Tag Archives: brain fog

Stupid Is As Stupid Does …

stupidI adore learning.

I was never a gifted academic at school – good grades coming only after a hard slog – but the desire to learn was always there.

Perhaps it is a longing to discover more of the world than is immediately apparent, to get under its skin?

I’m questioning this as I’ve been encouraged to take a PhD, since completing my Masters. Even writing these words seems embarrassing. My second degree, the one that, pre-MS, was going to spring-board me into a promising career as The Teenager would then be out of child-care, ground to an abrupt halt as soon as the first symptoms appeared. After almost ten years of working in a low-paid, part-time job to be available for him, it was a bitter pill.

A Doctorate is an idle, long-held dream. It was something other people did, the clever ones. Not the ones who turned down a University place at 18 to move to Austria instead. If I’d done the former, I would now be a Russian-German translator, and who knows how my life would have turned out?

To get to the point that I could even think about the next step is nothing short of miraculous, and obviously I have the incredible MS treatments I’ve had to thank for keeping my MS progression at bay. But I would like to think it’s also due in some part to my sheer obstinacy. The days, weeks, months I spent with huge sheets of paper dotted around the house filled with random jottings and essay outlines. The fluttering waves of post-it notes on my desk. My tears when my brain refused to comply.

And yes, I tried to give up, many times. It all seemed impossible. Who was I trying to kid? But where does this obstinacy come from? Well, a very unlikely source.

Years ago, a partner of mine (who will remain anonymous although if he is reading this, he will know exactly who he is), told me over and over again how stupid I was. I had no degree back then, just years of experience working abroad and three languages under my belt. He had a degree and a post-grad qualification.

This became quite an issue, with every argument prefaced with, ‘well, as I have a degree, I feel more qualified to say …’. In frustration I challenged us both to MENSA tests. And what do you know, my score was higher. But in a way, the damage had been done. I believed I was stupid (it had been said often enough). And for years after, that voice followed me. Until MS came along and his voice was drowned out.

MS could have been the final nail in the coffin, and it would at least have been an excellent excuse.

But I have other ideas …

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Brain Fog? Pass The Champers …

ChampagneAccording to a newspaper report last week, now that I am Middle Aged/8 Years Away From a Saga Cruise, I am prone to brain fog.

No, really?

MS got there before – my brain is well and truly fogged up.

But help is at hand – a practical list of things I can do to slow down ‘the inevitable decline‘. I chortled and read on, forgetting I had a casserole in the oven (it was fine after I scraped off the top layer and threw out the burnt pot).

If I want to hang on to the rest of my brain cells, I should consider:

Turning off my phone – apparently Twitter gives me a hit of dopamine, just like a gambler in Vegas. And the problem is ..?

Switching off the TV – watching it increases my risk of brain fog by 20%. Reading, on the other hand, reduces it by 5%. What if I put the telly on silent and read the subtitles instead? Clever, eh?

Drink a glass of champagne – enough said. A most excellent idea, no studies needed.

Spice it up – add turmeric to just about everything, as it’s been dubbed ‘Miracle Gro’ for the brain’. I should add it to tea, salads, curries, casseroles (when I buy a new pot), shampoo, the air-con in my car. The list is endless.

Change your thinking – I must aim to do something new every day; something that gives me pleasure, power, pride, passion, and every other word beginning with ‘p’. I am currently Productively Pondering Possibilities.

Enjoy coffee – hooray! Ah. Without milk. Hmm. I drank black coffee for over 20 years in a vain hope of appearing semi-intellectual and interesting. It didn’t work (neither did the beret or prescription-less glasses) so I started adding milk when I hit 37.

Go to bed by 11pm – at this point, I gave up. 11pm. 11pm? The last time I was awake at 11pm, I was woken by the pesky cat yowling at my bedroom window with a recently-deceased mouse at her side. My idea of cognitive improvement is remembering to put the electric blanket on by 8pm.

Perhaps I have to face facts. MS has mushed up my brain. At times it’s funny – there’s a whole host of anecdotes about my inability to remember conversations, diary dates, shopping lists. Sometimes though, it’s a little sad.

Time to crack open the bubbly?

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‘D’ Is For Cog Fog…

D Is For Cog FogI am a dunce. No two ways about it, MS has seriously fogged up my brain.

I first noticed it before I was diagnosed – simple recipes became infuriating Mensa-like tests, I got lost driving to the shops and reading a book was an exercise in tedious endurance.

I’m in my final year of my part-time degree and the last five years have been pretty good.

I’m an unabashed girly swot and enjoy cracking open a new packet of Sharpies, drawing intricate mind maps, carefully crafting my essays, ferreting out incisive references. Then my brain went on holiday with a one-way ticket.

After an agonising couple of weeks last month, I finally submitted my first essay of my final year. The mind maps never moved beyond a bunch of circles with nothing in them and my Sharpies lay dormant. I got my result yesterday. It was 65%. Sigh. Such a sad, sad little number.

I normally get higher marks, so this was upsetting but not totally unexpected. I often struggle to add up simple numbers or find the right word, so writing a 2,500 essay is akin to scaling Mount Everest in flip-flops. In the middle of recounting a funny anecdote to friends over coffee, my mind can go completely blank, the punchline withering and dying as my friends look at me with pity.

I read recently that memory loss is the most commonly reported cognitive difficulty in MS. Last year, when I was revising for my exam, I had written up a set of comprehensive study notes. They were a thing of beauty. I read them over and over and over again, but nothing, not one tiny thing, would stick inside my brain. I barely scraped through the three hour exam but luckily my fabulous MS nurse wrote a letter to the university explaining that I was not stupid, it was the MS.

My next essay is due at the end of May and I am hoping for some divine inspiration. In the meantime, I’m furiously highlighting points in my books, jotting down what I hope will be valid arguments and crossing my fingers for luck. And no, the Sharpies haven’t been used yet, but they’re on my desk, raring to go. How do I draw a mind map again?

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