ME, Myself and I: Brain Fog

I wasn’t sure if I’d do a post just on this but it’s been annoying me so much recently I decided it deserves its own post. I’m not sure if it’ll be long but as my brain is rather foggy today it does feel appropriate for this to go up.

This is one of those symptoms that may not bother others as much as it does me sometimes. It’s one that I don’t think people who don’t have a chronic illness or are affected by it will actually understand why it’s such a frustrating thing to happen. It doesn’t seem that bad compared to things like pain or fatigue but, for me at least, with those I know when I’m likely to have those worse, if I do too much it’ll be worse the next day but rest does help those symptoms, along with a large proportion of the symptoms I have. Brain fog is not one of them.

I guess I should start by explaining what brain fog is, or what it is to me. It does seem to be another of those things that can affect people differently. Brain fog actually fits pretty well with its name, it’s when your brain just gets all fuzzy and suddenly it seems like the easiest words can disappear, normally just when you need them. Most often for me it’s forgetting words, repeating something I have said seconds before because I haven’t realised I’ve already said it and that feeling of walking into a room, or going to do something, and forgetting what you were going to do part way through doing it. There’s also those moments when you do something that seems stupid to others, for example going to look at the bottom of a mug when there’s actually something still in it or putting a mug in the fridge rather than the cupboard, which both may have happened to me. I seem to have a lot of interactions with mugs that go wrong.

It’s something that you get used to but to start with can be embarrassing especially when you’re with someone new or someone who gets impatient easily. Most of the time the way I get around forgetting the word that has decided to hide is to use a lot more words to describe it and make it sort of light hearted, like a dog would be ‘that animal with four legs and the waggy tail,’ and hope that the person either says the word or just knows what I mean and I can continue. I used to just sit there while I tried to think of the word but I found this way the conversation keeps going though it does sometimes feel like people think I’m putting it on and pretending not to know for some reason. Not sure why anyone would actually do that but maybe they do.

I think the best way I’ve found to describe the feeling is like when you see an actor in something and you know who they are but can’t think of their name and it just bugs you for ages until you can get it, you start to describe other things they’re in and hope someone else will say the name. I’ve found if I use that to tell people who don’t have ME how it feels then they seem to get it, at least a bit, as I think a lot of people have had that feeling. If not an actor then a song or TV show or really anything that you really know but can’t name.

Another way that brain fog affects me that really used to get in the way with my GCSE and A levels was somehow the words, and even more so numbers, are fine in my head but then when it comes to putting them on paper it’s like something in between just jumbles it all up and I either put the wrong word or can’t spell at all. It’s less of a problem with a computer even without spell check or autocorrect as I seem to have less of a problem for some reason, maybe because I seem to type faster than I write so it’s more instinctual, I don’t know. I still haven’t got a way around this one besides sitting back for a bit and either thinking of another word or, if it’s not under exam conditions, going away and doing something until I can type again. I have sometimes carried on anyway and then the next day I print out what I typed and have no clue what I was meant to be saying. I sometimes worry that happens with blog posts, especially these ME, Myself and I ones which I type out and read through but don’t have to double check links and things which often lead to me noticing errors in other places.

I’m not sure if there was much of a point behind this post, I guess just seeing how anyone else deals with this would be interesting, I’ve found ways to cope with a lot of ME symptoms and, besides sort of laughing this one off, I haven’t found much to help with brain fog. I suppose it’s just one of those things we have to accept and live with. Maybe it’s because I always used to be good at maths and remembering things, though my short term memory has always been rubbish which made revising almost impossible even when I was well, maybe that’s why it bothers me so much when I forget sometimes, especially on days when I’m not feeling that great anyway.

At the end of the day there isn’t much we can do about this, that I know of anyway, so we just have to laugh at the mistakes we make and the words that accidentally get used. I know on the AYME message boards there used to be a thread where people would post their brain fog moments and we’d all have a bit of a giggle, it’s good to be able to accept things and laugh at them with others as most of the time other people notice these things far less than we do ourselves.

This did end up longer than I expected and hoping there are no glaring mistakes in here as I have been working on my big project and writing about renewable energy harvesting methods which has tired out my brain slightly!

Hope you’re all as well as possible and enjoying the warmer weather, if you’re having it. 🙂

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9 thoughts on “ME, Myself and I: Brain Fog

  1. ha, I know this one! I never found a good way of dealing with it, other than keeping a sense of humour and being honest about it with the people closest to you so they can understand. I always tried to relax about it, otherwise tension made it worse. Around the house I used to write lots of post-it notes to myself, leave things I needed out and visible, and – most important for me – practice accepting that this was just another symptom and not a sign of madness or dementia or plain stupidity.

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  2. Yeah, I’ve just accepted it over time and I think pressure does make it worse sometimes, like if I’m with people I don’t know as well it feels like I should know the word and it just takes even longer to think of it!

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  3. I have Fibromyalgia so I deal with brain fog on a regular basis and it’s so annoying. It was scary at first not knowing why my brain seemed to be not functioning, especially in areas I previously excelled at. My partner should be able to say that she speaks 3 languages fluently…English, Spanish, and whatever language seems to come out of my mouth. The worst part for me is not finding the words I want to use. When my brain malfunctions, I can’t even seem to find substitute words. I just end up saying things like “you know what i’m saying?” or “that thingamagig” or just making ridiculous hand gestures. My biggest annoyance is when you try to explain to someone what brain fog is and how it affects you and they just straight out dismiss you saying something like “yeah, everyone gets that” It sets my teeth on edge!

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    • That ‘everyone gets that’ is so annoying, or when older people say ‘you don’t know what it’s like to forget things’ also gets me a bit when they’ve seen me trying to think of a word for minutes. A brain fog to normal dictionary would be useful, hehe.

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      • I’ve never had to deal with that from older people as I’m not around them very often. It would be nice for there to be an explanation out there that normal folks could get so they would understand the difference between normal forgetting and what we go through.

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  4. Pingback: ME Awareness Week 2016: Some Symptoms | thoughtfulpigeon

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