Headed the wrong way down Memory Lane?

Lately I find myself wondering whether my multiple sclerosis has affected my … uh, what’s the word I’m searching for? Memory! That’s it. 

As I advance toward my mid-50s, I have plenty of opportunity to question whether my memory lapses are a normal sign of aging or a nefarious symptom of MS. I had extra time to ponder this situation last week while I was visiting my 87-year-old mother.

Ma is, knock on wood, in terrific physical and mental condition. She still lives in the house I grew up in and maintains the place, and her affairs, on her own. But she expressed frustration about the number of times she couldn’t remember what she had been about to tell me. She had some trouble keeping track of her house keys, and she spent the better part of a day trying to remember a certain word that figured in an anecdote from her childhood that she was trying to share with me.

It all seemed perfectly normal to me, and eventually she remembered everything she wanted to tell me and found her keys. But I understood her concern. It’s worrisome to think about losing your grip on your memory and your memories, and any sign that your grip is slipping can be scary.

In the years since I was diagnosed, I have often questioned whether my memory glitches are MS-related. My husband, who has known me since I was a teenager, is reassuring, in his own way. He reminds me I’ve always had a terrible memory, so I shouldn’t worry about it.

I think he’s right. After all, I’ve always kept a journal and taken lots of photos because I have always known I can’t count on my brain to preserve my memories.

But every so often I worry that MS damage has reduced my ability to remember things. And worrying certainly isn’t going to improve my memory. If things get much worse, of course, I’ll check with my doctor. But for now I think my inability to remember, say, the name of my second-grade teacher, or the current location of my eyeglasses, is probably just a normal part of growing older.

Because, really, who cares what my second-grade teacher’s name was?  And as for my glasses, after an exhaustive search of the house, I generally find them – perched right on top of my head.

P.S.: My teacher’s name just popped into my head! She was Mrs. Shirley, and she had very fair skin, and one day she came to school with a stain of iodine on her finger to disinfect a cut. Take that, MS brain!
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Jennifer LaRue Huget, Blogger

Jennifer LaRue Huget was diagnosed with MS in 2001. A freelance writer and children's book author, she lives in Connecticut with her husband, two teenage kids, and two brown dogs. Her website is www.jenniferlaruehuget.com.

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  • Avatar
    sammik  Jun 14, 2013 4:48 PM
    Hi Jennifer,
    I just signed up to this site today so I'm a newbie lol. I love this blog! And I love your style of writing! I am only 41, and was tentatively diagnosed from MRI's of my spine & brain in September of 2011. I suffer the same exact problems with my memory. Sometimes it is a simple word that I am extremely familiar with that I can't remember, and sometimes it is a person's name belonging to someone that I adored for one reason or another at some point in my life. It is SO FRUSTRATING!! I HATE it!! Especially when it happens when I'm in the middle of a conversation with someone, it's embarrassing for me and it makes me feel so helpless sometimes.. Of course I just laugh it off while in the conversation because I don't want the person I'm talking to to feel awkward or concerned even, but what goes through me is a flash of panic, fear, embarrassment, frustration & helplessness. Which is followed by, (if I'm lucky that time), a sigh of relief when what I'm scrubbing my brain for finally shows itself and makes its way to my mouth to be spoken. My husband really is a wonderful man, and he has the gift of gab like no one I've ever known, but it's hard for him to understand how on some days just making a phone call, especially if its an important one, can be such a big source of anxiety for me, which is followed by some fatigue. Do you also have anxiety about having conversations "on the fly"? I MUCH prefer writing, typing or texting because I can have more control over my words that way.
  • Ellen Bundarin   Jun 18, 2013 6:34 PM
    Hi Jennifer, first time on this blog. I read your piece about memory lane and I truly enjoyed it. I was diagnosed with MS in 2004, as each year goes by my memory gets a little more foggy. I am blessed with having a wonderful husband. He has noticed the change in my memory, as a matter of fact he writes notes for me every morning so I remember to do small tasks. Going to the dry cleaner , or to CVS to pick up a prescription, sometimes he reminds me to do the wash. Yes this can be very frustrating, but the worst is when I can visualize a word that I want to say but I can't say it . It just doesn't want to come out or it might come out sounding different. I slur my words sometimes. Thank you for your blog it's always nice to hear other people talk about there struggles with this disease .
  • RKB-NJ  Jun 18, 2013 7:52 PM
    For years I thought that my memory loss was due to the usual aging process. (I'm 58) Then when it got worse, I used to joke that I had early onset Alzheimer's or a very small brain tumor. I was just diagnosed this past April and now at least I have an answer for my memory loss and all of the other symptoms that no one could put a name to. It's scary sometimes. Yesterday I couldn't remember my phone number. I found that what helps is to try to remember the words in different ways. For example, if you forget the word "cantaloupe: you can say "that round fruit with the orange inside." Of course that may sound weird to some people, but at least you can get the words across. Granted, it doesn't help with names. For that, you can try word association. For Karen, you can think remember to bring the car in. (Karen - car in)
  • Avatar
    jrntaz  Jul 12, 2013 6:52 PM
    I am too new to all of this. It is very embaressing when you forgot what you did yesturday or in a middle of a conversation or a very familiar place and your wondering " I know this" I first was smiling when reading other's comments and relating then I bursted out crying, just too surreal for me. I have been journaling for the past 4 months and also as Jennifer talked about; but i use notes for notes for reminder's and have for a couple of years without telling anyone. My appointment book look like garble or coded messages that i could not figure out. I have been so active for years as Social Worker and now I dont even have that anymore. My family thought at first I was just loosing it and I have to agree i was right in-line with them. I sed to blame it on brown outs because in the field of Social Work you can have this with the large case loads. Denial is a great tool we humans have! I did decide to go back to college even though I have my degree, i thought why not. I don't feel my family is supportive but i need to try and do it. I may have MS but i never will give it that power! I also want to thank Karen also! for i also look for things to remind me no matter how weird it may seem! Or sometimes i laugh when i slur my words or I just say to the person "it must not of been important or I would remember" they just laugh with me<Whew! Thank you everyone for allowing me to share!