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The Thought Thief: Navigating Daily Life With Fibro Fog

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We all experience our symptoms differently, even those of us with the same diagnosis. Because we simply are different people, we have different DNA, and we have different collections of health problems that invariably impact our individual chronic health experiences.

For me, fibro fog is the oddest of my regular symptoms and I struggle to explain it. People understand pain. They understand exhaustion. But let’s be honest: fibro fog is one bizarre beast. It’s a thief that slips in and jostles our thoughts, scrambles our conversations and wipes our memory. It comes and goes, seemingly at will, but comes most often when I am sleep deprived and either leading into or while in a flare. It’s like listening to the world while underwater: I can hear, I can see, but the world is garbled and unintelligible.

My fibro fog thoughts are fuzzy and fleeting, and I do my best to write down everything when I know I’m in the fog, especially when I’m at work. Thoughts turn into slippery eels, coated in some form of thought grease, and they slide through my brain and right out through my ears and I’m left grasping for context. I know the thought I have right now might not stick, so I carry a notebook and a pen during my foggy days. I e-mail myself notes and reminders. Sticky notes populate my desk like breeding rabbits. The hardest part is remembering to wear pants with pockets to hold the phone/stickies/notebook!

Speaking of pants. Getting dressed can be its own circus while in the fog. I’ll put something on and realize it’s backwards. Take it off. Put it on again and damn, backwards again. Take it off. Really look at where that label is, focus, OK, back on. Bingo! Finally. Pants on for the win!

When I’m in the fog, I must have a funny look on my face, because people frequently ask if I’m OK, sick or seriously thinking about something. And in its own way, the answer is yes, yes, yes! I feel like Winnie the Pooh, tapping his head muttering “think, think, think” as he attempts to recall a thought. And actually talking to people (as opposed to simply thinking) is its own struggle! It’s incredible the amount of energy it takes to focus on a simple conversation. I’ve honestly asked people to repeat themselves, stating, “sorry, my brain wasn’t on, can you say that again?” And everyone has a good laugh and we move on. I mean hey, if you’re going to be in the fog, you might was well try and have a good laugh about it now and then.

Eating healthy can be particular challenge. I stare at the refrigerator and hope for something to pop out and say, “I’m here, I’m a well balanced meal, eat me!” but of course, that never happens. I wander away from the refrigerator and then head back a minute or two later, looking in again, and again. Nope. Nothing is yelling “eat me.” I try to keep some easy, healthy go to’s: canned tuna and pita crackers, whole wheat waffles and almond butter, eggs and toast. But I’d by lying if I didn’t admit to periodically eating whatever is on hand, like an easy dinner of ice cream sandwich and popcorn.

Fibro fog is stealthy and creeps along, and I sometimes don’t fully notice it until I’m fully in it. It’s the least controllable of my fibromyalgia symptoms, and sometimes the most frustrating. For the first 15 or so years of living with fibromyalgia, I either didn’t have fog or didn’t notice it (probably the latter), but I’ve felt it increasing the last few years.

For now, at least, I’m going to keep trying to find the humor in it. My maternal grandmother has dementia, and my mother has always joked that she can walk into a room and suddenly have no idea why she went there. And now there’s me! So the three of us sometimes have a really good laugh. Humor won’t cure it, but it sure does make it easier to live with.

This story originally appeared on Salt and Sage.

Getty Image by Wavebreakmedia

Originally published: April 14, 2018
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