. For $25 a year, I get a quarterly newsletter, "Night Walkers," which in roundabout ways confirms each quarter that "There is STILL no cure for Restless Legs Syndrome."
    But thatís OK. At least I know whatís going on, and that somebody, somewhere, is trying to figure out what wayward gene is causing 12 million Americans to suffer such discomfort.
   And at least my discomfort now has a real name. "Claustrophobia of the legs" just didnít illicit the sympathy and understanding I needed while rolling around on the floor late at night or doing stretching exercises at 3:00 in the morning.
    It also helps to know I have 11,999,999 comrades rolling around the floor with me.
 

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