Well everyone seemed to really appreciate my last article on cognitive fog or "Cog-fog" as we call it so here is the long awaited "Part 2"! There was much discussion in the comments section of that last article and many people brought up some good points that I wanted to bring up here because I knew that there was no way I could have covered it all in that last article because first of all it would have been too long and second of all my cog-fog does not always allow me to remember every little detail and as many people with MS know, it's the little things that can have some of the largest impacts! So let's get started shall we?
"My mum said, well, I get all of those things sometimes. I said, yes but I'm only 46 and you're over 70, and I get them often, not sometimes."
I am sure we have all been there, I know I have... Something happens and you just have to tell someone to express your frustration like when I first mistook my razor for my toothbrush. The response I got was "Well don't worry, I have done that too, it happens to all of us". As mentioned in the quote above, yes it does, but the thing is, it happens to me all the time, not just every once in a great while... It's hard because you don't always know if they are just saying that to try to make you feel better or because they don't actually understand... I wouldn't mind if I knew it was just because they wanted to make me feel better but when I think it might be due to a lack of true understanding it get's frustrating because you feel stuck in that "no one understands" boat, "I must be crazy!".
"I forget phone numbers, names, even of people I've known a long time."
Memory loss is extremely frustrating and comes in many shapes and sizes... Sometimes it's just some short term memory and sometimes it's things that you would think of as a long term memory kind of thing. Names? Phone numbers? I have such a hard time with names it's not even funny... I could have spent a whole semester with you in school and after all that still not be able to remember your name. Sometimes I blank out on people's names who I have known all my life like and uncle or a friend I grew up with. Sometimes I even sit there and think "Ryan, no that can't be it, Ryan doesn't even sound like a name or a word, it just sounds weird".
And maybe because I am constantly in a state of forgetting something I start to feel like I am always forgetting something or maybe that is just part of the symptom. Something always feels off, like something has been forgotten, something is wrong. Kind of like when you leave the house and wonder "Did I remember to turn of the iron?" except that feeling will pop up out of nowhere when you are simply sitting down watching TV and you have had nothing going on all day.
"If we were covering something in school that I had learned a few years prior, I'd be fine. Once we started covering new material, I was lost. Normally, if I just read something I'm fine, I get it. This time, I would read a piece of text, turn to jot down a note about it, and by the time I had grabbed my pen I had completely forgotten what I had read. Every time I went to write a test, it was like I hadn't heard of any of the content before, no matter how many times I studied. Each study session, it was like learning the same material from scratch over and over again"
Not only is loosing memory an issue but sometimes adding to your memory is an issue! Learning new things when battle Multiple Sclerosis can be extremely difficult because as mentioned above, as soon as you take it in it is gone! Whether you are reading the directions on the back of a box of rice or studding for school, as soon as you take the information in it disappears and you find yourself constantly looking back at your source of information trying to figure out why you can't get it to stick!
My dad called me yesterday and asked me to take out 4 chicken breasts from the freezer to let them start defrosting. I hung up and walked over to the freezer and removed the bag of chicken breast. By time I had opened it up I had to call him back and ask "Did you want me to take out 5 or 8?" "No... Just 4...". It's so frustrating!
Let me tell you what I think is going on in this situation. Your brain is supposed to take in all the information around you and that information gets sent to a special "room" we will call it. Then your brain proceeds to pick out the stuff it thinks is important and tosses the rest aside because there is no point in dedicating it to memory. Well for some of us, it's like our brain just toss out everything even though some of it is actually important so unless we consciously make an effort to manually dedicate it to memory it will just disappear! It's hard because it's like breaking a habit, we lived most our lives with a properly functioning brain that would have held on to how many chicken breasts we were just told to remove from the freezer but now I have to make a conscious effort to remember every little detail like that and sometimes we forget to make that conscious effort because we are acting on an old habit of having a brain that functioned properly so all the information we take in from the world around us just enter that room and immediately leaves through the back door because "the sorter" is off on a really long lunch break.
"I am completely chronologically impaired, can't even remember what I did yesterday, to figure that out I would have to sit down and really investigate myself"
"When was the last time you experienced this symptom" asked the doctor.
"I don't recall..." I replied.
"Well when do you think, just try to guess about how long it has been."
"Um... 2 weeks? No wait... 2 months? I really don't know..."
Time has lost all meaning to me as I can no longer keep track of it. I can't tell if it has been a day or a month since an event occurred. If I didn't write down when something happened on a calendar or here on my blog then it is gone, it is no longer accessible from my memory. It could have happened yesterday and I won't be able to recall it or I may think it has been 3 days since we went to the park when it was just yesterday... I have not seen my Mom's side of the family in about two years but it feels like just yesterday that we were all getting together for Christmas Eve... This cognitive issue is a strange one and really messes with me which is why I am trying my best to keep on top of my calendar and my symptom logs because then I can literally print my artificial memory out.Sticky notes are an everyday thing for me as well...
Sometimes I Can't Help But Wonder...
Will my inability to create that one necessary brain synapse to recall an event or recognize a person or object eventually grow into a problem as sever as Alzheimer's disease? According to the MS society, Alzheimer's disease presents a different type of memory loss so maybe not but I have also read out there that some people believe there is a link... I don't know enough about it yet to know for sure but what I do know is that I want to exercise my brain all that I can so I don't continue to get worse because if it's this bad when I am just 21 how bad will it be when I am 30? 40? 50? 60? Maybe I just have not found the right treatment for my symptoms yet and maybe there is something out there that will help my cognitive dysfunction but either way, I think it is important to treat our brains like muscles, they need exercise or else they will experience brain atrophy and that won't help any of this for sure! Plus, who wants a tiny shriveled up brain? That's just unattractive... Take care!