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Timothy L. Vollmer, MD
Department of Neurology
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Department of Neurology
University of Colorado Health Sciences Center
Co-Director of the RMMSC at Anschutz Medical Center
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Please Hurry It Up, I Can’t Remember What You’re Talking About

By Lisa Emrich

Sometimes when people with MS have mild cognitive difficulties, conversations can become challenging. Maybe you are trying to find words and that slows things down. Maybe you can’t get a word-in-edgewise and by the time you do have a chance to contribute, you’ve forgotten what you wanted to say or the conversation has moved through three other topics. That’s the moment that I usually have to decide just how important the thing I wanted to say is or was, or just remain politely silent and nod my head.

Then there are other times where my mind is going a mile a minute and I’m mentally evaluating and choosing which thoughts to grab onto and which ones might be appropriate for the conversation or task at hand. This type of thinking can make other activities such as meditation very difficult.

Ever since I was a young girl, I was good at multitasking and working my brain in two different directions at once. I used to be the kid who would read a book at family gatherings while listening to all of the grown-ups talk. Very rarely did I get immersed into a story so deeply that I lost track of what was going on around me.

Now I might read a page in a really good book and then wonder what in the world did I just read. I don’t know. My eyes were busy reading – and when I read, I mentally read aloud in my head – while my brain was busy thinking about other things.

It seems like when I’m listening to someone speak, perhaps a family member who is telling a story, I have trouble putting the entire story together unless he/she speeds it up a little. I find myself wanting to urge the person on to get to the point more quickly, otherwise I just might lose what the point is.

Ironically, if I occupy my brain at least a little bit, perhaps by working on a sudoku puzzle or just doing something with my hands, I can more easily relax and allow the person’s story to unfold at their own pace. I don’t feel like the details of the story are about to fall through my fingers like water through a sieve.

My mother-in-law loves to tell stories and when she does, she doesn’t really expect anybody to react, comment, or chime in while she’s talking. There’s no pressure to try to think of what to say or get it in before the topic changes. But to stay focused, I need to distract myself just a little bit.

I know it sounds totally backwards to think that I need to be slightly distracted in order to stay focused. But this is really only while listening to another person.

When I’m trying to stay focused on my own words, such as while I’m writing and typing at the computer, I need to avoid distraction. The worse thing that can happen while I’m on a role is to have someone come talk to me or ask me a question which requires a response. This is when my own thoughts jump through that mental sieve and become lost to the air. It’s enough to derail me for the time being.

I don’t know what others’ experiences are with regard to staying focused and on task. I’m be curious to know if anybody else has trouble following stories because they seem to take too long to unravel, or if anybody needs to keep their minds or hands busy while carrying on a conversation with loved ones in order to stay present.

Please share your own story in the comments. Maybe I’m just weird, or maybe this is more common than I know.

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

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