I’ve been on leave from work this week and what I notice most is the impact on my “cog fog”. Cognitive fatigue is an invisible symptom of MS but can be as disabling as the obvious physical disabilities I have. It often leaves me unable to hold a thought in my head or string a sentence together, making conversation an uphill slog.
I work part time in a demanding role that sometimes leaves my brain in tatters! I have a caseload of chaotic people, many of whom have issues with substance misuse and mental health so whilst I find it challenging and rewarding I also find supporting them zaps my cognitive abilities.
Most days I drive to school after work to collect my kids and have to gather all my reserves of cognitive energy to be pleased to see them and ask about their day enthusiastically. Sometimes I find myself staring at them blankly while I concentrate to zone back into the conversation. It feels like my brain is filled with cotton wool and visitors at this time of day may feel my irritation as I struggle to keep focussed.
This is usually relieved if I can sit quietly while my brain rests and this is why I work shorter days; because keeping up my concentration is so challenging. I’m luckier than some people though as I’ve met MSers who can’t read books as they can’t concentrate on the plot or characters. This is unthinkable for me as reading is one of the last pleasures I can immerse myself in. I also know people who can’t cope with more than one or two people talking at once. I can follow a conversation with lots of people but it exhausts me and my brain needs a rest afterwards which can have an impact on work and relationships.
This week I’ve felt an improvement in my cog fog as I haven’t had to concentrate at work. I’ve been able to talk to my kids without getting irritated but I wonder if work is like exercise for my brain and using it so much at work is keeping it healthy? Should we use it or lose it or does the rest of not working improve things?
There is lots of research on dementia that suggests learning new skills keeps the brain healthy so I wonder if work has a similar impact on MS and brain health? I’d love to hear thoughts from other MSers about this. What do you think?
2 thoughts on “Cog Fog Slog ……”
Hi Abigail, and thank you for a great column!
Even though I had to retire because of my MS, I still try to work word puzzles, keep writing and also try to challenge my memory with different online “games.” I asked my neurologist if he thought it might help, and he said it might, but that over stimulating my brain can actually be harmful. I guess it is like everything else with MS – moderation is the key. I used to be an avid reader, and I am thankful I can make text larger by increasing the zoom with my laptop. I cannot read a book because of my eyes now, and I do miss the “feel” of curling up on the couch and escaping into a novel. I still freelance (I’m a retired journalist) but when I’m in the MS fog I can barely remember where I put my computer much less concentrate on my writing. I will again be praying for your fatigue to go away and am glad you were able to take a little time off work. Keep fighting!
Thanks! I guess moderation is always the key