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25 'Embarrassing' Side Effects of Brain Fog We Don't Talk About

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As if the physical challenges of chronic illness weren’t difficult enough, many chronic warriors also experience brain fog as a side effect — difficulty remembering things like names, tasks, directions and words, as well as an overall “foggy” feeling, like your brain has lost its way a little bit. And what’s even tougher is that other people might notice that you’re not thinking quite as clearly as you used to, which can lead you to feel a bit embarrassed occasionally. Of course, it’s completely OK if you don’t get embarrassed by your brain fog slip-ups — you may even find it a bit funny sometimes, and that’s OK. Don’t let us change you!

But if you do feel embarrassed sometimes about your forgetfulness due to brain fog, you are most definitely not alone. Yet, these embarrassments aren’t talked about openly very often. Hearing other people’s struggles with brain fog can help reassure you that you’re not the only one going through this, so we asked our Mighty readers to share an “embarrassing” side effect or challenge of brain fog they experience that we don’t talk about. We never have to feel embarrassed about our brain fog, but for some of us it does happen now and again, so hopefully we can all support each other in this chronic illness challenge.

Here’s what our community told us:

  1. “Knowing that you used to have an excellent memory and now you’re drowning in lists and reminder notifications on your phone just to remember simple things. I guess it wouldn’t be so bad if this was just how I’d always been, but it’s knowing I used to be sharp that sucks. Managing to remember something these days feels like a big deal. It’s one thing to have my body betray me at 28; it’s another to have my my mind do so as well. To say it’s frustrating is an understatement.” — Amanda A.
  2. “Slurring or tripping over my words, not a great look when I work in marketing.” — Alexia M.
  3. “Losing things. I never used to lose anything. Now I bet I lose things 20 times a day.” — Cynthia C.
  4. If someone asks me to look something up online for them, I open the browser and have to ask them again as I forgot. I have to write everything down, unless I forget to write it down.” — Cliodhna C.
  5. Suddenly realizing that you have seriously offended someone because you didn’t answer their question. Not because I didn’t want to. I was barely working out you had asked a question but now it’s too late to fix.” — Erin P.
  6. “Other people getting angry or impatient because I haven’t done something I said I would or because it takes me a week to remember to do something.” — Melody S.
  7. “Answering phones and booking appointments at work! I mess up my words, space out and forget the proper greeting I’m supposed to use when answering. The other day I answered a call ‘Hey it’s Maegan’ instead of ‘Thanks for calling ___, how can I help you?’ My short-term memory is shot, too. My boss will tell me to do something and within minutes I’ve already forgotten what she had said and I have to ask again and I can tell it’s annoying to them, I just can’t help it sometimes!” — Maegan D.
  8. “My kids tell me, ‘You already asked me that,’ and I answer them, ‘If I ask it is because I do not remember, so if I ask you 1,000 times, please answer me 1,000 times more.’ Very patient, my kids.” — Mely J.
  9. “Feeling like my head is empty, like I have lost the words I was just thinking. Not being able to think rationally/logically because my mind is too foggy.” — Daniel B.
  10. “Almost poisoning my husband with salmonella! I often forget how long I am cooking something. After a few raw chicken incidents, I have been relieved of my cooking duties.” — Lori B.
  11. “I forget mid-sentence what I’m saying which can be embarrassing.” — Lianne S.
  12. “Thinking I’ve done things but I haven’t — I remember having the thought but lose focus/get distracted/forget to carry out the actual task but I remember going to do it, so I think it’s been done. So many missed calls, unsent emails, etc…people think I’m really lazy or disorganized but I really do try my best!” — Nae W.
  13. “I looked at my phone to text someone, and I couldn’t do it. It was more [like] I never knew how to text than forget, and it has scared me [to] no end.” — Andy N.
  14. “Not remembering what you were talking about and having to get them to remind you of what you’ve just said.” — Josephine W.
  15. “I’m a degree educated person with a good vocabulary but when I can’t remember a simple word it’s not nice. I can laugh it off but it’s a horrible feeling. And losing my train of thought halfway through talking about something is frustrating.” — Bernie L.
  16. “Not being able to remember a word — like fork — and having to describe what you’re talking about.” — Mackenzie P.
  17. “Losing your sense of direction in places you’ve been a thousand times, and please for your own sake, do not ask me for directions.” — Diana D.
  18. “Forgetting plans or something you talked about with someone. Then they get upset because they think you were ignoring them when in reality you literally don’t remember what you guys had talked about, and they don’t believe you when you try to explain.” — Bonnie P.
  19. “Being so conditioned that I am going to make a mistake, that I have fear to try. Even just emailing my strata council (apartment building manager), I took a whole day to write the email… I then reviewed it for mistakes a dozen times! Really!… Best thing ever was when my doctor wrote me a note stating that I require written communication only. Verbal communication has even more challenges for my brain fog and I don’t attempt it often. I keep all my communication very limited and keep it simple. This helps me use energy to self-care and rest.” — Kellie D.
  20. “I get tongue-tied when speaking and I can literally stand up to do something but sit right back down because I forgot what I was going to do in a split second.” — Elizabeth C.
  21. “I tried playing Clue the board game. Totally forgot the rules of the game. When my friends tried explaining it I was so embarrassed all I could do was cry.” — Stacey I.
  22. “Mixing up stories people tell me. I’ll go to ask somebody a question about something I thought they told me, only to realize I’m asking the wrong person!” — Amanda V.
  23. “The guilt that comes from forgetting/confusion. I got lost picking my son up from school one day. That poor boy was standing outside in the freezing drizzle waiting for his mama to get it together. Seems like the guilt is never-ending.” — Tina G.
  24. Word replacement… for instance trying to say ‘mailman’ and ‘snowman’ comes out. I once said something horrible in front of the pastor’s wife. I was talking about how my blow dryer was broken but dryer is not the word I said. Use your imagination… I am constantly saying the wrong words; they usually start with the same letters but they are so off.” — Audrey W.
  25. “Forgetting where I put something, then being able to actually focus to find it. I could literally be looking at it and not see it because my brain isn’t processing the fact I’m looking at the exact thing I’m looking for. Often this happens literally seconds after putting the item down.” — Terri S.

For some tips and tricks for dealing with brain fog, check out our community’s 25 hacks that can make life with brain fog easier and these 14 products people with brain fog swear by. And if laughing about your brain fog helps you cope, you might enjoy these 17 memes.

Originally published: June 13, 2018
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