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5 Ways 'Fibro Fog' Affects Me

When most people hear the words “fibro fog,” they think of little things, like forgetting where you put your keys or parked your car or forgetting to meet a friend for lunch. Only with fibromyalgia, fibro fog is a lot more serious than that. According to the National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association, the cognitive function of fibromyalgia patients was equivalent to that of adults who were 20 years older than fibromyalgia patients.

For me, fibro fog began when I would have difficulty in recalling the correct word for items. I’d forget appointments, even if they were written down. I’d have to read a paragraph or a page several times before it would sink in. And on my worst days, reading would just have to wait for another day. I definitely don’t endorse making any major decisions while you’re in the midst of your fibro fog. Here are the five ways fibro fog affects me:

1. Trouble with words.

As a mom to two boys and a full-time college student, one of the hardest symptoms to try and overcome is the fibro fog. At times, it feels like I’m losing my mind. I would be having a conversation with my husband, and the next thing I knew I’d be using all of the wrong words.

“Can you pass me the plate?”

“Don’t you mean the salt?”

“Oh, yes.”

With my cup in hand, “Can you pour me some more syrup?”

“Don’t you mean tea?”

“Yes, tea.”

2. Short-term memory problems.

While at home I’ve done things such as putting something on the stove and forgetting about it. I’ve even whipped up brownies, put them in the oven and forgotten all about them. I’ll call the kids by the dogs’ names and vice versa.

One afternoon, right after I was first diagnosed, I loaded my then 10-year-old son up in the car to take him to his weekly aquatic therapy appointment. When I say loaded him up, I mean I physically picked him up from his wheelchair and sat him in the car. Now normally I would then load his manual wheelchair up in the back of the car and off we’d go. But on this particular day, I was having trouble concentrating. Anyway, I drove away and left his wheelchair in the driveway. It wasn’t until I arrived at his appointment and opened up the back of my car and saw no wheelchair that it hit me I had left it at home.

3. Trouble concentrating.

I have such trouble thinking that it becomes hard to carry on a conversation. It tends to go slow on my end. And I generally use all of the wrong words or just plain forget them. I’ll not only forget names of objects, but I’ll forget people’s names, places and even my train of thought.

When I decided to go back to school, I was already listed as a nontraditional student. I was older than the students in my class, and because of fibro fog, I couldn’t come up with the answers quick enough and sometimes used the wrong words. And to mix up Shakespeare with Hemingway in a literature class is like committing some unspoken crime against humanity. And it’s embarrassing. So I now pull my professors aside and give them a little fibro pep talk. I tell them that some days I’m going to have answers ready to go, and other days I won’t remember what we read or discussed two seconds ago. That’s just how it goes in my new world.

4. Trouble with numbers.

Having been diagnosed with fibro more than a decade ago, it has changed my life to the point that I can no longer retain numbers. It doesn’t matter if it’s phone numbers or running totals while in the grocery store. I literally have to write everything down immediately or it’s gone.

5. Trouble multi-tasking.

There was a time when I could do three things at once and even listen to three conversations at one time and keep up with it all. And when you have kids, you’re expected to multi-task. But I found myself becoming unable to concentrate on more than one thing at a time. And if I tried to pay attention to all three, then I would slowly find myself getting aggravated at the haziness going on in my head and then that would lead to a migraine, which meant another three days in bed.

So what can be done about the fibro fog? Unfortunately, not much. As for me, well, now I have a magnetic board on my refrigerator where I can tack up appointment card reminders. It includes a dry-erase board for notes and an ongoing shopping list. It even has room for a large calendar that the family uses to write down their appointments. The only thing I have to do is remember to look at it each day and night, so I know what the day holds. I even keep Post-it notes handy to put beside my bed, on the teapot and the bathroom mirror.

As far as multi-tasking goes, that is a thing of the past. My kids know that I can no longer listen to both of them at the same time. And some days I can’t concentrate on what they’re saying if their music or the TV is too loud.

Other than these little tidbits, there’s not much else that can be done for the fibro fog. Just remember that sleep is your salvation. And for me, medication is a must. I have found that Lyrica works best for the pain. I take Elavil to help me sleep. I’ve tried various supplements over the years, but they didn’t work for me. I still get the fibro fog when my fibro flares up. I’ve accepted that. And the people around me have gotten used to it. 

The author is wearing a white winter hat and stripped white and black gloves. She covers her face with her gloved hands.

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Fibromyalgia, a chronic illness with three main symptoms — widespread pain, chronic fatigue and cognitive trouble. Fibromyalgia is a complicated illness that’s not well understood. In the past, it was mischaracterized as a mental health disorder. Even today, some doctors wave off fibro symptoms as being “all in your head.” This isn’t the case. Read The Mighty’s comprehensive guide to fibromyalgia here. Click here to join our fibro community and connect with people who get it.