Cognitive Defects

Cognitive changes are common in people with MS — about half of MSers will develop some type of problem(s) with cognition. When I say “cognitive” I’m referring to things like speech, memory, concentration and attention etc. Everything that one takes for granted until things start to get a bit difficult; mixing sounds when speaking, forgetting things more than usual, having the attention span of a gold fish. A person may experience difficulties in only one or two areas of cognitive functioning or in several.

For me, this aspect of MS is worsened when I’m fatigued. It is so frustrating! Simple things like remembering a word for something can be so challenging. This is called verbal fluency a.k.a. word-finding. There’s nothing worse than having the sentence loosely formed in your head, but, then when you try to find the word for said object and you can’t is just so unfair! It feels like you’re searching a dictionary where the one word you are looking for has been scribbled out in the book. It no longer exists in your brain. You know it’s there, you just can’t see through the permanent black ink covering it. I have to think really hard about it and the harder I think, the tougher it gets to find the word! It’s like playing one of those claw games; you know where you have 3 chances to pick up the fluffy toy? Sometimes you think you have the word. You’re so close! Almost there..! And you drop it. It makes me so furious! And of course, the angrier I get the harder still it is to find the word! Until I give up, and just hope to God that the person knows what I’m talking about. Another aspect of this is mixing up word sounds. In my head it says “speak”, but, I say “speech”. Who knew that something so simple could be so annoying?

My memory doesn’t function at 100% either. If MS can take it, MS will take it. These days I find myself writing things down on my phone or making lists so that I don’t forget anything. I put regular reminders on my phone, things like appointments, what medication to take and when etc. I notice more and more lately that I forget things that I need to do, like putting socks on, getting cutlery or turning off lights and switches. I understand that everyone does this once in a while, but, I do them more often than I care to admit. At times I forget that I have tasks already done and yet I’d go to do it again anyway, only to figure out that I did it just a few minutes ago. Brushing my teeth is a good example; I can’t even tell you how many times I go to brush my teeth! Annoyingly, now and again I can’t remember if I have gone to the toilet or not. How flucked up is that?! (I’ve no shame lads, I’ll tell you anything 😉 ) I could tell you the same thing three or four times simply because I forgot that I told you the time previous to that. It’s really simple things like that, that can mess with your mind. I feel like I’m losing it every so often; redoing things that I did only minutes beforehand. It makes me feel really stupid and fairly pathetic to be honest. Sometimes I can see the funny side of it though; I mean it’s comical sitting on the loo and thinking “wait, why don’t I feel like I need to go?” How in the world could you forget peeing?! Oh, you would be surprised what MS can do to one’s short term memory.

I find that concentrating can be awfully strenuous as well. Giving my complete attention to one thing is much more demanding than it should be. I could read the same line over and over again, but, no way in hell would my brain register it. Someone could be talking to me, but, I would only hear muffling. I have to stop them and ask them to repeat themselves, sometimes more than once! It’s really embarrassing having to ask them to say it a third time, especially when what they have said still doesn’t register. To avoid any tension you just agree and let them move on, hoping that you might be able to pick up what you missed during the rest of the conversation. Giving things divided attention can be pretty difficult for me. It’s hard enough for me to concentrate on one thing, don’t mind two or three! Don’t ask me to text and watch TV at the same time, reading while listening to music isn’t my forte either. Don’t expect me to talk to or listen to you while I am painting my nails! For the split few seconds that I am brushing my hair, I have no idea what you just said to me.

All in all, MS likes to make a fool of you. As if having speech problems wasn’t bad enough, why not let me have memory and focus problems too! Sound MS, you’re a legend.

Sometimes I Forget That I Have a Chronic Illness.

As weird as it sounds, every now and then I stop and think “oh yeah, I’ve MS.” I know that it seems funny, but, it’s essentially a good thing, it means I’m in good health! ..Or plain stupid!

I can imagine that you’re wondering how on earth I could forget something so real and prevalent in my life. Lately, things have been going well for me with regards my health. In contrast to this time last year I’m like a different person! I don’t know myself these days. My fatigue levels have decreased significantly, making it so much easier for me to do the everyday things that I couldn’t do before. I’m beginning to be able to do the little things that I couldn’t do this time 12 months ago. Things like staying up late, going on nights out with my friends, doing more activities and still being able to carry on for the day (or most of). It’s still a bit surreal though, trying to picture myself doing all of these things when not so long ago just thinking about doing them made me tired.

This sounds all good, but, when that “thought” crosses my mind and the feeling sinks in, I come crashing back down to reality. I do have MS, it hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s the little reminders that can be the worst. I’m visiting a friend’s house; I start to feel too tired to drive home, so I want to stay the night. That’s all fine and dandy, but, then all of a sudden it clicks. My medication is at home, I’m not as normal as I thought for that split second. Yes, I could take the meds when I get home the following morning, but that’s not my point here. What I’m trying to say is that I sometimes forget that I even have simple vitamins to take because of my MS, let alone my treatment medications. I know that lots of people are on medication, different tablets for different things. But, this time 18 months ago I was on absolutely nothing, and now all of a sudden, in order to stay “well” I need to pop a few pills every morning. It’s a weird feeling, forgetting something that is a big deal.

It can be pretty bittersweet, forgetting something so serious. For example, if I wanted to do a certain thing that entailed getting a medical, would the fact that I have a chronic illness mean that I’d fail on site? Or maybe I’d have that go against me and ultimately cause me to fail the test? Small things like that slip my mind sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to drop my chin and sulk about it. If it’s not meant to be it’s not meant to be. They just missed out on having an amazing person on their team because they thought that she wouldn’t be up for anything due to the simple fact that I have a long term illness. You know, because I’m awesome and stuff!

Don-t-hate-me-cuz-I-m-AWESOME-penguinangel-24752236-499-431It can suck to be brought back down to earth and be reminded that I do have Multiple Sclerosis. But, this disease is clearly not affecting me badly enough for me to be sitting in a dark corner and crying about my life. I’m doing what every “normal” person is doing. Perhaps I have to move slower than your average “healthy” person, but I’m still doing the same thing as them. I’m still capable of driving, going out and having a good time, going abroad, exercising etc.

Life with a chronic illness isn’t all that bad for me at the moment. Naturally, I have bad days where everything isn’t so great. For the most part though, I feel “healthy”, as healthy as I can be anyway. It’s nice to act like a normal 22 year old, even if it’s just for a few more weeks or days. I plan on enjoying every bit of it and forgetting that I have MS for as long as I can!