Press One for Dumb

MS Stupid is as MS Stupid Does

For the record, I’m not saying that people with brain fog or other cognitively limiting chronic illnesses like multiple sclerosis are dumb. That would be wrong.

And it would get people really, really mad at me just as I am trying to sell them a book or two-too dumb a move even for me!

What I AM saying is that too often, MS makes ME dumb, (ie, stupid, slow, dim-witted, ignorant, simple minded, etc).

True, I did many a dumb thing before the onset of MS. But since no one can really know when the onset of MS was, that is kind of a dumb statement.


The point is, the dumb things I have done since then are immeasurable.

Just the other day I stressed myself out trying to jam my mug of tea into the toaster oven. It would not fit. I kept trying. It didn’t make sense. I re-heat my tea all the time; it had to fit.

I had brewed a whole other cup before it occurred to me that I usually re-heated my tea in the microwave. I tried to fit the mug into that and of course, it fit nicely.

The two machines aren’t even near each other.  Are they even machines?

Last summer a friend took me and her family out to dinner. She asked me to make the reservations. The party was made up of me, my friend Sam, Bunny, Jack and Lexi. I made the reservations for the 6 of us.

There was an extra chair and place setting at the table. I couldn’t figure out why- me, Sam, Bunny, Jack and Lexi-six.

Eventually the waitress removed the extra plates and silverware but I was still confused. Clearly the waitress didn’t know how to count. (If this sounds familiar to you it might be because I have whined about this incident before and so no, you are not dumb.)

My mom recently bought a Jitterbug phone, a phone specifically designed for older people who may not have owned a cell phone in the past- in other words, super easy. Guess who had a hard time setting it up for her?

Oh eventually we got through it. But it took both of us reading the instructions repeatedly and at least four calls to the company to do it. And while I sat on hold with them, all my brain could come up with is “jitterbug, boom, boom, jitterbug) the opening bars to a popular 80’s song of my youth.

Smart phone indeed!

The fact that MS makes me dumb is further complicated by all of the paperwork that comes from living with a chronic illness. Recently I had to go to three different offices two times each (one office three times,) just to change my address. Apparently I messed up the forms on the first go around.

As I sat in one particular office my frustration grew as large as the giant high tech TV screen in front of me. The screen announced all the different options for people who have trouble with paperwork.

One by one different segments would flash that said say if you are Spanish and need an interpreter to help you with the paperwork, press two when dialing the main number. If you are French and need an interpreter to help you with the paperwork, press three. If you are Vietnamese and need an interpreter to help you with the paperwork, press four. If you are German and need an interpreter to help you with the paperwork, press five.

Please don’t think that this blog is a comment on closing our borders, as it is definitely not. My own grandparents took a boat across the Atlantic to live on our great shores and more power to them for that.

Nor is it a commentary on illegal aliens as I am way too dumb to try to sort out that issue.

What I am asking is where was the screen that says if you are too dumb to handle all of this intense paperwork yourself, press one when dialing the main number. Or even better, where was the screen that says if you used to be smart and are now dumb but still look normal and smart, press one.

Thing is, this is another frustration of living with an invisible illness. I look normal. My work history and resume shows that I was normal at one time.

When I try to explain that I am now dumb, I am too dumb to explain it well. That is when people decide that I must be lazy. Why can’t they understand that cognitive difficulties from MS can make me dumb, not lazy?

Seems kind of stupid to me….

Recently I had even more paperwork to fill out and have since discovered a wonderful nonprofit organization that can help with some types of tricky paperwork for the slow folks like me. Those non-profits rock!

A wonderful woman filled out the forms and I was super grateful. But then I got a letter from the agency we were writing to and it said the paperwork was filled out wrong and since it was, I would now have to jump through even more horrible paperwork hoops to get a response from them.

But how could this be? A really smart person had filled it out for me. And she was not a person who just looked smart, she really was. Her brain functioned at total capacity.

I called her to inquire. She made some calls and it turned out that a bazillion years before, when I had stupidly tried to fill the paperwork out myself, I did it wrong. So even though the current forms were done exactly right, I now had to try to correct previous mistakes that no longer applied to anything, including the latest “done right” paperwork!

And this had to be done immediately with the nice wise lady walking me through it over the phone very slowly and repeating the directions several times. I can only imagine how that paperwork turns out.

I know there are some people in the world, who think that people with disabilities are scamming the system, making excuses or lying about their conditions. After all, these supposedly wise folks believe, if you look normal you must be normal and are just faking something.

Well, I would like to state that people like me are absolutely not doing this. Besides the major right and wrong aspect, we don’t have the capacity to pull off any of these scams.

We are way too……, well, you know.


Want to fight your MS cognitive difficulties by doing a super smart thing?

Want to purchase my book, MS Madness! A “Giggle More, Cry Less” Story of Multiple Sclerosis AND  donate to an awesome cause?

Purchase through this link below by the end of March and 50% of the proceeds from the sale will go directly to the Nancy Davis Foundation Race to Erase MS campaign!

Race to Erase MS!


12 thoughts on “Press One for Dumb

  1. AWESOME post Yvonne! This was never more true that when I applied for my Social Security Disability Income in 2010. I did it all online and without a lawyer. The application was horrid!!! HELLO, I am disabled with cognitive issues!!! How on Earth do they expect people to do this correctly? The number one reason people are turned down is incorrect paperwork & the doctor’s offices not faxing your medical records timely. So, I double, triple & quadruple checked my paper work & I called my caseworker at least weekly to make sure the ball STAYED rolling & I called the doc’s offices to make sure they faxed my records…for many of them I made them give me a copy of the confirmation sheet. GOD blessed me with a favorable decision the first time I applied within 6 months, without a lawyer…this is almost unheard of!! I worked in the medical field for 20 years & one of my strong points was attention to detail in my documentation. I mean I audited charts for accuracy. It took me about 4 hours to do the application. I was in zombie land mentally afterwards!! There needs to be a liaison to help people…I had much of mental faculties intact. What do the folks do that are more limited than I was? My guess is most of them do without & that is most unfortunate!!

    • Thank you so much for that story Susan. The whole thing drives me crazy! Here’s another dumb thing my MS does to me- when I make a mistake my brain now accepts the mistake as the right way to do something so that triple and quadruple checking doesn’t help!! Thank you too for adding the accuracy aspect in prior lives. I used to be a perfectionist and a multi-tasker and was the one in my office who corrected mistakes. Now, well I’m lucky if I can re-heat my tea but I’ve already covered that. Excuse me while I go look for where I stuck my mug this time!!!

  2. It’s worse than you think, Yvonne. There are forces out there trying to make us feel even dumber than we already are. Just yesterday, my FSA firm told me to send them a form that they didn’t want a few weeks ago. The form they asked for they no longer wanted.

    Somewhere on the other end of these emails, there’s a bunch of folks having a good laugh. “How many different forms do you think we can get this loser to fill out before he realizes we’re going to deny his claim anyway?!” They probably even have a pool running to see how long they can stretch this out.

    I’m NOT paranoid! They really are out to get me!

  3. Excellent post!
    I would end up hitting the number one button so much, the “1” would be worn off in no time.
    You can only try your best…slow & steady. (Susan was quick—took me about 8 hours to fill everything out!)

  4. or better yet I bring the list to the store forget I have it and get stuff I didn’t NEED but forget the one thing I actually went there to get

    • Yes- I can totally relate! We work so hard to make a list then forget to check it! Good thing Santa Claus doesn’t have MS…

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