Unlisted: Coping with Memory & Sight Exacerbations

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This past week was rather difficult to write given how important memory and vision are to me. Both are functions I depend heavily on as a student, mother, and writer. In Wednesday’s post about the emotional impact of optic neuritis, I highlighted the depths of my depression when I didn’t know what was happening to me.

I’ve gotten to a better place emotionally with my MS and symptoms, but only because I know what is happening. Even if I start experiencing a new symptom, such as the MS Hug, I stress less over the symptom and more about the fact that I am having it.

My life is figuring out ways to avoid getting MS symptoms. While this may not be possible for everyone with MS, it is something I do to mitigate the impact of MS. Because I still experience MS symptoms, I’ve learned to appreciate life more: memory makes me mindful, while optic neuritis makes me appreciate beauty.

Coping with: Cog-Fog

Cognition issues are such a nebulous and difficult thing to repair that it’s extremely frustrating. With numbness, you can use a walking aid to help manage your body until it recovers. While the brain is plastic and can rework connections after damage, MS makes it more difficult if the myelin is gone or damaged.

How do I cope with memory issues?

I’ve learned to write things down more, but it has also lead me to blurt out thoughts in a non-sequitur way during conversations. I am so afraid I will forget a point that I sometimes say it without thinking. I am sure blogging has helped repair some connections, but I still not where I want to be.

I’ve learned to forgive myself for not remembering everything and learning to apologize to Ash when he might be right about a misremembered conversation, though that takes more work on my part.

As a parent, teaching a toddler is an experience, and one where I am getting used to saying to Jai “well, let’s look up the answer together because I am not sure.” That’s a rather large blow to my ego because many times I knew the exact answer at one point in time, but it’s no longer available for immediate recall.

Memory fog has led me to embrace mindfulness. I have to appreciate the moment if that’s all I can remember at any given time. I learned to live in these moments and no longer dwell in the past or worry about the future. If I can be in the moments, I find that I have a higher likelihood of remembering them.

Memory fog is also a fantastic way to tear down the ego and provide me a more realistic view of myself as a person. I acknowledge my vulnerabilities and am willing to make important life changes.

I don’t know if I would be in this space emotionally if I didn’t have the external force of memory fog forcing the issue. As I mentioned in my post about my illness back in November, it’s a way to acknowledge the positive impact of my MS.

Coping with: Optic Neuritis

There is very little that I can do do “cope” or deal with my optic neuritis when it happens beyond taking steroids and lowering my stress levels. But I do remember some important realizations I came to in the middle of some of my worst episodes.

Never take sight for granted.

When I didn’t know what was happening, I remember thinking that once I regained my sight I would appreciate the beauty in the world more. With one of my episodes, all colors in my left eye were muted and almost gray scale, so I vowed to appreciate color more.

I draw and paint sometimes, so losing my ability to see in color was especially difficult.

Admittedly, there are moments where I forget about appreciating my sight, but when I reflect on what I lost, I make sure to take a moment to thank my body for being able to see clearly again. I recognize how temporary and fleeting sight can be when it comes to MS.

While I have Relapse-Remitting MS, there’s always a chance that my sight will not go back to “normal” after an exacerbation. I don’t know how I would handle that situation if it ever happened, but I do know I will adapt and find a way to overcome it after a brief mourning period.

If these two MS symptoms taught me anything about life and myself it’s that it’s extremely important to be adaptable. Appreciate the moments I have while I am in them and to appreciate the beauty while I am able to see, feel, smell, taste, and hear them. I am already working on passing this appreciation on to Jai, though I hope he never has to experience the same adversity to understand the life lesson.

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Featured Photo Credit: sarandy westfall on Unsplash

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