‘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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14 thoughts on “‘D’ Is For Cog Fog…

  1. jo says:

    No you are NOT a dunce! I think it’s amazing you are persevering with your degree with MS. Apart from anything, to get 65% in your situation must be equivalent to a significantly higher percentage. You remind me of my son a little, he is quite a perfectionist with his work and also has an incisive brain. Take those Sharpies out of their packet and draw something today. Anything – but please don’t have any expectations of what the result will be. Jx

    • stumbling in flats says:

      Aw, thank you so much for your lovely comment Jo! Put a great big smile on my face.
      You’re right, I am a bit of a perfectionist and have totally unrealistic expectations of what I can achieve, lol. I almost gave up last year to graduate without honours, but I thought, darn, I’ve come this far! I adore my Sharpies and treated myself to a packet of 16 yesterday (the excitement!) and am looking forward to unclicking them…

  2. Anita says:

    65 per cent that’s a 2:1 isn’t it! That’s fantastic even morse so considering what’s happened in your life. My son is also a perfectionist in his first year at Uni . He is intelligent bright ambitious but his dyslexia means he takes a lot longer to complete written essays than his fellow students. It’s a hidden disability that has made him set goals and achievements that I feel put terrible strain on him. Congratulate yourself on your achievements, pick up your sharpies, draw some spiders!! and see where you go but never give up , and pat yourself on the back for what you have achieved!! X

    • stumbling in flats says:

      Thanks Anita! Am feeling a whole lot better about it now 🙂 I do put myself under a lot of pressure, much more used to my marks being in the 70’s and 80’s and this was a really easy essay!
      I’m really hoping 65% is a 2:1. I’m on track for that grade and don’t want to drop below it and get a Desmond!
      Roll on October when I can finally put it all behind me.

  3. Becky says:

    You should be applauded for going after your goals. Grades are just a number and a formality of school. I work FT in a career I LOVE but also struggle with cognitive issues both at work and at home. Once you get into the work force for the career you a striving for you will find ways to manage and there will be no grades to worry about! Whew! My job in HR requires that I remember every detail about everything! I make lots of notes and write down everything…the challenge is remembering where I wrote/placed the note! lol. I continually walk into rooms and forget why did so or start a conversation and cant remember what I wanted to say or cant find the word. Some days are better than others. Good luck to you on your next exam/paper and keep writing your blog I LOVE it!

    • stumbling in flats says:

      Hi Becky!
      Thank you for the really nice comment about my blog. With all the great comments, I’m beginning to see that I’m far too naval-gazingy. There’s me, fretting away at home, beating myself up about a ‘bad grade’ and you guys have shown me the bigger perspective. It’s just like having a bunch of girlfriends round for a gossip!
      I must stop beating myself up and remember that I’m not so thick (I have the letter from the MS nurse to prove it!) and I’m doing the best I can with the resources I have.
      I’m just like you – I write everything down. I have notes reminding me I have notes, lol. Sometimes it’s the simplest things I just can’t recall. Or the conversations that wander off!
      Have a great Sunday and thank you for making mine more special!

  4. You are a marvel for pushing on — many in your place would have given up (by “many” I may or may not be referring to myself!).

    Oh, that familiar telling-a-witty-story-and-forgetting-the-witty-part debacle. Happens more times than I care to remember. HAHA, actually I can’t remember! So, really, it’s as if they never happened and I can pretend all of my conversations were peppered with hilarious punchlines and bon mots.

    • stumbling in flats says:

      Hey Cranky!
      Yup, very true. If you can’t remember how many times it happened, then it doesn’t count, lol.
      It’s like a bunch of gremlins snuck into my brain and stole the most interesting bits. Someone asked me what I did the week before last and I just said, ‘are you kidding me??’ I struggle to remember exactly what I did yesterday. Thank heavens for post-it notes and the diary on my mobile phone.
      I’m supposed to be studying today! I guess that if I rest the book on my lap and put the telly on, the facts should seep into my brain by osmosis. Or something.

  5. Forgotten what I was going to write about.

    I do know exactly what you mean. My memory totally shot. Words get stuck in my in the back of my head half way towards my neck and I cannot get them out.

    Confuse colours as well, I’m always mixing up khaki, cream and light green – makes my wife very annoyed

    How I manage my website is a complete miracle. Its a case of living from one moment to the next and looking at the list. Oh yes, well done with your course work.

    • stumbling in flats says:

      Thanks Patrick!
      It’s a horrible symptom and hardly invisible. I was paying in a shop the other day and completely forgot my pin number, a number I’ve had for years. A whole queue behind me got very impatient and it was most awkward.
      I guess that’s why I like writing my blog – to prove to myself that I can still construct sentences, lol. Even if it does take me two days to finish each post!

      • Bingo, sometimes I sometimes forget my mobile number – doh!
        Your blogs are excellent, they’ve certainly made me rethink how I write for my website. Mine used to be far too long winded and wordy.

        I go back and look at the early articles I wrote, makes me cringe. Now I’m rewriting them. Probably be the same again this time next year

        • stumbling in flats says:

          Hey, don’t worry, I still don’t know my own number and I’ve had it for (can’t remember exactly …) a good few years!
          Thank you for the compliment! I keep the posts 400 words and under, otherwise I would ramble on and on and on. I’ve had to reign myself in and hopefully grab a random surfer’s attention by keeping the posts short-ish. Your website is fab though, but I know what you mean. If I see a very long blog post, especially with no paragraphs, I just click away. My brain can’t cope!

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