A women in an orange jumper writes in a diary

How I cope with MS memory and thinking problems

I’ve been thinking about stuff lately, which is really funny because I lose my train of thought, amongst other things, constantly..!

Joking aside, ‘brain fog’ is actually a massive issue for me.

I get overwhelmed very easily most days - it’s like my mind shuts down.

Some of the ways brain fog affects me

My memory, on a day to day basis, is quite appalling. And yet I remember with perfect clarity what I wore on my first date at 15 (it included a green scrunchie – very 80s).

I can also get very confused when someone is explaining something to me. Especially directions!

Sometimes I don’t remember words, which is pretty frightening. There I am, having a conversation and mid-sentence I lose the next word. I stop short to rack my brain for the word that I was about to use but nope, it’s gone.

At first I thought these issues were just me getting a bit older. But they are a very real issue for some of us with MS.

Read more about MS and problems with memory and thinking

Tips I use to manage memory and thinking issues

None of these suggestions are magic cures of course, but I find they can really help me.

  • Number one is to purchase a good diary. I like a week-to-view one so I can try to stagger jobs properly. There is no point in putting two physical activities next to each other, because my energy has to be evenly distributed throughout my day and week.
  • List writing is essential. I make a list of things I absolutely need to do, then another note underneath that one of the things I’d like to get done but aren’t urgent.
  • If I need directions to get somewhere, sometimes I need a note or basic sentences on a piece of paper (a map is far too complicated, and an A-Z is out of the question). And you know what, it doesn’t really matter as long as you get there safely.
  • I also like to keep a thesaurus. I try to know quite a few different words which basically mean the same thing, for those times when nothing will come.
  • I think reading (when you can focus for long enough) is great exercise for my brain. Word searches, crosswords, sudokus etc are all good stimulation.
  • Overall eating well, getting plenty of rest, a regular bedtime and waking routine, moderate exercise (when and if I’m well enough) regular bouts of fresh air, drinking enough water and my trusty diary can make a huge difference to my cognitive brain skills.

How friends and family can help

  • Communication is key! You’d tell people you were having a bad day physically so couldn’t go out, or a bad day emotionally, so need some love and support. So explain that today your brain is having a bad day with your MS and brain fog is ruling the day.
  • Ask for patience and understanding when you become overwhelmed, confused or zone out when someone is talking to you. You’re not a bad listener or not interested in others – it’s a symptom of your condition. Please don’t exclude me or not tell me stuff because you think I’m not listening.
  • I think getting a few fact sheets, or downloading stuff from the internet to share with your loved ones can help them understand.
  • You could even ask your pals if they mind you making a note on your phone about what’s been said. Or ask them to remind you more often of things. Maybe they could send a gentle email outlining the conversation or plans you’ve made together.

Most importantly, be kind to yourself

For the days when it just doesn’t come together and you feel like you’re talking broken biscuits, forgetting everything, and feeling like your head is burnt out from trying too hard to squeeze sense from it, I just let it go. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Go with it and try again tomorrow.

And look into things that might help your memory and thinking.