Whether you refer to it as brain fog or fibro fog, one thing we can agree on is that unless you have experienced it, there is no understanding of how terrifying it can be.
Today, I am sharing how brain fog caused by fibromyalgia and psoriatic arthritis affects my cognitive and physical abilities and how I deal with and decrease the number of episodes I experience.
Brain fog is like a thief who sneaks into my head and robs me of my most precious possessions.Tweet
Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission to fund my coffee-drinking habit if you use these links to make a purchase. You will not be charged extra and you’ll keep me supplied with caffeine. It’s a win for everyone. I am not a medical professional, and nothing stated in this article is mistaken for medical advice.
What is fibro fog?
Fibro fog, also known as brain fog, is described as a type of cognitive dysfunction.
While not considered a medical condition by itself, it is a symptom of other medical conditions.
It is common for people who have been diagnosed with the following to experience brain fog:
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Autoimmune diseases such as lupus, psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis
- Sjögren syndrome
- Alzheimer’s disease
Inflammation, fatigue, or changes in blood glucose levels may also cause brain fog.
What it steals
Where there were words lies a jumbled mess of letters and numbers, none of which make any sense.Tweet
Brain fog is a word thief!
My ability to communicate varies depending on the severity of my current flare.
For example, there are times when I may completely forget a simple or common word. Other times, I struggle to speak and blurt out random words or sentence fragments, yet I can fully write out my thoughts. Then, there are some episodes when neither speaking nor writing out my thoughts is possible.
Brain fog is a memory snatcher!
Everyone has, at one time or another, walked into a room and forgotten why or what they went in there for. Brain fog takes that experience to a whole new level.
Depending on the severity of an episode, one may forget if they took their medication, returned an email or text message, or had a conversation with someone.
Brain fog erases emotions!
In my post, Seven Embarrassing Fibromyalgia Symptoms, I talk about resting bitch face. In it, I share how pain often takes over my facial expressions. Fibro fog goes one further by altering my emotional response.
When experiencing brain fog, my facial or vocal expressions may not convey my feelings. For example, I may be over the moon excited about your good news yet sound and look annoyed or displeased. To confuse matters more, my face may express joy while my voice conveys anger. And people wonder why I find it exhausting to spend extended periods of time talking with people.
Brain fog is also a body snatcher!
The brain is the body’s CPU. Without a functioning processor, our bodies do not know what to do. When experiencing a severe fibro fog flare, I cannot physically function the way I typically do.
One reason is that my brain isn’t sending the signals my body requires. Another is because specific physical movements may increase the severity of my current flare.
Please note that I am not a medical professional and am in no way issuing medical advice. Consult with your doctor before making changes to your treatment plan.
How to cope with fibro fog
Give your brain a day off!
When I forget a word now and then, I power through. However, if I find myself struggling to find one or more words for every sentence or group of thoughts I attempt to write or verbalize, it is time for a break.
Forcing myself to speak or write during a severe brain fog flare-up only makes it worse. My stress level spikes, which increases inflammation. This frustration leads to an increase in anxiety and depression.
During an intense flare, the best thing I can do is give my brain a break by doing nothing that requires or demands my full attention or is of importance. Instead, I spend the day streaming shows that I don’t care if I have to watch again.
I also avoid making important decisions and having conversations. If I didn’t answer your phone call or respond as quickly as usual to your text, please understand that my brain most likely needed a break.
While caused by various factors, swelling around the spine is my most common fibro fog trigger. That is why I pay very close attention to and modify my physical activity when I recognize that I am experiencing any level of brain fog.
This past weekend was a perfect example. My husband and I had planned to spend the day together at Disneyland. Already having to use a wheelchair for all-day outings due to a knee injury, I had considered renting a motorized mobility scooter for the day because my knee pain hadn’t been interfering with my cognitive abilities.
I felt “off” on the morning of our outing. Anyone who knows me knows that I always wear Minnie Ear headbands to the park. But that morning, every headband I put on, even the ones that had felt loose in the past, felt like they were puncturing my brain.
I knew that operating a motorized vehicle of any kind was out of the question after I spent what felt like an eternity trying to figure out where to place my coffee cup while staring at the cupholder. Thankfully, my husband drove the car and pushed my wheelchair throughout our outing.
My husband and I cut our day short because it was difficult to make decisions or interact with people. We returned home to relax and watch one of our favorite shows.
If you find that physical movement worsens your brain fog flare, listen to your body and slow down!
Give your body and brain time to rest and recover.
If you don’t, you may find yourself in the same position during my early chronic years. I ignored the needs and demands of my body/brain, and the result was a four-day hospital stay because my body mimicked the symptoms of a stroke.
In addition to taking physical precautions, I limit my sugar and artificial sweeteners intake. Both have the ability to make my head feel like it is being filled with sand.
I also avoid fast food and any other foods that I have identified as inflammation triggers for my body.
How to prevent fibro fog
While preventing all brain fog episodes is impossible, decreasing how often they occur is possible. There were periods during my chronic life where brain fog ruled my days, and I was lucky to experience one or two days per month of thinking clearly. Later, after putting the following into practice, I can think clearly more days than not.
The following are things that you should track and monitor through journaling:
Diet: Log everything you eat and drink when you consume it, how you feel at that time, and how you feel later in the day and the next morning. I may feel fine right after eating a few bites of fudge but find myself suffering from a sugar-induced brain fog hangover the next morning.
Activity: Daily exercise has been a critical factor in reducing how often I suffer from severe brain fog flares. Track your activity and compare it with your cognitive abilities.
Medication and Treatments: Have you recently changed medications or added a new treatment? Talk to your doctor to see if either could be contributing to increased brain fog.
Stress and Emotional Well-being: Releasing your emotions and thoughts through recording them in a journal is more than therapeutic; it is also fabulous to see if stress or depression contributes to your mental fatigue.
Other things you can do are to limit and/or avoid stress, be mindful of what you eat, be vigilant in your pursuit of physical activity, and adhere to your treatment and pain management plans.
Two things that help decrease the severity or duration of a severe bout of brain fog triggered by swelling of my spine are to immediately begin treating my spine with PEMF therapy treatments and ice. I also make an extra effort to stay hydrated.
Last words of advice
Talk to your family and friends about brain fog.
Explain what it is and how it impacts your abilities and life.
Share that a lack of communication on your part during a flare is not a reflection of how you feel about them.
Ask if they would be willing to help out during a flare by offering to drive, push you in a wheelchair, or do other tasks when experiencing an extended flare.
And most importantly!!!! Never allow anyone to make you feel guilty for having to care for your health. Canceling or modifying plans is a small price compared to the thousands spent if you ignore your body’s needs.
What helps you prevent and cope with brain fog?