Cogito ergo sum

Don't worry, I was told, your intellect won't be affected. And they were right. But it does not tell the whole story. Cognitive dysfunction (problems with memory, thinking, perception, and language) is difficult to talk about. Take away my walking and I am still me. I can't use my hand but I am still me. Take away my ability to think and speak quickly and smoothly and the essence of me is threatened. And the threat brings real terror. Sometimes my short-term memory may be faulty. Sometimes I may become garrulous - there may be a degree of disinhibition (as if I had had a little too much to drink). Sometimes it may be difficult to order my thoughts. I may blurt out a complete non-sequitur. At times it may be difficult to motivate and initiate thoughts and actions. Procrastination was never part of me. All of this was never part of me.

So what do I do?
When I feel the fear rising like fire in my throat, I have consciously to slow my thoughts down. I need remind myself that my mind is not going. Whatever intelligence I had, I still have - none has been taken away. And none will be. I tell myself. Recognising the difficulty is a large part of the solution. Fatigue and stress exacerbate any problem I might have. There are ways to compensate. I give myself more time. Consciously give myself a count to five to start ... oh, to start eating my breakfast or something equally mundane.

When I am tired it becomes doubly difficult. I help to present a course to first year occupational therapy students at the University of Cape Town. Towards the end of one lecture, I could feel that speaking was becoming more difficult. I was getting tired and was finding it difficult to concentrate.. So what to do? Use it to best effect. I told them that I was getting tired. And I told them what to listen out for, what was becoming more difficult for me. I told them that I don't usually need notes, but I needed them that day. I needed them to keep me focused, stop me from rambling. And then I found out something. When I love doing something and I see the importance of what it is I am doing, the mental fog may swirl around but I can still negotiate my way through it. It might take a touch longer, but I'll get through it.

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