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A Little Poisoning Along the Road to ME/CFS
Looking at my symptoms, many of which are far less these days and some are gone, it would be easy to figure that I'd just been dealing with some heavy-duty menopausal issues.
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Do you find some types of thinking harder than others?

Discussion in 'Cognition' started by Sparrow, Mar 22, 2012.

  1. Sparrow

    Sparrow Senior Member

    I mean, obviously doing complex math on the fly is probably harder than remembering what a pencil is for, but compared to your healthy level of functioning, are certain areas more badly hit than others? For me, when I'm having a "bad brain day" (or hour or moment or week or year...:rolleyes:), I find that certain types of thinking are much more difficult and more taxing on my resources than others. I wondered if there were any similarities across us all, or if each person's stronger/weaker areas were more individual.

    For me,

    -Speaking and writing in a train-of-thought way is WAY easier than reflecting on what I'm saying as I say it, or trying to edit things I've already written. I've pretty much trained myself now not to try to pay attention to what I say, as I know I'll just end up getting stuck searching for words, with long gaps where my memory fails me, etc. (this also explains why I ramble so long here sometimes! ;))

    -If someone is talking while I'm talking (interrupting or what have you), I find it nearly impossible to take in what they're saying. Sometimes I can't even register that they're speaking until after. Not just that it's tough to pay attention to exactly what they're saying, but that I can't even take in that they're forming words.

    -When my mental reserves aren't great, I find comparing information or anything else where I have to hold two different pieces of info in my head at once really hard to impossible. For example, which of these two options is the better deal, or remember this information while you figure out where it goes in a form, or any really abstract concept with a lot of details, trying to make sense of a spreadsheet with a lot of different steps to it (on a bad day, even one that once would have been completely obvious). Maybe that's part of why decisions and editing text are both extra hard now, but it seems to apply to everything. I just CAN'T hold onto two pieces of info at once and make sense of them both. As soon as I focus on one, I lose the other. Or I try to keep both and just end up really badly mentally strained.

    I find it interesting that some parts of my mind seem so strongly affected while others are mostly in tact (within reason). I can answer trivia questions right now if you ask them to me one at a time and get the right answer quite quickly. ...But if I have to read a crossword puzzle clue, then look down the page to also find out where that answer goes and keep both of those pieces in mind to get an answer, I run out of steam surprisingly fast.

    Really it all seems to come down to that trouble with keeping my brain focused on more than one thing at once, I guess. It's not just using more resources overall, because I can still do tricky one-track thinking much better than simple two-track thinking. Just wondered if anyone else recognized the same pattern in themselves, or any different pattern to their cognitive challenges.
  2. dancer

    dancer Senior Member

    Midwest, USA
    Great question.
    One of the most difficult issues for me has been cognitive loss. It's like a whole different brain moved into my skull after this hit. When I've exerted in some way (sometimes a phone conversation or a mild walk is enough to deplete me) the cognitive loss gets worse.

    I used to be very creative. That part of my brain seems turned off now. Reading for pleasure is lost, too. However, I do some freelance editing and that part of my brain seems to work better/more easily.

    When I'm worse, I lose words. I can't find nouns, get confused, struggle to communicate. Lots of memory probs. At the worst, have forgotten who I am for a bit. Once I was about to pour water in a coffee maker, and suddenly didn't know how to pour water. It was just gone. I "lost" my address...and never did recover that knowledge. I had to re-teach myself the numbers and street name. I know it now, but never know when I'll lose it again.
  3. SickOfSickness

    SickOfSickness Senior Member

    Yes. In fact now I'm tired, so I won't bother to answer specifics about what I can do better and what I do worse.

    I got sick at a very young age, so I can't compare. Until recently, I thought many of my problems were from ASD/ADD. But I never understood why the problems would sometimes be barely there. It made sense that the problems got worse if I felt tired. CFS could explain it all. Sometimes even when I don't feel that tired, I must not have the right neurotransmitters or vit/minerals so the problems are worse. Sometimes I have a good hour or hours.
  4. hurtingallthetimet

    hurtingallthetimet Senior Member

    hello sparrow... i get confused and overwhelmed so easily now by everything...i will sometimes want to say a word such as apple...i will see an apple in my mind but cant think of what it is called, happens with alot of words sometimes, or i will completly forget a word or what it means and cant even see it in my mind..

    i use to also be great at typing very fast and always did it properly spelling, format etc. now im embarassed at how bad it is most times...but i cant remember how to spell and its too frustrating and hard to try to format right etc...my handwritting has gotten worse also but i think thats more from stiff fingers and hands with pain...

    these illness effect so much of us and take so much away...im compleelty different than what i was...i use to have a demanding job that i did great at...a socail llife..lots of friends..traveled...etc..now NOTHING..
  5. Sparrow

    Sparrow Senior Member

    I've had that word loss thing all the time too, especially when I forget and start paying too much attention to what I'm trying to say. Sometimes if I'm at home, I'll end up going through a giant description of a particular object for my husband because I can't come up with the actual word. :Retro smile: "Can you pass me the...cylinder...water goes in it...lift and drink...clear..." "This glass?" "Yes. Thank you."

    For a month or so I would have awful periods of brain loss, but thankfully those have cleared up for the time being. Mostly that seemed to be short-term memory for me. So I could literally read one word of text, then look up and have no idea what was written, even after trying to read it over and over again. Nothing "stuck".
    ahimsa likes this.
  6. SOC

    SOC Senior Member

    Your word-finding (or lack thereof) story really hit home. :thumbsup: I, too, have that problem and it's worse when other symptoms are worse.

    My ability to write clear and compact paragraphs disappeared with this illness, although it gets better and worse depending on (dang, like right now when I can figure out how to get out of this sentence :Retro mad:)

    Pre-ME/CFS I had an excellent memory and incredible focus. Now my short term memory is poor and my focus is very poor. I've begun to empathize with my students struggling with ADD. For a while I couldn't read long paragraphs or books because I both couldn't keep enough info in my head and couldn't keep my mind on the text. I still struggle with content-dense material.

    I've never been good with retaining audio input, but now I have a lot of trouble with audio-only input. I listen, but I don't follow --except that I can listen to audio books. :confused: It may be that I'm not trying to follow every detail, but I can get the general idea so I'm satisfied.

    My math skills are still intact as long as I can write things down and look at them. Decision-making was a little flaky for a while, but that seems to have improved with improvement of other symptoms. Logic doesn't seem to be impaired, although secondary issues (memory, attention) can get in the way.

    Geez, I read this post and I can see that my writing ability is down just from a small setback I'm having today. :( So, I'll summarize:

    For me, the worst cognitive issues are in the areas of memory, attention, and mental stamina (I have none).
  7. taniaaust1


    Sth Australia
    Anything in which I actually have to be using my brain is harder then when Im doing something without must thought

    eg typing for me is nowdays fairly easy as I can do it without thinking about it.. like auto piliot, my fingers know where the keys are without thought. I just spill out whatever is in my head (if I have to carefully word a post, well that is hard cause I then have to go thinking about it which burns my energy up a lot quicker).

    Anything is which I need to hold more then two pieces of info in my brain at a time..can be hard (I used to struggle just to hold one piece in my head). Hence when others are talking to me, I often confuse things. One cant put things together to make sense of things well, unless ones memory is okay enough to remember the pieces of info.

    I used to often tell people "speak to me like a 3 year old". Short sentences.
  8. ahimsa

    ahimsa Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    Yes, this happens to me all the time. I mentioned this on another thread and got lots of "me too!" replies so I know it's common. Someone on that thread called it "playing password" - a great name for this word finding problem! (a reference to an old TV game show called Password where one player gives hints for a word that their partner has to guess.)

    And I agree with the original poster that some parts of my brain seem quite intact while others seem broken. A few more details I've observed over the years:

    First, due to my problem with NMH (Neurally Mediated Hypotension) trying to think while standing seems almost impossible.

    Answering a question is the worst of all when standing. To answer a question has so many steps. It means I have to listen to the question, understand what the words mean, figure out an answer, and then speak that answer. My husband has learned to ask me to sit down first before he tries to talk to me (other than just Hello, LOL!). But when I'm out doing errands I get that "deer in the headlights" look when employees come up to ask me innocuous questions ("are you finding everything?" "can I help you?"). I know they mean well but it's just added stress. I have my folding cane/seat with me and on a good day I can fold it out and sit down and then answer them. On a bad day I might just blurt out something weird because I can't think of the right answer but keeping silent and ignoring them seems rude.

    Second, using a computer analogy, my brain problems seem to be concentrated on problems of input/output.

    Among the different types of input/output, hearing (actually, that means listening and understanding) is my worst problem. Speaking is probably next (I need lots of time to think and form a correct sentence before I speak). My visual processing is much better than my auditory processing. Unlike what some folks have reported on these forums, I am lucky in that I can read a book (assuming the room is quiet) and follow the plot, retain the character names, and so on. TV is okay if it's some sort of easily understood movie or fictional series. TV news reports are much harder, impossible on bad days. But listening to the radio is the worst. On good days I can sort of understand the news reports. But most days by the time the reporter has reached the end of the sentence I've forgotten the first part of the sentence. It's like listening to another language where I can mostly understand each individual word but it's all going by too fast for me to get the grammar and overall meaning. Or, using a computer analogy, it's as if I have no buffering ability.

    Last, some parts of my brain still work really well.

    For example, if I have forgotten my grocery list, I can often picture the list in my head and come up with most, and sometimes all, of the items on the list. So, it's strange to have some parts of my brain do even better than what others can do while some parts do not work well at all.

    I agree with Sparrow that moving your mental focus is hard, e.g., your crossword puzzle example. My example would be trying to type this response while also trying to reference what others have posted before me. Let's say I scroll down to see what Sparrow wrote in the original post (I'm using the advance reply option). I pick a sentence from that post and then come back to the editing window. But by that time I've forgotten what point I was trying to make. (there's that mental buffering problem again). Cut and paste lets me buffer Sparrow's sentence that I was going to discuss but somehow seeing that sentence is not enough to remind me of what I was going to say. :(

    So, on that note, I'll end. I hope that my rambling has some meaning (and/or amusement) for someone out there. :D
  9. Sparrow

    Sparrow Senior Member

    I can relate to SO much of what you guys have mentioned... Trying to respond to posts while referencing what has already been said, trying to retain auditory information, feeling like my brain flips the off switch if I'm standing, etc. So much of what you've said sounds so familiar...
  10. InChristAlone


    Interesting question, but a great one to discuss! I found it incredibly interesting that you mentioned being able to speak easier than reflecting on what you're saying. That is the complete opposite for me! On a really bad day, or when I've over exerted myself, speaking in a coherent way becomes increasingly difficult. In my mind, I know exactly what I want to say, but getting my mouth to comply is ridiculous. I remember one time talking with my Mom and I sat there going..."I...uhh...uhh...umm..." It was insane! It makes me quite upset sometimes. Thank God for good days!
  11. Sparrow

    Sparrow Senior Member

    That's exactly what happens to me when I try to be aware of what I'm saying while/before I say it! It's like there's a brick wall between the concept and the talking and I just can't get past it at all. Learning to ramble without any concept of what's coming out is the only way I've found so far to get around this. ...Though sometimes now that means that I can get talking about something and then only realize after the fact that I've gone off in an odd direction, or was giving way too much information in response to a question, or have said something I probably should have kept to myself. It's been a difficult transition for someone who used to pretty much always choose my words carefully. But apparently I just don't have enough juice to power the self-editing process anymore. :)

    I also get the "um...uh.....er....." sometimes when someone tries to talk to me standing up. I need to lie down to get words out. ;)

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