I know when I’m having an invisible relapse of invisible symptoms with this invisible condition called multiple sclerosis. No one else knows when that is happening, though those who spend time with me may notice a few odd things occuring.
I lose things … I forget things … I trip over things, or over nothing at all. My foot doesn’t come up high enough to take the next step and I fall. People have a conversation with me on the phone and I forget who I am talking with or what they just said.
It’s called, in the vernacular, Cog-Fog, or cognitive disonance. The online dictionary defines it like this:
the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.
The damage done to the nerves by MS also affects your critical thinking and other cognitive skills. It’s not uncommon for people with multiple sclerosis to suffer from problems with memory and finding the right words to express themselves. Lack of concentration and attention is also common. Problem-solving skills and spatial relations can also be affected by the breakdown of myelin. Cognitive inadequacies can lead to frustration, depression, and anger.
And so I wonder … is the cog fog due to fatigue? Is the fatigue due to cog fog? It takes effort to remember something … to respond to questions … to learn new material … to walk without tripping over nothing … to go up steps by lifting each foot high enough … to look to the side without fully turning to the side … to take a corner without bumping into it … to walk in the center of a narrow walkway to avoid bumping from one wall to the other …
Do you remember when you first learned to drive a car, or a bicycle, or a bumper ride at the amusement park? Do you remember having to concentrate on which pedal performed which function? That in the bumper car taking your foot off the ‘go’ pedal was the same as putting your foot on the brake pedal of an automobile? Within a few seconds, as an adult, you adjusted your thinking and could use the go pedal to go or to stop. But with cog fog, you might have to re-learn that over and over, thus allowing yourself to be bumped by other bumper cars in the meantime…
So yes, cog fog contributes to fatigue, more so than the other way around. But most of us prefer to think it is the fatigue that causes the fog, and so better rest, or sleeping pills, could make us function better. But the truth disappoints.
It’s important to remember that cog fog is not a loss of intelligence, just as word retrieval issues is not the loss of vocabulary. The brain still knows what it knew … it just has issues retrieving the files so carefully stored. Everyone deals with “what was I just going to do?” moments … when you get up to get something in another room and forget what you went for, but when you go back without it you remember immediately what it was you were after? There’s an interesting explanation for that phenomenon, called the doorway syndrome. You can google it. But that is not cog fog. Cog fog does not immediately remit. At least, it doesn’t for me.
Sometimes my musings are a bit more esoteric than pedantic. The other night, I was wondering aloud to my husband Rick “Do you think there are fiction/mystery writers who work in the native language of Hawaii?” Now, this came about because we were listening to Christmas Music on the radio as we drove down the highway home from Maine. Mele Kalikiwaka is Hawaiian for Merry Christmas. But who originated the word Kalikiwaka for Christmas? Was it the missionaries who went there to convert the native population to Christianity? And how did they choose the letters within the limited Hawaiian alphabet? And why am I wondering this?
Rick is very patient with me, and agreed that it must have been a missionaries’ word that became part of the language of Hawaii. Was my thought process triggered by cog fog … like hearing music that isn’t playing is triggered by a hearing-impaired person’s wish to hear music? Or an amputee feeling pain in the missing limb?
The cog fog is now contributing to the fatigue, and I need a nap. Be well, all.