My Cog-Fog

My Cog/Brain Fog and I have a temperamental relationship. Cog-fog is short for cognitive fog and is one of the invisible symptoms of MS. It can cause issues with concentration, memory, attention levels and even processing information. As we know Multiple Sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). It also causes inflammation. In MS the signals and paths used between brain and body can misfire. Our brains have to work extra hard and this can cause our brains and bodies to become fatigued; because we have to try harder and use more energy than a person without MS, it can impact our cognitive function. 

Speaking of cog-fog this is my fifth time sitting down and trying to write this piece. My attention-span is not what it once was. I sometimes call my cog-fog “my brain fatigue”. Like the physical fatigue that we feel in our bodies, my brain feels fatigued. Even doing the simplest of tasks, I can feel my brain becoming tired, sluggish, heavy and disconnected. From general forgetfulness to complete blanks and being unable to form a full sentence. Cog-fog can range in severity from day to day. 


On particular bad days, I struggle with getting my words right and even forget basic words. A lot of times I end up stammering, trying to reach the words that I am looking for. This can be really hard when you know that your cognitive function is not working at levels it once was. 


I cannot multi-task anymore and I’ve learned to be okay with this. I cannot walk and talk at the same time. I can’t listen to more than one person talking at once. Even loud noises can be overwhelming and startle me; I then tune out. I cannot have a conversation when music is playing. My brain can’t process everything going on around me. I find if I try to juggle more than one thing at a time, I end up making more mistakes. The amount of times that I have found my keys in the fridge or my phone in the bin! I have even found my purse in the freezer before and if I didn’t laugh, I would cry. 


It can be particularly difficult when you are out and about and talking to a stranger. Mid-sentence you can lose your train of thought and then struggle to find the words but draw a blank. It’s not so embarrassing with a loved-one but with a complete stranger, it can be difficult. Another part of cog-fog that I struggle with, and is by far my worst, issue is processing information. I listen to what is being said but sometimes it feels like my brain isn’t translating what has been said. Then my reply or answer may not even be a response to what was actually said. It can be emotionally draining because I am aware of what is happening but I feel stuck. I’m known for my fast-talking but over the years, my speech has slowed down. It feels like I’m trying to get my point across but it takes me ten minutes longer to make a simple point. I can feel people becoming tired and bored with having to wait so long for me to “spit it out”. But please know that I am aware of my slow pace and I’m trying my hardest to make complete and utter sense. 


Are there ways to manage cog-fog? Unfortunately, we cannot get rid of it but we can manage it. I find better sleep can help but this is hard to do with MS as a lot of us have sleep issues. De-stressing and relaxing can help too. Once again this can prove difficult when you live with the uncertainty of MS. The most beneficial thing that helps me is taking on one task at a time. Go at your own pace. Other than that we just have to roll with it or roll through it. Recently I was in respite at the MS care centre in Bushy Park. I made a lot of new friends and we spoke about cog-fog. It was so nice being around a group of people who have a mutual understanding of cog-fog. Everyone was so patient, and we all supported one another. We all took our time to express ourselves and we all got there in the end. To all the MSers out there, we may forget, stumble, stutter and draw a blank but we do it in style! On a bad cog-fog day just remember you aren’t alone and somewhere out there someone is de-frosting their house keys with a hair-dryer and its probably me.