Thinking Through a Smudge: Part 2

Recently, I wrote about some of the ways the cognitive problems I’ve developed because of multiple sclerosis have affected me (including one example that explained how my thinking is like trying to see through a smudge on a pair of glasses, hence the title). As I wrote that article, I realized it was getting on the long side. So, particularly given the subject matter, I thought I’d break it into two parts.

More congntive challenges with MS

So here is the continuation, with more examples of how cognitive dysfunction affects me.

Trouble following instructions/difficulty problem solving

I’ve mentioned in the past that one of my passions (as well as forms of therapy) is collecting and building LEGO sets. This hobby of mine tends to highlight some of my cognitive issues. I have times where I have a lot of difficulty following the most basic of instructions (that are many times designed with small children in mind). Coupled with problems identifying the correct pieces, my favorite hobby becomes extremely frustrating very quickly. When I’m not feeling quite right, usually attempting a few steps for a LEGO set shows me very quickly how bad my symptoms are.

Aphasia

Another common issue for me is known as aphasia, a speech issue where I can’t quite get the right words. I’ve mentioned in the past that this is one of several reasons I hate talking on the phone. It’s an issue that seems to be getting worse for me too. It’s not simply forgetting the right word on occasion, I also have trouble understanding what people say to me sometimes. They might as well be talking gibberish to me. This is such a big problem for me, that there are times during some of the summer’s heatwaves where I am essentially rendered non-verbal. It’s awful.

Concentration

If I’m having a bad day, I start to have a tremendous amount of difficulty concentrating on any one particular task. I get easily distracted either by my surroundings or even by my own thoughts. I feel like I’m trying to play a game of whack-a-mole with my thoughts, with new ones popping up constantly. It makes even something as simple as following along with a program on TV very difficult (in fact, commercial breaks are rough for me, they completely break my attention, to the point where I forget what I’m watching and what’s happening in it).

Processing speed

One of the biggest hits to my cognitive abilities has been the speed with which I take in and act upon information. Overall, my thinking is much slower than it was some years back (I had a pretty definitive moment when my cognitive issues really hit me). However, while I can still manage life pretty well, I have many moments where things slow down much more than normal. My ability to understand what’s happening isn’t really gone, but suddenly it takes much longer to understand what I’m seeing. This has been a big reason why I started limiting the amount that I drive. I’ve had many moments where I realized that my processing speed was so hampered that it was simply unsafe.

Access problems

I’ve discussed my memory issues in a separate article because they are so prevalent. I still feel the need to discuss an issue related to memory problems. I call these access issues because I have a lot of moments where I know that I know something: it’s not gone, I simply can’t get to the information in my brain at the moment I am trying. I know that this basically falls under memory problems, but it makes me feel a little better when I refer to it as an access issue because that’s really what it is. That information isn’t gone, my brain just won’t let me in. Like a locked file cabinet, I often find myself scrambling to find the key.

Decision making

Pretty much every one of these issues I’ve mentioned previously has an effect on my ability to make decisions. Whether it be something important or something trivial, any variety of these cognitive issues has a negative impact on my decision-making. Even if I am feeling pretty good, there is often a thought in the back of my head that makes me question if I’m actually thinking clearly or not. That alone is enough to slow me down when making choices.

Thanks so much for reading and always feel free to share! As always, I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!

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