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When ‘Invisible’ MS Symptoms Become Visible

While I’m officially diagnosed with the secondary-progressive form of multiple sclerosis, I still have times that feel a lot like relapses: when new symptoms creep in or old ones suddenly make themselves more pronounced. Pins-and-needles can go from annoying prickle to painful bee stings, fatigue can progress from mind-numbing to soul-crushing, or my speech pattern can go from normal to stammered overnight.

Slammed by Cog-Fog
This morning, what is normally one of my invisible symptoms of MS — cognitive fog, or cog-fog for short — hit me in a way that was far from invisible to me or anyone around me.

It began when Caryn put her hand on my arm to wake me after a fitful night of sleep. I incorporated the touch into a dream and couldn’t seem to shake it, even after my eyes opened.

I’m told that we had a short conversation, and she went to pour me a cup of coffee as she readied herself for work. By the time she returned, I was back in a deep sleep, so she let me rest for a bit longer.

However, as I had told her of a task I needed to complete this morning, she came to wake me up again, and this time my side of the conversation was gibberish — which made her worry a bit.

As I sat up and tried to get myself out of the bed, I felt the drag of MS like a ship with its sea anchor out trying to make headway. It wasn’t a physical drag — or, rather, it wasn’t any more than the usual physical drag. This was a mental encumbrance holding back my thoughts the way my speech can sometimes be impeded by MS.

(I should note that I am writing this with my thesaurus open, as words like “encumbrance” are not under my command. Today’s blog is brought to you, in part, by Roget’s.)

My cog-fog is usually something I experience in silence. I know when it’s affecting me, and I try to stay out of situations that need brain power during those times.

But as I mentioned, this was a morning when something needed to be done…by me. There was no getting around it, and I couldn’t do it alone.

A Little Help From My Friends
Caryn checked my progress, made sure that I didn’t make any mistakes, and generally kept an eye on me as she got ready to leave. Then I had to interact with some colleagues, and the symptom was out of the bag.

I tried to speak and was “missing words,” as it was told to me. One man said I was looking at him as though I’d been on LSD. (Even in my foggy state, I was able to quip by asking how he knew what that looked like.)

So concerned were these friends that I’ve received phone calls and a visit in the hours since just to make sure I was all right.

When Private Symptoms Go Public
I normally try to stay out of the public light when anything beyond my cane or crutch is needed to get me around. After today, however, I think a few more people know of yet another symptom I have to deal with from time to time at varying degrees of severity.

Sometimes, our invisible symptoms will not stay invisible. Bladder sensitivity can become public incontinence, pain can show on our countenance, and today my cognitive difficulties became another “visible symptom” of my MS.

I’d like to thank our editorial team, Ingrid and Rose, for making this blog read better than I’ve written it today. I’m actually surprised that I was able to post one at all!

Have you had invisible symptoms that become so bad that people noticed them? What have they been, and how do you cope?

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by EVERYDAYHEALTH
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length

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