Being physically sick sucks. But having your mind take a turn for the worse can be worse. I’ve written about being in the grips of pain and the fear I have of exhaustion, but I don’t think I’ve written about what it feels like for one’s mind to struggle.
Whenever I read about recovering from covid and it’s challenges I can’t help but notice how often brain brain gets mentioned. The Lancet published a study of over 80,000 people that offers some concerning evidence that Covid has significant impacts on brain function.
“Finer grained analysis of performance across sub-tests supported the hypothesis that COVID-19 has a multi-domain impact on human cognition.”
If you don’t rely on your mind to make a living maybe the prospect of losing cognition isn’t as scary. Though I doubt it. I’d argue that the primary fear of losing one’s mind has much more to do with feeling one cannot communicate as effectively with one’s loved ones. We tend to get used to our cognitive capacity and finding it lacking can be quite terrifying.
I’m quite lucky that my own disease, ankylosing spondylitis, messes with my spine and not my mind. I’ve generally retained my sharp mind even if my body occasionally fails me. But I’ve still felt the frustration and confusion that comes with reaching for understanding and problem solving and coming up short.
Occasionally if my pain is bad enough my mind feels like it slows. It’s almost imperceptible but it’s still there. Like I am grasping for something that’s just an niche or two out of place on a shelf. You reach expecting it to be there and startle with confusion when it’s not. You adjust and get your grip and can carry on, but you are frustrated as you felt sure that the extra inch wasn’t supposed to be there.
Lucky for me this is fairly rare and easily solved with an NSAID. Once acute pain recedes my thinking is quick again. But what if it wasn’t? How would I learn to cope with that sense that my thinking wasn’t as clear as normal? Sure, maybe aging will do me in eventually, but I wouldn’t chose anything that could slow my mind.