Cognitive Dysfunction?

How do you know if you’re experiencing cognitive dysfunction?
Analyzing the two words you have “cognitive” – of or relating to cognition, with cognition being the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses; and “dysfunction” – abnormality or impairment in the function of a specified bodily organ or system. Therefore, cognitive dysfunction would be an abnormality or impairment in mental action and the process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.

Theoretically, I’m there.

But what is cognitive dysfunction really? What does it look like? Feel like? What qualifies and what doesn’t?

I’m struggling with this.

As a living creature cognitive function is obviously essential, but the degree of what is considered impaired can vary greatly. As a PhD student, my life and my livelihood revolve around my cognitive function. What may only seem like a subtle slip up or may be entirely unnoticeable to others is a huge impairment for me.

Like this summer, I should have written my preliminary exam. I should have devoured literature and produced at least a solid thirty pages of concise and well written argument that grounds my research ideas in the literature and points out what questions are still unanswered.

What have I actually done? Struggled my way through reading one book. I haven’t even finished it yet.

And I can’t help but question if I haven’t gotten as far as a should because I’m being lazy, or just a poor student. Even though I really want to be doing my research; I find it incredibly interesting and was quite excited to have the time to focus on my prelims at the beginning of the summer.
But if I’m not being lazy, why am I struggling so hard to get anything done?

Is it the depression? … it could be a contributing factor, but my depression is made so much worse as a result of my lack of productivity.
Is it the lack of estrogen? Menopause has been known to cause brain fog.

Or is it something else? Is it avoiding doing my reading and writing because of a cognitive dysfunction that makes it so difficult for my to comprehend what I’m reading, critically think about the materials, and generate new ideas? And if so, am I avoiding working because I simply can’t do it to a level I expect my self to be able to.

How do you know? And what can I do about it?

I haven’t made any significant progress on my preliminary exam- which I was supposed to defend in September. I don’t know if I can even make it through classes this upcoming semester- can I engage with the materials like I should be able to?

I don’t know what to do anymore. I can deal with using the wrong words occasionally, and even burning myself on hot pans when I forget to put the oven mitt back on. But I’ve already had to change fields once as a result of my health. I don’t want to do it again. I absolutely want to be a PhD. I’d love to do research and teach. I’d love to work in industry as a consultant. Using my brain means so much to me.

I can’t even fathom what I would do if I can’t continue on my current path. The weight of this is crushing me, and I don’t know what to do about it.

…On the bright side, I finally have a neurologist appointment. I’ll be meeting with Dr. C on Sept. 14th.


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