Having cognitive issues wasn’t always accepted as a common symptom of Multiple Sclerosis. I don’t remember when that changed, but it was sometime in the last 20 years. Today Dr. Google claims half of all MS patients experience cognitive changes and deficits and my disease riddled brain would wager the number of patients experiencing memory problems is actually closer to 50%.
My first symptoms were mostly cognitive, memory issues and bouts of confusion, trouble multitasking and following directions. I forgot a lot of important stuff, like my wife’s name. A neuropsych test is great fun if you ever want to feel like a total idiot. The test is designed to measure your failing points in a variety of ways and tasks using different brain processes.
It has been 15 years since my last one, and even with my memory issues, I still remember word for word the test results. I had less than 20% (or maybe it was 25%? or 15%?) Anyway, I was working with the short term memory capabilities of a man aged somewhere between 125 and 150 years old.
Do you rob banks? Make sure I am the eye witness. I sometimes have trouble recognizing the face in the bathroom mirror!
Before you start getting all teary eyed and sending donations in leu of flowers, I have to admit being forgetful has some great advantages.
When I wake up sick and tired, I usually forget to be miserable by the time I finish showering. If my toothbrush is moved ever so slightly however, I will also forget to brush my teeth.
When I am upset or angry with my wife it never last long, fading from my memory in minutes or hours. Unfortunately, when we are having an argument, I can forget in seconds what we are actually arguing about, how it started or even what side I am supposed to be on.
A death of someone you love can be devastating and painful, but when your ram memory is slower than a dial-up modem, you can forget about the pain rather quickly. My memory deficits are often viewed as not caring, but it really should be seen as I just don’t care right now.
I think the best use of having difficulty remembering is the unique ability to instantaneously forget. Forgetting I have limitations, forgetting I have a heart condition, spinal fusion, nerve damage, kidney stones ready to drop- none of which has stopped me from continuing to ride my motorcycle raising awareness and funds for a cure.
Well, I do sometimes forget where I am going or that my low fuel light has been on for a while.
I often forget I have a disease that effects my memory. I know I should record or take notes when I do maintenance or repairs on my motorcycle because I always have trouble putting it back together, but while I am working, I convince myself that this time I will remember exactly where each part goes. The next day I would swear on my life I have no idea who took apart the bike. My frustration at my making the same simple mistake yet again lasts about five minutes before I forget the entire ordeal!
I forget to take care of bills, make doctor appointments, go shopping or to take the dog for a walk. I say I forget, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get done.
The invention of the smart phone and it’s ability to remember dates and tasks for me probably saved the lives of thousands of trees earmarked for sticky notes. I often wonder if in 1920 anyone would have believed the telephone would replace both a GPS and a Laptop. Using a smartphone as a portable hard drive allows me to set reminders and use various apps that help simplify my life and keep me up to date and on time with alerts and notifications.
It works great……Except when I forgot to set a reminder to write this column for ABILITY Magazine and the deadline was 8 minutes ago.