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?