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How Brain Fog Affects My Creativity

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I seriously have a problem. Ask my husband; it’s a thing. I can’t stop coming up with ideas. Like, my brain officially doesn’t shut off… ever. Even when my body is completely worn out and I can’t concentrate on what to do next, I am coming up with an idea on how someone could help someone that is having the problem I am having.

I used to think of my creativity and ingenuity as two of my strengths; two traits I was very proud of. Traits that I knew made me different from most people that I know. Being the idea person made it easier for me to teach, to entrepreneur, to mom, but now… honestly, it’s kind of depressing. To give those of you that are curious just a little bit of insight, I’ll try to explain.

Among whatever else is going on in this body full of questions, I live with fibromyalgia and Hashimoto’s -both culprits of what we spoonies call, brain fog. The Mayo Clinic defines brain fog as, “The inability to focus, pay attention and concentrate on mental tasks.” With that said, it’s not all the time. I mean, I can focus sometimes. Some days are better than others, but if I am completely honest with myself, I rarely have a day where I feel like I can remain completely focused.

So, how does brain fog affect my creativity and ingenuity? Well, I just can’t follow through like I used to.

For a small example, over 10 years ago, I had an idea in September that the high school marketing class that I was teaching should create some sort of Halloween activity for our community that could somehow benefit our Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) chapter, maybe a non-profit, and even kids and families.

Guess what? We not only held our first trunk-or-treat a month and a half later, within seven years we were raising a few thousand dollars, helping out a variety of small businesses and non-profits, and offering a safe place to trick or treat to thousands of area kids. Done.

On a bigger scale, I used to work for an amazing nationwide school photography company that was looking for a way to get more involved with the schools and parents that they serve. Among a variety of very cool programs that we implemented, I specifically remember being able to come up with the idea of a variety of low-cost contests that involved thousands of schools and parents and also gave back to hundreds of students and teachers. I believe those contests are not only still active, but have gotten better each year. Done again.

Today, I’d have a list of 29 different ideas and that’s about it.

Let me first make it clear that neither of the above examples happened without really awesome students and colleagues. Yet, I can proudly say that I not only loved being able to come up with a cool idea, share it with people, create a vision, come up with a plan, and assign all the tasks that I didn’t take on myself. I was damn good at managing all aspects of several projects at a time, and celebrating success after success both privately and publicly. Man, I miss those days so much.

And, when I attended a Mayo Clinic class on fibromyalgia a couple of years ago, I learned that a large percentage of us that live with the disease are over-achievers that were once at the top of our game. Which means, I know I’m not alone in this struggle. There are a lot of us that have said “farewell to focus,” let alone completely lost our identity, our ability to be successful the only way we knew how.

Ideas popping into my head at all hours of the day and night used to be exciting to me because I knew I could pick just about any one of them and make them work if I set out to. I was one hell of a project manager. It’s interesting that I still know every piece of the puzzle, every step it takes to put an idea into action, but since my first symptoms a few years ago, I haven’t been able to follow through with much of anything. So that I wouldn’t let anyone down, let alone embarrass myself, I left a job that I loved, and was pretty darn good at when I was first hired.

To help soothe my crushed ego, my oh-so-patient-and-loving husband supported me in following an entrepreneurial dream of mine to purchase a sports marketing franchise that does awesome work, but I couldn’t do it either. Admittedly, it may not have been a cake walk without my friend, fibro, but I just couldn’t get organized. Every single day, I sat spinning my wheels… coming up with brilliant ideas that I couldn’t seem to figure out how to implement. So, I gave up on that, too.

I guess I felt compelled to write on this topic for a couple of reasons:

1. I know that there are others out there that are feeling the same way I do, and I’d love to hear your story. Or, if nothing else, to let you know that you aren’t alone.

2. I have just recently accepted that this loss of identity is one of the biggest causes of my sadness and withdrawal. I am hoping that by writing about it I can move forward and come up with new ways to define success for myself. There I go again.

I’m definitely not here to give advice, because I am always in search of it. But, I figure that here’s my chance to try to spread some positivity amidst the negativity. If you can relate to these disappointments, then know this – you are still in there. You’re still in that pain-forsaken body! You are! And, I’m still in here! We’re not exactly who we used to be, but our soul remains, even if it’s hanging on by a thread. And, I hope you will join me in trying to figure out how to make the best of the cards we’ve been dealt.

Honestly, except for a handful of shitty diseases and my mama dying way too young, I couldn’t ask for a better life. I’ve been blessed with an awesome family, a beautiful home, wonderful friends, and so many experiences and gifts that I could’ve never dreamt of, and for all of those, I am so grateful.

As of today, I’ve accepted that I may never again be able to do everything as well as I once could. More than likely, I’ll not ever capitalize on the ideas that cross my mind. And, for now, I have postponed the idea of writing realistic fiction novels, creating a motorcycle weather app, and becoming a world-renowned female entrepreneur marketing consultant. For now, I’ll probably just keep coming up with ideas, write some of them down, share some of them with whomever will listen, start researching some of them, and even begin implementing one once in awhile. But, more often than not, I’ll forget most of them… I wish there was a switch to turn off. An idea generator switch.

Better yet, a fibromyalgia switch. Now, that’s an idea.

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Thinkstock Image By: DeepGreen

Originally published: August 11, 2017
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