I put the scissors in the refrigerator.
They are supposed to go in the drawer next to the fridge, yet I often open the fridge door and go to plop them down next to last night’s leftovers before my brain decides to wake up a pinch and say, “Um, hey Nic? Yeah, what ARE you doing, girl?”
It’s super annoying.
There is no technical definition for brain fog, because technically, it’s considered one of those murky symptoms that doctors raise their eyebrows at before telling you that you just need more sleep.
I sleep 10-12 hours a night on average.
I don’t need any more, thankyouverymuch.
Also called fibro fog, depending on which Chronic you talk to, brain fog is no joke. Cognitive dysfunction, forgetfulness, it all falls under this heading. It’s naming is spot on because really, when I’m having a good, low symptom day, my mental processing feels like this:
And when I’m deep in the thick of a high symptom day (like the last few have been-ew) or a full on “crash” (a period of time of high symptoms, usually referenced when it’s been more than just a week or two of feeling awful), my brain feels like this:
Everything feels slow, like I’m this guy:
This symptom has been in my top-5 for a while now, and I have to say, it’s one of the most exasperating and upsetting. The pre-Chronic Nic was that annoying kid who didn’t have to study for tests because once I learned something, it was up there, locked and loaded for future use. I have always had a habit of collecting really random factoids and storing them in my noggin for great lengths of time, just waiting for the perfect moment to share them. I still do this, but now instead of telling you in one nice succinct sentence that the human head weighs 8 pounds, I’m more likely to say something like, “So I was reading about the human head. It weighs a lot. How much did it say it weighed? Hang on. I just had it. It was more than 5, I know that. But not more than 10, that would be like, too much. They said it in that movie. You know, that one? From the 90’s? With Tom Cruise? Right, Jerry Maguire. That was a good movie. The cute little blond kid said it. And I just read it. Ugh, this is so frustrating. Let me go look. Where did I say I read it? It must have been that other book, because it’s not here. I thought it was right here. Well, whatever. The human head is heavy, that was my point.”
Doesn’t really have the same know-it-all-effect, now does it?
It’s actually taking me a laughably long time to write this post today, because I’m sitting here, thinking, “What’s my point going to be?” and then rereading what I’ve written to make sure it makes sense. P.S. I’m not really sure what my point is yet.
There is of course, medical reason for Brain Fog, often debated, even though doctors tend to roll their eyes at you when you tell them that you are more forgetful than your great-grandma Pearl. For POTSies, it’s been tied to blood flow. If your brain isn’t adequately fed by some supped-up oxygenated red blood cells, it’s not going to fire off signals between neurons very often (yes, I too am surprised I am able to talk neurons in my current non-neuron firing state). If this is true, my brain is Betty White in that Snickers commercial:
On the fibromyalgia side, the idea is similar, though it branches out to include the idea that certain parts of the brain are always “ON” (causing too much stimulation which results in widespread pain) and so your brain is too fatigued to go about its daily business, having never sufficiently recharged.
I’m not sure that I care what causes it. It’s kind of the same thing with any symptom- unless it was something that I had control over (which I don’t, 99% of the time, as my conditions negatively affect my autonomic, read: automatic, nervous system), there isn’t much I can do even if I know the cause. A lot of the time you can’t undo the cause. It’s more about what happens once the symptom is already present.
So, what can I do about brain fog when it happens?
If you can’t beat it, join it. Brain fog falls into my personal category of “Go with the Flow of your Body”. If my brain decides to take a mini-vaca for the day (or the week), unfortunately, that means I have to go too. I’ve tried to function through it before, which has resulted in my discussing my medical condition with the wrong Teaching Assistant at school (awkward), freaking out that I’ve locked myself out of the house only to realize a moment later that my key is in my pocket and I meant to lock the door (uncomfortable), and generally getting into disagreements with family members because I swear I said xyz out loud, but maybe I forgot to… Now I just go with it. Today is a foggy day. I will watch television shows whose plot lines I won’t remember (though do the Real Housewives really have a plot?) or read magazines whose information might simply pass through my consciousness (Are jewel tones in this season? Or was that for fall?).
Make lists. It’s best if you make one list and keep it with you. Sometimes I don’t follow my own advice, so I write down what I need to remember on multiple tiny pieces of paper that end up everywhere. And then I find myself pulling them out of my jeans’ pockets at the end of the week when I do laundry- “Oh right! I never wrote back to B’s facebook message!”
Tell someone else what you’re supposed to do today. It’s very helpful when you are telling your mom about how you watched House Hunters International all morning and she says, “Weren’t you supposed to write a blog or something?” Why, yes. Yes, I was.
Avoid the dreaded multi-task. Do one thing. When that thing is over, do another thing. Do not do two things at once. This is how you end up burning dinner, spilling the dog food all over the floor, and dropping the ketchup bottle on your foot. Not the multi-task you were looking to accomplish, that’s for sure.
When all else fails, sleep it off. Maybe you do need more sleep, right now. Turn off the brain that doesn’t want to function. Sometimes it’s all you can do.
In fact, that actually sounds like a wonderful thing to do. Turn off my computer, turn off my brain. It’s just a few minutes shy of 6pm, but I am done with you, Wednesday (it is Wednesday, right?). Nighty night, kids!
*Bloopers: When I first wrote this, I spelled “cannot” in the title as “can not”. Also, when I was just writing the word “spelled” I wrote “spelt”, which for a second I thought could work, and then I remembered that I am not British.