My Cognitive Symptoms (for Erik)

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by Slayadragon, Feb 5, 2007.

  1. Slayadragon

    Slayadragon New Member

    This does not belong on the "What do you think of the new Name?" page, but I'd like to keep it on file anyway.

    Please forgive me if having a whole post about this topic seems narcissistic, everyone.

    Best, Lisa

    **

    In order to answer your question.....here's a post I wrote a while back about my cognitive issues. (They've been a _whole_ lot worse since I've been on the Famvir, but that's a different story.)

    ***

    As an academic (or at least former and potentially future academic), I've thought about what's wrong with my brain a lot since it's important to me.

    Parts of my cognitive processes work as well as ever (or perhaps better since I to a large extent I only sit around and think about theories rather than doing anything). Really important parts of my cognitive processes are missing though:

    * Stimuli overload. I can't focus if there's any noise in the background.

    * Difficulties thinking on my feet. This makes it harder to teach classes.

    * Difficulties in organizing material. I can write small sections of stuff (like posts on this board) well, but fitting it together is a lot more difficult. This has been a problem both with teaching as well as writing papers.

    * Difficulties in concentrating. I fatigue easily. This is more true with orally presented rather than written information. Those Cheney videotapes are really hard for me to get through because it's an oral presentation. If they were in paper form, I'd have had the material nailed in about 20 minutes, I think. Probably this is related to the stimuli aversion with regard to my auditory senses.

    * Slow movement from one topic to another. If I'm thinking about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I can _only_ think about CFS. Studying or thinking about other more than one thing during the same long time period is extremely different for me. If I were a student taking more than one class at a time, I wouldn't be able to handle it, I don't think.

    * Quickly fading interest in topics of intellectual inquiry. I don't seem to be able to stay with anything long enough to make any progress in terms of doing anything _with_ my thoughts. Once I've thought through the material and reached conclusions in my own head, I'm done with it. (This is probably a combination of low stamina with continued fast thought processing.)

    * Initiative. Forcing myself to get started with projects (even one as simple as writing an e-mail or making a phone call) is extremely difficult. This is a combination of my inability to switch tasks easily as well as general fatigue. Major projects (like writing an academic paper) I seem categorically unable to do.....probably because I know I won't finish them due to the problems above.

    * Problems remembering "what I was about to do" or what I've already done. This has gotten far worse since I started the antiviral Famvir though. Other than when the Famvir herxing was _really_ bad have any of my other cognitive processes gotten worse since starting the drug.


    I also have an almost total inability to remember bits of information that are unconnected to other pieces of information. Even two seconds after I've read a phone number to myself, I cannot remember the whole thing. Four digits is the maximum. Remembering names is almost impossible. Recalling more than one or two words in a list of unrelated items after focusing on something else even for 15 seconds is absolutely impossible. (I'm much more able to remember names or lists of words if I see them only in print, but numbers remain a problem regardless if they're presented in written or oral form.)

    On the other hand, I can remember unlimited amounts of information if it's connected to something else, especially if I create a theoretical construct about it. In cognitive psychology terms, I have extremely good relational memory and almost no item-specific memory. This always was my tendency, but it's gotten much worse since getting sick.

    These may seem like minor problems, but they're major ones for me since they prevent me from getting any real intellectual work completed even when it seems I have energy. The core thought processes are still there (comprehension of written material, logic, ability to bring about varied pieces of information to create an original whole, critical faulties, clarity of written expression, getting quickly to the core of what's being said, imaginative powers, hypothesis generating). But I seem unable to _do_ anything with those thoughts. This is extremely frustrating and the main reason that I have so much motivation to get wholly well despite the difficulties in handling the antiviral treatment.

    I'm not absolutely sure which of these problems are related to CFS and which are related to the head injury I had at some point before that. I did have cognitive problems just from the head injury, and so perhaps curing the CFS wouldn't/won't fix all the cognitive problems.

    On the other hand, the one day I took Provigil, nothing _whatsoever_ seemed wrong with my mind. I got more intellectual work done that day than I had in the previous year. The problem was, after that I crashed in bed for a week.

    I tend to think that some of my problems have to do with the CFS, therefore. However, the fact that they were fixed by the Provigil makes me confident that they will be returned to me if I cure the CFS. If I didn't have CFS, I could use the Provigil on a regular basis, if some cognitive problems from the head injury remained. I'm pretty sure the only reason I crashed from the Provigil was from the CFS.

    As for the other items on the list:

    Anxiety: This was a problem after my head injury but no longer is at all. Part of this has to do with a treatment that my doctor used to fix it (too complicated to explain here). Part may be that my brain just repaired itself over time.

    Balance dizziness/nausea: This was a problem when a candida infection of the gut grew so bad that it moved into my inner ear. Getting rid of the yeast solved the problem.

    Irritability: Dissipated through the use of the anticonvulsant Lamictal for my manic-depression, progesterone for PMS, and St. Johns Wort

    Heat Intolerance: Not especially

    Inability to Sweat: Oddly, I have started to sweat much more since being on Famvir. This is surprising.

    Jerking: Yes, but only in response to specific stimuli.

    Vision: No.

    Alcohol Intolerance: Only if it is beer (yeast) or wine (mold), due to allergies. I am fine with distilled spirits.

    Muscle aches: No

    Weakness: No, except insofar as lack of exercise due to fatigue has caused it

    Numbness: No

    Sleep Problems: Solved by Klonopin (deeper sleep) and occasional melatonin

    Head Pressure: Only with sinus problems caused by yeast overgrowth

    Fog: Only with yeast overgrowth or when herxing (from yeast or viral killing)

    Word memory: Not a problem except for names

    Depression: Yes. Apparently as a physiological result of CFS, as part of my manic-depression (exacerbated by my head injury and controlled by Lamictal), and to a very small amount as reactive to having a debilitating disease.

  2. Slayadragon

    Slayadragon New Member

    Oh, the rest of your questions.

    My math abilities were perfectly fine until I started on the Famvir. The disintegration of my math abilities is perfectly correlated with the amount of herxing I'm doing. That's very perplexing.

    My fatigue is usually just lethargy. It's functional lethargy though. If I push myself to do things, I crash and am even more lethargic. If I push myself beyond that, it feels like every cell of my body is dying (which may well be true).

    I had a brain MRI a few years into my illness. There were some spots that looked like "scratches" (although they obviously were not since they stayed in the same place on my head as it was rotated). I thought after reading Osler's Web that they were significant. After looking at scans of some people's brains though, they seem pretty minor.

    BTW, a few years ago, I took an informal IQ test for no good reason. The score was the same (actually a bit higher) than others I took at various points in my "before CFS" life.

    Before Famvir, I had been at a constant 60-70% for about eight years straight.

    I should add that I worked very, very hard to get to the point I'm describing, though. Without hormones, avoidance of food allergens, treatment of candida, Klonopin (for sleep), and various other supplements, I was at about 30% and had moderately severe cognitive dysfunction. I was unable to work on my dissertation until I resolved all those issues. I'm sure my IQ would have tested at a much lower level then as well.