Cognitive Difficulties Can Happen With MS Without You Realizing

Confusion With MS

Getting Funny Looks After Speaking? Could Be Your MS Talking

You may not realize you are having cognitive difficulties associated with Multiple Sclerosis first. I say this laughing at myself because more often than not, it has been my family and/or friends that have a certain look on their faces or even a delay in answering a question that has made me realize I must have said something that didn’t sound right.

We all know if we have trouble balancing a check book or those irritant memory problems that require we pull out a recipe that we have cooked a 1000 times but when something comes out of our mouth, we know what we are trying to say but probably don’t hear what actually comes out. Thankfully this doesn’t happen often like it has during the most difficult times of my MS, but it does take place when I am under more stress than usual or if I am overly tired. I’ve grown to take the silence and the questionable looks by loved ones with a grain of salt over the years even giving me a PBA moment of inappropriate laughing.

I worked as a Registered Nurse, prior to my MS diagnosis, and the symptoms of this disease where there. Not realizing exactly what was wrong with me, I tried working in different areas of the nursing field reducing my physical stress of the job but putting more mental stress on me. One of these positions was working as an instructor with the Medical Assistant Program where I was responsible for teaching Pharmacology and Anatomy and Physiology. As the disease continued to take its toll on my body the part that was unfamiliar to me was the cognitive dysfunction that does accompany it. Teaching is the one area where there is really no room for error and unfortunately what was responsible for me leaving nursing all together. One afternoon, after having been really sick from a bad infection for an extended period of time my body and my mind began to fail me. I was really struggling with teaching during that day but noticed some of the students who were paying attention start giving me puzzling looks, as I tried to explain a math equation that I had written on the board. I thought the look was due to not understanding the method I used to provide the answer but it wasn’t until class was over when one of the best students of that class approached me and questioned what I had written on the board. After I turned around and really looked at what I had done, I saw why the crazy looks from the students. Nothing made sense in the formulation of the problem. I honestly was embarrassed and couldn’t understand how I could make this horrible mistake especially when I spent so much time explaining this in great detail. It was right then I realized it was time to find out what was wrong with me. Needless to say I gave up teaching.

It took a couple of years of persistence of changing doctors and going through several medical tests before getting diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Since then, this dysfunction continues usually when the MS is acting up the worst, when extremely tired, or under a lot of stress. Learning to roll with these punches have taken time but have given over the important tasks of bill paying, check book balancing, and other items that require a properly working mind to my husband. Even when driving, my husband has noticed errors I have made without my knowledge which has led me to give up this privilege except for very short drives and trips to the store to avoid injuring myself or someone else. The hardest part for me is not ever knowing when I will say or do something that is inappropriate. It is important to explain to those I spend time with that this can happen and it is ok to let me know when it takes place. My hope is that everyone who experiences this same problem doesn’t let it get you down too much. Learning to laugh it off may not be what you choose to do, but it is a symptom of MS as much as slurred speech, fatigue, and body weakness so there is nothing to be ashamed about.

MS Blogger and Multiple Sclerosis Activist shares her journey living with MS, tips for others living MS and her husband, Steve, offers his insight as a caregiver for MS.