I should start with a little background about myself; I am, currently, a full-time Blogger, I say “full-time” in its loosest sense insomuch as I don’t do anything else, but I am not sitting at my computer from nine to five every day Blogging. I decided to write this article on perception and reality as I have Multiple Sclerosis and my grasp on reality is slowly slipping away.
I am an engineer by trade and therefore consider myself a practical, logical type of a person. At times, during a somewhat chequered career, I have been a computer programmer and an engineering manager so, a reasoned outlook on life will come as no surprise.
Reality Check – Time to take stock
I have had MS, Multiple Sclerosis, since 1994 at least. That was the time I was diagnosed although I suspect it is a condition that has existed all of my life. Lately, I have become more and more aware of the impact of MS on my thinking ability or cognition.
I have had a consultation with my neurologist and he has referred me to a urology clinic, which I thought a little bizarre at the time, but more on this later, and he also referred me to a psychologist as I had expressed concerns about my “brain fog“.
The psychologist is interesting. My first visit was just an initial consultation the upshot of which was that she recommended I return visit for a thorough assessment. This assessment is to take place over four visits and has been described as being demanding and stressful.
I shall report more fully after this assessment has been completed and the results are known.
Perception is a personal thing
The above heading would seem to be stating the obvious. And indeed it is. Perception and reality is very much a personal thing. How something IS and how it is perceived can be very different things.
What I find deeply distressing is knowing that my perception of the world around me is changing. This is probably quite normal, to a certain degree; as our environment changes, we change to meet this new challenge. What concerns me is the onset of dementia, whether it be the product of ageing or the loss of neurons in the brain from damage caused by a dysfunctional autoimmune system.
My loss of cognitive function is not a steady decline that I might be blissfully unaware of. It is an erratic fluctuation of mental acuity that I am painfully aware of and can see happening.
As stated earlier in this post, I have a background in engineering. I began as an apprentice with Post Office Telecomms, the company that would become BT.
But I was a flighty teenager, perhaps an early indication of a loose grip on reality, and telecommunications didn’t hold my attention for long.
I was involved with music, I loved music, as I’m sure many teenagers do. I did not have the gift of being musically adept, I was an engineer, so I got a job as a roadie. This lasted for a a year or two and I ended up as the sound engineer, a job I loved. But, love doesn’t pay the bills, and my music career simply didn’t pay – anything.
The good thing about being a roadie was that lugging huge pieces of kit, loudspeakers, amplifiers and mixing desks, kept me fit. The bad thing about being a roadie was that I was paid in beer and exposed to the perils of marijuana.
I may have been flighty but I wasn’t stupid and so knew that this lifestyle was not going anywhere positive. So, I came home got a sensible job and settled down.
The rest of my working life was, in the context of this article, fairly uneventful and commonplace.
As best as I can remember my Curriculum Vitae would read thus:
- Post Office Telecomms (Apprentice)
- GEC Reliance (Field Engineer)
- Marconi (Workshop Engineer / Team Leader)
- DataServ (Workshop Engineer)
- Sun Microsystems (Data Analyst)
- IT Solutions (Field Engineer Manager)
I document my working history, not to impress with my technical knowledge, but to illustrate that I was a logical, sensible and lucid individual.
What is the Point?
Many people have Multiple Sclerosis and we each suffer from different symptoms, at different times, to varying degrees. Is there a way to manage these symptoms and reduce the impact of this debilitating condition?
Of course, there are medications that can be prescribed to treat specific symptoms, but I have taken the decision to avoid these wherever possible. All drugs have side-effects and I have found these to outweigh any possible benefit.
This post is about one particular symptom; cognitive dysfunction or awareness of reality. Now, I am fascinated with all things biological particularly our most important and complex organ; the brain.
Improving your mind.
The brain is the most remarkable of machines! It is not a machine in the technological or engineering sense. It is a biological machine and the most wondrous creation it is.
The brain starts developing as soon as you are born. It is processing images, sounds and sensations from all around you. The brain is constantly developing, it used to be thought that by adulthood this stopped, it doesn’t.
This constant development means the brain is creating new neural connections all the time. It is also losing connections all the time. It is very much a case of use it or lose it. It is very important to keep the brain active and facing new challenges all the while. This keeps the connections fresh and in use.
There are some sure-fire ways to manage cognitive impairment in MS or any other chronic illness. Learning something new, something you have never tried before, will tax your mind and cause new connections to form. This will bridge the areas of the brain that have become sluggish and restore your clarity of thinking. This should improve your perception of reality, whatever that reality might be.
Some suggestions are:
- Learning a new language
- Play a new musical instrument
- Take up Chess
- Solve Cryptic Crosswords
Chess was a suggestion by one of my readers, I am learning to speak Spanish and my mother swears by her Scotsman crossword. I did pick up a clarinet but, it drove our dog crazy.
It is not important what you choose to do, as long as it is something NEW. It is the fact of it being new that will make your brain form new neural connections. It is not even that important that you become adept at your new skill.
I have been trying to learn Spanish for several months and I am learning lots of new words BUT, I still cannot speak the language. However, my thinking is greatly improved and I feel so much more alert.
So, if you suffer from brain fog or fibro fog I can highly recommend Duolingo a language learning tool that is completely free and very effective for broadening your lingual skills and clearing your cognitive cobwebs.
Time to give reality some thought.
Do you have any experience of learning as a mind enhancing experience? I would love to hear your suggestions and any corrections you feel are necessary to the article I have so lovingly prepared.
Leave a comment in the appropriate section, below, and I will note any feedback you provide for future publication. Oh! And the image above, is optimised for use on Pinterest if you should have a board to which this might add value.