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
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
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
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
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.