Monday, July 28, 2014

4 Aggravating Symptoms of Brain Fog

These days my brain never functions as it used to. How could it? Both chronic migraines and fibromyalgia cause brain fog. Even calling it brain fog doesn't really even begin to describe the many aggravating brain dysfunctions that have become common place in my life.

Searching for a Word: This is how it usually goes. I know exactly what I want to say so I begin speaking. At some point, often towards the end of the sentence, right when I reach the key word, I hit a brick wall and the word is hiding from me. Sure, I could describe my word, tell you all kinds of things about it, but I can't bring it out. When this happens I get this vision in my mind's eye that I am walking through this empty cavernous mind, searching for my word. I see it scurry around in the shadows, just out of view. I know what word I want to say, but I just can't. If given enough time, I can almost always find it.

Trouble Translating Thoughts Into Words: This is similar to searching for my illusive word, only instead of my brain not being able to just find the one word mid-sentence, I can't even begin to say what I'm thinking. Again, I know what I want to say but it is like my brain just can't translate the thoughts into words. To others, often this looks like I'm just not responding to a question or participating in conversation properly. When this happens I feel like I've gotten lost in my own head. The mind is still working but nobody can tell. I always snap out of it and if the conversation hasn't moved on completely I'll be able to speak after a noticeable, annoying period of silence.

Difficulty Concentrating: Much like my energy levels, my ability to concentrate is limited. If I allow my brain to rest frequently when trying to complete a task that requires concentration the quality of my focus is usually better and I find that I can do more of it. That's why it often takes me 2-4 hours to compose a simple blog post. Also like my energy levels, during times of increased pain either from my migraines or my fibromyalgia, I experience an increase in the difficulty I have concentrating. This has made me a super slow reader. It can take me a month or more to read one book.

Not Being Able to Interpret What I See: This might actually be related to the trouble I have concentrating. Every now and then, my brain will look at something and just not be able to accurately interpret what it is. The best example I can think of is when grocery shopping, sometimes I will look right at one of the things on my list and it just won't mean anything to me. I will get everything else on the list but that one thing that my brain just couldn't interpret as an actual item. This doesn't happen frequently but it does happen.

These brain symptoms are difficult to cope with. Often they leave me feeling frustrated with my inability to communicate the way I want. Worse, in the moment, when my brain is failing me, I feel a tremendous amount of pressure to get it out before the people I am with just move on. I'm often too late, they just can't wait. Now, I know they are also frustrated by these long lapses in my brain. Especially in this day and age when people move so fast. We can't stand waiting more than 1 second for a webpage to load, we certainly don't want to wait 20 or 30 seconds for someone to find their word or even begin responding.

I guess the fear is that they will think I'm dumb, or too hard or annoying to talk with because of how my brain works. Clearly people who would feel that way are not people I want in my inner circle. However, I can always tell when people are getting frustrated with these symptoms and that always makes the situation that much worse for me. It increases my own frustration, making it more difficult for me to take the time I need to find my words or translate my thoughts. Nobody want to be a burden to talk with.

The best thing anyone can do in this situation is to just be patient and kind. I did it for years when I worked in an assisted living home for the elderly. I know it helped the residents I worked with and I know it helps me when I'm in these situations. Part of me wishes that karma would step in and bring me more people willing to be patient and kind with me and my brain fog.

Why are we in such a hurry anyway?


  1. These things - brain fog, losing words, difficulty focusing, difficulty understanding simple things - next to the pain in my head, these are the things I hate the most about my migraines. In the middle of an in-depth discussion about some timely subject I suddenly realize I don't have a clue what we are discussing. In the middle of a sentence I stop, fail to remember, and then meekly ask what we were discussing. When these things happen, or when I have difficulty understanding a very simple idea someone is sharing with me, I feel stupid, and embarrassed, and I think it must be frustrating for the person trying to make themselves understood. I feel stupid & inarticulate, like my brain is melting away, drop by drop, that I'm not the sharp, intelligent woman I once was.

    1. So well put Linda. Thank you for sharing.