Imagine you are walking down the street or driving somewhere and you can only see 5 meters in front of you because it is so foggy. Slightly disconcerting, even if you are familiar with the area. You can’t see if someone is about to cross a road or if a car is about to turn out that side road. You take extra care and precautions, like not checking your phone so you are 100% alert, or you drive a little slower perhaps.
Now let’s consider these scenarios, some of which, or perhaps all of which you have experienced at some point recently.
- You walk upstairs or into a room and forget what you wanted to get.
- You write down a reminder, such as to phone the garage and when so you don’t forget.
- You’re going away and so write a ‘packing list’ so you pack everything you need.
It’s normal to forget things and have to write them down. We all lead busy, stressful lives and the more stressed and tired we become, the worse our memory becomes. I for one have always written lists. I love them, particularly ‘packing lists’!! Yet in the past 7 months I’ve relied on them more and more. I’ve also had to learn not to criticise myself if I haven’t fulfilled the task because I haven’t had the energy or simply forgotten.
Let’s return to those scenarios that we have all experienced, including myself when I was healthy. I’m going to adapt them to my life now and a life that many others with a chronic illness who experience brain fog.
- I walk upstairs or into a room and forget why I got up. Why did I bother to get up and waste valuable energy? I remember 3 hours later. Repeat.
- I think about writing a reminder. I go to write it down. I forget what I wanted to write down. So I have two different places where I write lists, one being my phone. I carry it everywhere with me now.
- I go away and so write a ‘packing list’. I start this list 2 months before we leave because I know I will need to keep adding to it. I keep the list so I can use it in the future as a reference point.
What else does brain fog mean for me?
I prided myself on my excellent memory, my ability to grasp new things quickly and my ability to multi-task. I can even speak 2 1/2 languages (1 not so fluently!) and read music. Just being able to do one of those is supposed to mean you have less chance of developing Alzheimers or D….I forget the name but you get the picture.
I have three degrees (yes, I am in a lot of debt with student loans!). Have any of those helped me at all? Nope. Zilch. Nada. Not one bit.
There is hope!
Despair not. I am working out strategies around this brain fog…
- Write lists everywhere! Well, not quite but a few places won’t hurt. Write it down i-m-m-e-d-i-a-t-e-l-y.
- Ask people to email or text you the date, time, address, whatever details are needed so you can refer back to it when writing it in your calendar.
- Apologise if you think you are repeating yourself and say you cannot remember if you asked it/what the answer was/if you’ve already said it.
- Sleep! This is easier said than done when you have a chronic illness, but the more you get, the better your brain fog!
- Keep hydrated. Water is food for the brain. Dehydration = dry brain = headache = pain and forgetfulness. Not fun.
- Mindfulness. Clearing that brain of the clutter (or trying to) helps you feel a little better.
- Above all: don’t despair, accept it!
Does anyone else suffer from brain fog? I’d be interested to know what works for you, so comment below!