One of my scariest pre-diagnosis moments was when I was given a task to do in work and I realised that I couldn’t figure it out - even though I should have been well able for it. A silent panic attack followed, accompanied by copious amounts of self-loathing and fear. Because I didn’t know how to express what was happening to my brain, it was a lonely, dark and scary time. A bottomless pit of woe I never want to visit again.
Because it’s not a physical issue, it’s hard to describe a cognitive problem. About half of people with MS experience some kind of dysfunction — trouble concentrating or remembering, attention, depression, forgetting words, brain fog, fatigue. That is the science bit but defining the emotional part of having a problem with your brain (that used to work perfectly fine) is another kettle of fish entirely.
So, what can I do about it? I can be kind to myself and accept my disability. I can shop in Dunnes Stores where they help me pack my shopping bags. I can admit that I can’t remember a person’s name and then get over it. I can make time to exercise and train my brain. I can share brain issues with my friends at my support group. I can use mindfulness and yoga to help me relax and not worry so much about things that haven’t even happened yet.
Terry Pratchett described his early-onset Alzheimer’s as an “embuggerance”. Brain Awareness Week 2014 (10-15th March) is an opportunity for me to stop and think about how I can help my grey matter through it’s “embuggerance”.
“As long as my heart still beats and my brain still brains (Homer J. Simpson),” I will!!!