A confused man with a brown towel weighing heavy on his head. There is a slight fog circulating his face as well.

But Poop Doesn't Go In The Trash Can

How about the profound observation in that title? It’s true (most of the time); poop shouldn’t go in the trash can, it should go in the toilet. I was given that nice little reminder the other day. Of course, I already knew that. Shockingly, this isn’t about bowel or bathroom-related issues, this is about how some of our cognitive issues can have an impact in our daily life.

A cognitive misstep

The feces in question? Not even mine (this time), it was my dog Ferdinand’s lovely excrement (he’s an older guy I adopted, and he never really learned that he should go outside) that I found in my kitchen and then, instead of depositing it in the toilet, I dropped it right in the kitchen trash can. This kind of simple mistake may seem funny, but it’s the kind of cognitive misstep that adds up when you’re suffering from what many people refer to as “brain fog”.

A simple cognitive mistake can become dangerous

Cognitive issues are a serious problem for me, one that heavily contributed to me leaving my career. Like most of my MS symptoms, these problems are not consistent. I never know when or how much I’ll be affected by them. Today, I am writing about it. A couple days ago, I was putting dog poop into the kitchen trash, not simply because I forgot, but because I truly thought that’s where it was supposed to go. I’m using some humor here (as Frank Reynolds from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia would say, “poop is funny”), but if you really think about it, that kind of demonstrates some pretty messed up wiring on my part. Imagine that kind of mistake, but while driving or cooking. Not just forgetting something, but doing it incorrectly and believing it to be the right way. It can be extraordinarily dangerous.

My confusion felt like more than just a fog

While it was an incorrect decision, in my mind that was actually the most lucid part of my day. I actually felt good right after because I figured I had done that task, no matter how mundane, correctly. The rest of the day was a very bad one in terms of brain fog, and I think folks who haven’t experienced it don’t really understand it, which is why I’m writing this. It wasn’t a case of just putting poop in the trash or forgetting a few things. I spent much of the day struggling. To say that my head was in a fog just doesn’t feel like it does the condition justice. It felt more like my brain was covered and buried in a wet towel, than just being in a fog.

The confusion almost brought me to tears

The level of confusion and misunderstanding I had throughout the day was enough to almost bring me to tears. I spent a large part of the day sitting there and being unsure of what to do. Even trying to follow programs on TV felt too difficult, as I’d lose my place or not understand what was happening. I’m not even sure if I ate lunch (or if, by mistake, I ate lunch twice). I also, as a 42-year-old man, urinated in my pants because I couldn’t figure out how to undo them; that’s tough to admit, and even tougher to live with.

Brain fog is like trying to see and think through a filter

When I’m having brain fog, nothing is clear. I can’t figure out which words to use, or understand what people are saying. Trying to focus on the simplest of tasks becomes impossible. Remembering anything becomes incredibly difficult. It’s so much more than just not being sharp or being forgetful. Yes, everyone can make simple mistakes or occasionally go into a room and forget why they went in. That’s not brain fog. It’s much more severe and encompassing than that. It's almost like I’m seeing through fuzzy vision and need time to consider and figure out what every object or word I see is before I can actually understand and consider them. That’s why it slows me down so much; sometimes, I even misidentify those words and objects. It’s experiencing life through a filter. Not just seeing through a filter, but thinking through a filter, and it’s extremely difficult.

Cognitive dysfunction takes a toll

I deal with a lot of symptoms because of MS. I’ve had the disease a very long time, some of which was before we had the medications we have today. So, damage has added up over those years. I have bad pain, and spasms, and fatigue, and numbness, and the list goes on. Nothing else has the impact on me that these cognitive issues, this “brain fog,” has. It honestly feels like my identity has been taken when this happens. It so screws up my ability to function that I have moments where I can’t fathom going on with it.

I didn't expect pain and cog fog to be my biggest problems with MS

You’d never know it was affecting me if you saw me - maybe if you tried talking to me (and even then you might just assume I was drunk or being rude). I thought for sure when I was diagnosed with MS that mobility issues would be my biggest problem. I expected to be in a wheelchair by now, but I didn’t know that my two greatest enemies would be pain and cognitive dysfunction. Those weren’t even considered symptoms back when I was diagnosed. Brain fog is a serious thing, when someone mentions it, please understand that it’s more than being a little forgetful or a little less sharp. Having brain fog makes putting poop in the trash the least of our concerns.

Thanks so much for reading and always feel free to share!

Devin

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