Fortunately, I have not fully dealt with “cog fog” as much as so many other multiple sclerosis folks, but I’ve also figured out some techniques to combat it.
When I was pretty young, my parents noticed I would be speaking and suddenly halt mid-sentence. I would get a blank look across my face as I battled to recall where I was heading with my story.
Mother was concerned enough that she took me to our family doctor, believing I had a neurological issue. Dr. Wirth assured Mother that my brain was moving at a much higher rate of speed than my mouth (that part is so laughable!).
When I would get to a mid-sentence halt, Mother would say, “I’ll wait.” She wanted me to learn to get back on course without her, or anyone else, feeding me the next word(s) or what they assumed I was trying to say.
Through high school, college, early teaching years, it was fairly mastered but I still rammed into walls occasionally, becoming embarrassed that I would forget where I was in my story.
Sometimes, others would make fun of me. I took it with accepted humor but it was still embarrassing. However, I have had wonderful friends who know when I want to get through a story I am excited to share who will fill in my words so I can keep going without missing a beat. It’s really and truly a fun collaboration! (Amy Kress gets the Big Gold Star!)
In 2018, I went to see the documentary, RBG, about Ruth Bader Ginsberg. I knew precious little about the supreme court justice and I found her story intriguing. More so, I found her speech pattern quite interesting.
Justice Ginsberg was very methodical. Through observing her, I realized that I did not need to be a speed-demon rushing to get out a thought. As a teacher and director, I had always had the attention focused on what I was saying, but time always seemed to be a critical factor. Justice Ginsberg captivated me and soon became my role model in many ways, but particularly with my speech pattern and rhythm.
Yes, there are certain things I am ready with the answer. But, after a few sentences, I become revved up and begin pushing faster with my speech and then… the crash. Justice Ginsberg took the time to think, piece together, and then share, maintaining a steady tempo throughout her sentences.
I went back to see RBG at Dayton’s Neon Movies a total of seven times. I was always invigorated with her energy and wit. Plus, she and Justice Antonin Scalia were devout opera and classical musical devotees! I adore, still, watching videos of them together: their friendship and ability to work together is inspiring and quite touching.
I would leave the theater talking to myself, practicing a slower speaking tempo. After a few weeks, I noticed a difference. I incorporate more breathing and a stronger sense of pacing my speech.
The only problem is, since this is a relatively new way of speaking, a number of folks believe it is due to the RRMS. It is not. It is wholly me.
I have had issues with Cog Fog. Ironically, it’s never interrupted me while teaching. However, whenever I sit down to research or write, I become enveloped in a mental haze that begins weighing me down.
I tried more coffee, exercise, protein, etc.. Nothing. I felt even more weighed down.
A few weeks ago, I set out to tackle this dilemma. When I realized that teaching was keeping the Cog Fog at bay, what was I doing in teaching that I wasn’t in writing or researching?
I was in the process of looking for programs that would allow me to write things out by hand and turn them into Microsoft Word text. While researching the various programs and asking for assistance on social media, my cousin, Eric Hallett hit the nail on the head when weighing in on Optical Character Recognition (OCR) programs. “OCR is a pain when I’ve worked with it. Speech to text software is a better option if circumstances can make that work, in my experience.”
There it was: speaking! Teaching requires me to speak a lot. Writing does not. Yes, there are those who say you should read aloud what you write but that’s never been a great tool. Instead, I use my phone or other programs to have my writing spoken aloud for me so I can listen. But, Eric changed my entire course of action: I needed to use my regular Speech To Text programs and not an OCR program.
Fortunately, as I began searching in that direction I discovered Microsoft Word has a built-in Speech To Text program that works marvelously. Now, I spend more time speaking into my microphone so that my words are recorded on the written page. So far, I’ve not experienced the Cog Fog and can manage to move ahead with greater focus.
There are times when I do shed my coat of courage and my telescope of visionary and positive thinking. I kick myself for giving into brief stages of feeling low, but they do serve as stepping stones back to my path or maybe on to a newer path where I need to be.
Researching, Searching. Discovering. Learning. Planning. Doing.
We must never abandon a passion for learning; learning about ourselves and especially, the world around us. Keep on task!
I have dictated this entire blog entry through Microsoft Word and there was only one word missed by the program! Win!
For those who may not be familiar with MS Cog Fog, this is a fantastic article by Kathy Reagan Young who is the founder of the off-center, slightly off-color website and podcast at FUMSnow.com.
“What MS Cog Fog Feels Like and How to Cope” from HEALTHLINE.