Thursday, December 10, 2009

I Think I Thunk What I Thought I Thunk

Brain, Brain, What is Brain:
I've started the latest post two or three times in the past week. Thoughts skitter in my mind like raindrops against polished glass. No one thought seems to stay long enough to form into a complete topic worthy of writing about. Thought and one's mind are, on one hand, like breathing, the body has lungs, resulting in breathe. Thoughts and the processes of the brain, on the other hand, give structure and meaning to the very essence of who we are.  Brains are essential for the nuance of creating a symphony and the subtle language of writing poetry. Not to mention the humdrum of living, and doing, and being. 
Brains are also at the center of multiple sclerosis. One of the first presentations I saw on MS featured chilling slides of brain MRIs with gaping black holes staring out of the squiggly grey matter that is brain. This was the first inkling I had of what my future could be. Once, at an MS community event, a woman in her mid-forties was there with her family. Her mental function was completely gone. She laughed and babbled senselessly. The image of her haunts me to this day.
MS optimists don't like to talk about the 'ugly' side of this illness. The resulting silence leads to fear and questioning. The 'new' disease modifying drugs show efficacy when it comes to preventing 'black holes.' I do take comfort in this as I inject myself day after day for the past 10  years.
And yet, every forgotten appointment, missed deadline, and subtler mental stumble, leads me to question the MS state of my mind. When I hear folks say that it is just part of getting older, I realize that they don't understand the fear I live with or the future I face or the subtle changes that chip away at my abilities. The first one I noticed was years ago. I could hear a phone number over the phone and write it down when the call ended. Something I had always done without alot of thought. I suddenly noticed I had lost this ability. Poof, gone. Just a little chip, not consequential, but still part of who I was. 
Lately, the fear is front and center. The pace of loss seems to be increasing.
Intelligence, mood, and persona don't reflect cognition. I am still a smart cookie who is mostly upbeat and outgoing. Cognition and structuralism are defined as:

  • cognition: (noun) mental acquisition of knowledge through thought, experience, and the senses.
  • structuralism (noun) a method of interpretation and analysis of human cognition, behaviour, culture, and experience, which focuses on relationships of contrast between elements in a conceptual system.
MS cognitive loss is much more subtle and troubling than mislaying ones car keys. It is losing chunks and bites of things and living with the fear of not knowing if or when I will mislay who I am.


Stuff could always be worse said...

I love your brain thoughts, like water skittering? across, is so true. My brain is the same....

thanks for loving my tree, I just got creative and did not want the usual, and the kids did not want a tree. We should email sometimes.

Peace Be With You said...

Janine, in a few days I will be posting a haiku about how I am smarter than I act. I do believe that I still retain a reservoir of "smarts" despite the sometimes growing evidence that there might be something awry cognitively. I also have found compensating mechanisms, and perhaps they fool me into thinking I'm in better shape than I am. And I definitely believe my brain capacity can improve through effort. The question is at what point does the effort of exercising that brain get overwhelmed by the fatigue induced by the exercise? Lots of interesting questions you pose. I think about the issues you raise a lot, a lot.

Bibliotekaren said...

Janine, some of us can use our personality to cover quite a bit, until we can't. I often work from home but also go into the office when I can or need to for a meeting. I have moments now in conversations where I feel like someone's raised the curtain and can see the truth behind it. I feel naked and exposed.

I'm sometimes surprised how cognitive issues are sometimes treated as a second rate disability to physical problems. For most folks it's an oxymoron that people can be smart and cognitively challenged simultaneously.

Thanks for sharing.