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My Best Tip for Combating Brain Drain With Fibromyalgia

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I’m all over the place this week, and mentally I’m having a hard time getting my brain to settle. For whatever reason, the Fibro fog has been thick the last couple of days, and trying to express a coherent thought is like trying to communicate through a cotton ball covering my head.

The worst part is… I’m a writer. I write for a living. I write for pleasure. I write when I’m happy. I write when I’m sad. I write when I have something to say, and I write just for the sake of putting ideas on paper.

I write.

And to write means you need to remember some basic words. Losing words is like losing a part of myself, and I’m not talking big words. These are not the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious of words I’m struggling with.


It’s your every day words like File. Bacon. Gloves. Truck.

Sounds impossible, right? An exaggeration?

Most of you reading this will know it’s not. Just this week, I was telling my husband, “I had to go to… ahhh… to… ahhh…”

“Walmart,” he supplied.

Yep. I couldn’t produce the word for the store I went to three times. And why did I have to hit up Walmart three times? Because every time I went, I forgot to get multiple items on my grocery list for our weekend getaway.

Three. Freaking. Times. In three freaking days!

Not only did I forget to purchase items on my list, I forgot I had a list, and to add insult to injury, I was unable to express my frustration in simple words.

Of all the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia, cognitive dysfunction is the hardest pill for me to swallow.

Memory loss. Inability to concentrate. Becoming easily distracted. Confusion. Forgetfulness. Misplacing objects. Difficulty carrying on a conversation. Inability to retain new information. Struggling with tasks done a thousand times.

There are times the cognitive difficulties — or brain drain — I experience impacts my day-to-day life more than the physical pain associated with my conditions.

Walking into my boss’s office and forgetting why I’m there. Stopping mid-conversation because I can’t remember what point I was trying to make. Thinking of a creative idea or a great line and losing it before I can write it down. Reminding myself I have an appointment scheduled and forgetting it five minutes later.

None of these seem like a big deal on their own, but add one brain fail on top of the other, day after day, and it feels like you’re constantly swimming upstream in a river of molasses with floaties tied to your ankles.

So I did some research. What I learned is not good news. While “fibro fog” or “brain fog” is a common complaint among people with fibromyalgia, the cause is not fully understood. Furthermore, it’s not a symptom that gets much attention from the medical and research community.


What I did find were a lot of suggestions, most of them common sense, that can be applied to combat brain fog.

  • Avoid caffeine (causes sleep disturbances).
  • Use a planner (excellent when you can remember to use it).
  • Organize your space (cuts down on squirrel distractions).
  • Eat healthy (yeah…).
  • Take your medication on time (super important to avoid brain buzz when taking SSRIs).
  • Reduce your stress (easier said than done).
  • Exercise regularly (no surprise there).
  • Establish routines (impossible on a couples weekend get away).
  • Don’t multi-task (HA! Can someone tell my family I can’t cook and clean at the same time).
  • Breath deeply (sure, when it doesn’t hurt your chest).
  • Get better sleep (uhh, people with fibro rarely get sleep, never mind better sleep).

All of the above are useful for combating brain fog, but I felt there was one fundamental element missing in the advice I was finding.

Stop what you’re doing.

Trying to sew a dress and can’t figure out how to thread the sewing machine? Put it aside and walk away.

Burnt the cookies because you forgot to put the oven timer on? Throw them in the garbage and walk away.

Reading the same paragraph over and over? Shut the sexy romance book and walk away.

Basically, go for a walk. Or a bath. Or a nap. Anything that requires little to no brain cell usage.

Repeat as often as required.

Would love to hear your tips and trick for those hard to navigate brain fog episodes.

Thanks for reading.

Getty images Anna_Om

Originally published: March 11, 2020
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