1. Amadeo, Diana RN

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Uh-oh. It's happening again. My thoughts accelerate, then halt, abruptly. Like electricity along a frayed wire, impulses sometimes get through my nervous system clearly; sometimes they're jumbled or in hyperdrive. Often, they don't get through at all.

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This is cognitive function with multiple sclerosis. On a bad day, despite intense concentration, I have no short-term recall. My daughter orders a meal at a restaurant. "That sounds good!!" I say. Moments later, I inquire, "What did you order?"


The simplest things can become confusing; sprinkles of incoming information can feel like a downpour. Pets haven't been fed. Daughter needs to be picked up at soccer field. Refill should be called into pharmacy. I must fix dinner. What a great idea for a story. House is a mess. Son asked me to mail him something for his dorm room [horizontal ellipsis] what was it? I have lists of what to do, but lost them. The baby is playing with the stove. I am unable to triage thoughts, to differentiate the urgent from what can slide. The trivial mixes with items of substance that become impossible to prioritize. My senses are dulled, my movements slow, my intelligence in question. A typical busy afternoon, handled well by women every day, can be incapacitating.


What are these yellow sticky notes doing all over the house?


I am doing only about half of what I was doing before January (when a major exacerbation resulted in loss of vision, hearing, and mobility). Yet I am overwhelmed.


The medical term for this condition is "flooding," the inability to prioritize and implement a series of simple tasks or thoughts. I am flooding. Worse, I am drowning.


My husband understands. (He knows the signs: I make a lot of mistakes, repeat myself, get depressed or visibly frustrated.) He pastes reminders for me all around the house. ("Please keep the porch door shut." "Turn off the oven." "Don't throw away new ant traps.") But so many notes are discouraging. I feel like an idiot. He's only trying to help. I love him and know that he will pick up the pieces of what I can't get done. In the end, everything will be all right.


But sometimes I forget how to tread water.


When I can no longer strike items from the "to do" list, when the sensory overload becomes too great, I close my eyes and quiet myself. In this meditative state, I surrender to a Higher Power. Almost immediately (interiorly) I see gentle hands robed in white upon my head. During physical crisis, spirituality is sometimes all that I have. So I take deep breaths to calm the panic, try to focus on lists and invoke God's help. I become quiet. I mentally detach. Everything shuts down except the task at hand.


Panic subsides. There is a feeling of absolute trust. All will be well. Soon, I am wrapped in the Spirit's wings. There is calm and peace within.


And I am floating on, not drowning in, this sea of confusion.