Monday, August 30, 2010

What we have here is a failure to communicate

Have you ever had a thought in your head but you couldn't quite say it with your mouth? Or talking to someone and then your mind suddenly goes blank? I know I have. Communication is very important to society, it could even mean life or death in some situations. How else would a mother know to feed her baby or know when it is sick unless it cries, even babies know how to communicate even before they say their first word.

 So what does communication have to do with MS? More than half of MS patients have some form of cognitive dysfunction, whether it be short term memory loss, speech difficulties, concentration, slowed response, or trouble with problem solving. Why does this happen? I thought MS just made people use wheel chairs? That's not entirely true. In MS, your immune system damages the insulated coating of nerves. Much like a cable that is exposed on a lamp, trying to turn it on might not always work. Without proper communication from your brain to your other body parts, they have a tendency to not fully operate efficiently. Because your brain controls everything, MS can even affect you mentally.

Cognitive impairment, along with fatigue and imbalance, is one of my major symptoms. I constantly forget things but what I have trouble with the most is speech and concentration. My vocabulary has been greatly affected by MS, it feels as though my mental thesaurus has been ripped in half. I constantly have trouble finding the right words to say. Also if I get interrupted I forget what I was saying.Sometimes the more I say the harder it is to speak. I will say a big word to explain what I'm trying to say other than speaking several smaller words, which makes me fumble my speech. The best way I've found to speak or get my message across is to use analogies. I actually spent 10 minutes just now to think of the word "analogies!

 I can't think on the fly, chances are my blogs take me an hour to write. Whenever people ask me things on the spot I often go blank. When it comes to explanations I'm the worst at it, bless the poor soul who will ask me for directions anywhere. If you want complicated directions and a good chance to get lost then by all means ask me! That is why I can't work on anyone's computer over the phone, I have to be right there in person or else I can't tell someone how to fix anything. I also get paid more if I make a house call too!

Communication is very important in a relationship. My family is aware of my cognitive impairments so I appreciate that they are so patient with me when I speak. If anyone understands me more its my girlfriend, Darla. Since she has MS as well, she has a deeper understanding of the disease. We have a system that every time I'm having trouble speaking I squeeze her hand to let her know whats happening.

If you have trouble with speech try to find new ways to communicate like using body language or  simply writing things down on paper. One trick I used before seeing my neurologist is rehearsing what I need to say in regards to how I feel or to ask them questions. Also there is a new trend of exercising your brain by playing  a game for MS patients. There are many online, just go to and search "multiple sclerosis games". here is one that I use

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