A woman and man are having a conversation. The man has his eyes closed and is talking as a paragraph of lines comes out of a speech bubble. The woman's eyes are wide with a broken speech bubble as a completely empty thought cloud lingers over her head.

Ill Communication: Difficulty Expressing Myself With MS

The many symptoms I’ve acquired because of multiple sclerosis have affected me in a lot of ways. I can no longer run like I once did. I sometimes have difficulty showering. I fumble and drop objects far more than I did in the past. Every once in a while, I’ll be walking or standing and just fall. I sometimes choke on whatever I’m drinking. Occasionally, I’ll be watching TV and forget what I’m watching or if I’ve seen the program before. I’m even no longer able to work. One recurring and particularly frustrating issue I have, is being able to properly express myself during a conversation. Like many of the issues I’ve mentioned, it isn’t always one issue that causes this end result for me, but rather a combination of symptoms conspiring to cause me difficulty.

Frustration

I realize it might seem strange to some, that I have trouble expressing myself. Me, the one who writes all of these articles about his life with the disease. Just doesn’t seem possible right? That’s the thing with MS though; it’s not consistent, not predictable. I can be cruising along, typing or talking up a storm, and then bam! I’m suddenly unable to even form a sentence or worse, I come up with the wrong words, meaning something completely different than what I intended.

It's embarrassing when I'm talking to others

When I’m alone, this is extremely frustrating, particularly if I was on a roll and fine one second but troubled the next. However, when I’m talking to others, either in person or virtually, it’s downright embarrassing. I feel like I either sound like an idiot or that I’m just distracted and not paying attention to them. I often do my best to explain and excuse myself: “Sorry, ha ha, it’s the old brain damage acting up!” Which is actually true, all that damaged myelin in my brain and spinal cord is the ultimate cause.

Which symptoms cause my difficulty communicating?

As I just mentioned, the original cause of me suddenly being unable to express myself is the damage done by MS. The insulative covering around the nerves in my brain has been eaten away by my own immune system, making signals that the brain is sending either get delayed on their journey or cause them not to arrive at all. Some of the problems I have when communicating are due to speech-related issues (which I cover here, with aphasia being a symptom often related to “loss of words”). Cognitive dysfunction (aka “brain fog” as many like to refer to it) is another cause, where my thinking is suddenly impaired (that’s normally the biggest issue I have when I encounter difficulty expressing myself). Adding to speech and cognitive issues, I tend to experience a lot of burning nerve pain, as well as spasms. Sometimes these are so bad, that I feel like they just completely distract me and scramble my thoughts. Pain can be so unbearable at times, that it just takes over, it’s all you can think about, completely derailing other trains of thought.

Fighting back against these problems with communication

While each of those symptoms alone is enough to sabotage my attempts at communication, more often than not, it’s a combination of those symptoms blended together that stops me in my tracks. Combating these multiple issues can be difficult, but you can still improve your chances at consistently communicating well. You can try different medications and marijuana for pain and spasms. You can work on your cognitive issues by doing puzzles and other types of cognitive stimulation. And maybe most important if you suffer from these issues, you can see a speech therapist to learn some techniques to avoid issues like aphasia. Even with all of these ways of fighting back, you’ll still need some understanding. Not only from your friends and loved ones but from yourself, because it’s hard to get rid of this issue 100%. Sometimes, the best solution is to go a little easier on yourself and try to laugh off these blips of ill communication.

Do you suffer from issues expressing yourself? Hit up the comments below, I’d love to hear other’s experiences!

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

Devin

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