Monday, August 06, 2012

Brain Fog

It was just a passing comment, something I didn’t even think about as I said it.

“I’ll take this shift now, so I’m not driving later in the afternoon.”

We were making a 10-hour drive to Virginia, and we usually trade drivers every few hours on long car rides. Late afternoon, from about 3pm-6pm, is my dead zone, so I wanted to avoid being behind the wheel on monotonous highway stretches if I could.

I am not sleepy then, per se, but I am spacey. I turn pale, I can’t focus or concentrate, I start sentences and don’t remember where I am headed with them, I make dumb mistakes and forget things. I miss turns or get lost. Everything simply drains out of me. Sometimes I start the day like that and it doesn’t go away, sometimes it’s hardly noticeable, but it’s always there.

(And it’s not the exhaustion that motherhood and sleep deprivation cause, though I am the first to admit that the intense sleep deprivation I’ve had the past two years juggling parenting, working, and writing a book has made it much, much worse.)

Brain fog. It’s not so incapacitating that I don’t usually just push through it—really, at that time of day, what other choice is there? I’m in the classroom then, or playing with my daughter, or cooking dinner or going to a playdate or having chest PT. I grab a coffee, drink some water, and wait to get my second wind later in the evening.

It is present enough that it automatically factored into our driving schedule, though, and that meant something.

That passing remark was probably the first direct comment about it I’d made in months, if not years, beyond the simple “yes” I reply when my husband looks at my face and says “You’re off, huh?”

Brain fog. Being “off.” It’s not something I talk about on this space, either. Granted, I really haven’t written about illness of any kind these days, but it just is, it is such a part of everyday life.

I am not even positive how I should attribute it: Partially, it could stem from my adrenal system, which has never been the same since my total adrenal failure several years ago. I’ve never really been the same since that happened. The chronic fatigue I’ve had since I was diagnosed in high school is another obvious culprit. Then there’s the whole breathing thing—when I’m wheezy, congested, or too “tight” it can cause me to be drained and spacey, and when I have an active infection, that obviously gets much worse.

It doesn’t really matter which condition contributes which percentage, since none of them are going anywhere. I do know I wasn’t always like this—I had acute flares with chronic fatigue, of course, but I wasn’t always this dependably and overwhelmingly out of it on a regular basis. It has crept up on me incrementally, and that small conversation about driving really made me step back and think about how long it has been.

So, brain fog. Lots of you have it, lots of conditions and medications can cause it. How does it affect your daily life? What accommodations do you make for it? And any tips beyond guzzling coffee?


Cheryl Pollock Stober said...

Brain fog is a major side effect of low blood sugar for me. Since I'm often low in the middle of the night, it can be a several minute process for me to figure that out, along the lines of, "Oh, I'm awake. Huh, it's 2:30, I don't need to be up now. Gosh, I'm hot. It's summertime. The air conditioning is on. I don't have a blanket covering me. Oh, I'm low." But all of those thoughts come at a waterlogged pace. When it happens during the day, I can figure it out a little more quickly, but it's something I have to put lots of thought into, all the time. Am I foggy because I'm low, tired, sick? Such fun.

Anonymous said...

My medications make me a little tired/spacey for about 2 hours after I take them each day. I don't think I handle it much differently than you do. I avoid doing major, important things and save that time for more mindless tasks, like seeing what my friends are up to on Facebook, responding to emails, or commenting on other people's blogs....My iPad is always my best friend during this time, because I can cradle it in my left arm and type right-handed while lying on the couch watching tv. Looking for new (low-sodium, in my case) recipes online is also fun. 3-6 is a difficult time, but thankfully, cooking is somewhat mindless.

Medical Mojave said...

What's the difference between adrenal failure and HPA axis suppression from steroid use? Are you permanently on cortisol b/c you don't make it anymore?

Coming from the suppression side of adrenal problems...I get brain fog a lot. I do the same things you do...miss turns etc... Low blood pressure and low sugar (both caused by adrenal issues) make it worse so try some salt and sugar next time to see if it helps. Otherwise, I've found you just have to out rest it.

And motherhood does not help the brain work better. At all.


Steve Berman, ImageFIRST said...

Brain fog is a serious matter, and this blog post details exactly what symptoms appear when it happens. There are definitely many ways to treat it, and those who have it should try to get it treated as soon as possible. We work with healthcare products so we know the importance of different products in different medical situations.

taller exercise said...

I am headed with them, I make dumb mistakes and forget things. I miss turns or get lost.

Laurie said...

Thanks for the feedback!

I can imagine trying to figure it out in the middle of the night is extra frustrating, LilMisBusy. (Hello, btw! Nice to see you here.)

So here's the short story on the adrenals--steroids caused a total crash years ago and for several years I was on IV infusions to replace cortisol. My adrenals recovered but have never been the same...

Nikki said...

I've had issues with brain fog before I knew what it was. I have to arrange my class schedule around it, and when a class is only offered in the time of day when I get it, I have to record the lectures. I also wind up in my professor's office asking for help and reviews of lecture notes more often then not. Exercise is the only thing that really seems to help. Thanks for posting this, it really helped me get a better understanding of this.

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