Everyone has moments of forgetfulness – sometimes lovingly called a ‘senior moment‘ or ‘brain fart’. For healthy people, those moments are just one of those things when too many things are on their mind. My mom says that the brain is like a computer and as we get older, the brain moves more slowly because of all the information it has stored since birth.
Sufferers of chronic illness have a very different perspective when their mind is in a haze. Those diagnosed with fibromyalgia have fibro fog included in the list of symptoms. But many illnesses result in a foggy brain for a variety of reasons. Pain and fighting illness taxes the brain as does exhaustion that accompanies CFS/ME. Most of the time, the actions or inactions are trivial though frustrating.
Here are some of my favorite foggy moments:
- I recently drove an hour away from home for a humidifier since the nearby hardware store had none. After visiting 5 stores, I finally found a single humidifier though it isn’t very good. Deciding to stop at the grocery store before heading home, my landlord calls to tell me that our horse, Amigo, is standing in the middle of the dirt road. Uh oh, my husband was at a conference for a week and I was an hour away. How did Amigo jump the pasture fence and get out?? Fortunately, Amigo is a sweetie and my wonderful landlord was able to lead Amigo into the gate that I had left open that morning after walking with the dogs in the field.
- Working so hard to stay on top of the bills, I carefully keep them all in one basket. I just keep forgetting to look in the basket and have a tendency to pay a few days after the due date. I especially love when I pay twice and get a credit for the next month.
- I can’t count the times over the years when I have put on two different colored shoes and gone to work.
- Keys. Finding my keys has been an issue for years. I work hard to put them in the same place at home or in my bag. For some reason, I can never find them. My husband learned long ago my frantic movements and expression when searching for my keys. He always finds them right where I put them even though I looked in the same place 3 times. We now have a key hook by the front door. I just have to remember to put them there.
- I don’t always carry a burdensome purse and just take my wallet when I only need my license and credit card. I just wish I would put my wallet back in my purse so next time I take the bag, I don’t leave my wallet sitting on the dining room table.
- I have deformed toes from breakage and always have bruises on my legs from walking into furniture that get in my way when I’m not thinking.
I suppose none of these events sound like a big deal and while frustrating, living in a haze is part of daily life. I am still very good at keeping schedules, focusing on projects, and wasting my limited concentration on important things. I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore.
However, brain fog can increase stress. And stress can induce increased pain, worsening symptoms, and exhaustion. What can we do about it?
- Consider the most frustrating foggy incidents and develop a plan that keeps mishaps from recurring. For example, a key hook is great when I use it.
- A loved one who encourages calm, patience, and oversight is ideal. A sense of humor helps. My husband jokes (only to me) about my forgetfulness and usually keeps me smiling. Not long ago, I berated myself over the smallest lapses. Now I just tell him to find what I need and he does in no time.
- Make lists and use them. If you use a calendar daily, add important things to do on the calendar, even if it’s the same thing daily. I write thoughts in my kindle diary for future writings and maintain a grocery list on the fridge. I tried using ‘to do’ apps on my phone and kindle but find paper and pen easier.
- Reduce some of the burden when possible by asking others to help. A spouse, sibling, parent, or friend is always more than willing to help. Getting over the independence and need to feel ‘normal’ is the toughest part. I am still stubborn but am learning that asking my husband to do things makes my life easier.
I can help you to live more joyfully despite chronic illness.
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