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How Lyme Disease Has Affected My Cognitive Function

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Many who struggle with Lyme disease endure many challenges on a daily basis, one of them being the struggle to think clearly. The decline in my cognition due to Lyme disease has been the most troublesome symptom of the disease and has been the hardest to cope with emotionally. For most of my life, I have relied heavily on my ability to think to open doors for me. I used to have excellent recall skills and I was able to excel in school. In high school, I was enrolled in honors courses and graduated in the top 10 percent of my class. Everyone has a gift, and mine was my cognitive functioning. My ability to think was an essential component of my identity and I feel somewhat lost without it.

As previously stated, the decline in my cognition has been one of my most apparent symptoms. I am aware that Lyme disease affects people in different ways since it can invade any part of the body. However, I know there are so many others out there currently fighting the same battle. Those people and I are trying to help loved ones realize what it is like to struggle with cognitive functions. Often, these cognitive struggles are invisible. In order to help loved ones understand, I am going to describe typical Lyme disease cognition within the following contexts.

1. You and a friend are having a dinner and are trying to catch up. You are able to focus on what they are saying for the first two minutes of the conversation, but then you are unable to pay attention and process what they are saying. You hear the words coming out of their mouth, but you cannot process the content of what they are saying. It is comparable to listening to Charlie Brown’s teacher speak. The person might as well be speaking a foreign language.

2. You are trying to relax and read a book. Imagine if it took 10 minutes to read one page because you kept having to reread previous lines to remember the plot and to research the meaning of words you once knew.

3. Imagine that you are a student attempting to complete an assignment. You read the instructions for the assignment, but each time you read them, you interpret them differently. As a result, you have to restart the assignment three different times.

4. You wake up in the morning and you are stressed and angry, but you are unsure why. You are tense all day and are afraid you are going to start yelling uncontrollably. A small mishap in your day sets you off and you have a temper-tantrum when you get home. You scream, you cry, and you throw belongings across the room. You were unsure why you were upset in the first place and you are ashamed of your behavior.

5. You have a doctor’s appointment scheduled for today at noon. You scheduled it about a month ago and you knew it was coming up soon. You decide to watch television until it is time for your appointment. You forget to go to your appointment because you were distracted and cannot focus on two things at once.

6. You get in your car to drive to the grocery store. Once you are halfway down the street, you suddenly forget where you are driving to and turn around to go back home. When you get home, you finally remember where you were driving.

If you know someone who has Lyme disease, you likely see them go through a lot of physical pain. However, sometimes it cannot be compared to the mental and emotional pain they endure. Many times, this pain is invisible. If you know someone with Lyme disease, give them a hug and let them know that you are there to support them. For we feel many people do not understand or take our struggle seriously — when it is all too real for us who have Lyme disease.

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Thinkstock Image By: bob_bosewell

Originally published: June 20, 2017
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