It’s not always easy to talk to your doctor about the embarrassing symptoms of MS – how do you casually bring up bladder dysfunction or sexual issues?read more
Nobody likes to feel…well, stupid.
But when memory and cognition symptoms of multiple sclerosis commonly referred to as cog-fog roll in, it’s easy to feel that way. From that unable-to-focus-fuzzy-brain feeling to those black hole episodes when you have absolutely zero recollection of a conversation, commitment or event, these cog-fog moments can really make you feel like you are completely losing your mind. “What do you mean I made plans to meet you on Thursday?” and “of course I put the milk back in the microwave – doesn’t everyone?”
It’s frustrating when the wrong words come tumbling out of your mouth, or you walk over to your colleague’s desk and can’t remember why you came. You may feel like you need to put more effort into looking like you have your act together so that people around you don’t lose confidence in you, or think you are untrustworthy. You have MS, The last thing you want to do is to be treated like an Alzheimer’s patient, right?
Fake It Or Fess Up?
How you deal with these moments when they happen may influence how other people view you. You can ride it out with any non-related MS excuse that you can think of, from late nights out to a stressful week. Or even choose no explanation at all. Humor is often a great coping mechanism. And if you want to explain to someone, a bright smile and “oops, I must be having an MS moment” is one sure way to help others understand that it is your disease and not you.
If you have not disclosed your MS diagnosis to your boss, or if you are at the workplace, you may not want to evoke unwanted attention or cause others to question if your multiple sclerosis is impacting job performance. This is where some common coping strategies can be a lifesaver.
• Organizing your environment
• Keeping a daily to-do list that is kept in the same place
• Having a consistent schedule that includes planning time
• Sticky notes, and electronic reminders are invaluable!
• Mnemonic devices: Songs and funny things are easier to remember, assign visuals and rhymes. Sound funny, but it works!
• Talk yourself through: verbal reinforcement is another great way to reinforce new information.
• Ask friends or coworkers to remind you
It is estimated that 65% of people living with MS will experience cognitive symptoms. So please know that you are not alone. The silver lining is that if you are experiencing cog-fog, there are steps you can take to help manage it.
Neuropsychological evaluations can help determine how much your MS is impacting your memory. Many neuropsychologists and occupational therapists also provide cognitive rehab designed to help identify ways to compensate for loss of memory or affected learning ability. There are also several memory apps and scientifically developed brain training software programs, like the popular Lumosity, that offer ways to give your brain a daily workout.
Your Cognitive Barometer
As always, spouses, partners and roommates are often the first to be impacted by your condition. Open communication is important to flag problems or brainstorm solutions. If you are more forgetful or repeating yourself often, tell them you want to know. They can help you keep an eye on your symptoms. If your partner or spouse is not understanding about the cognitive challenges you face, educate them.
Often times, you may think others notice your deficits, when they may not. Remember, forgetfulness is not just an MS issue - it is a human issue.