Speaking candidly, alongside seizures, brain fog is one of the most difficult – and sometimes exhausting – parts of living with epilepsy.
What does brain fog feel like?
Brain fog is more than just the occasional forgetfulness.
We all experience brain fog from time to time. After all, the human brain wasn’t designed to run at its peak 24/7! Maybe we forget certain things on our grocery list, forget to respond to an email, misplace our keys or what we came into a room for.
Well, my brain gets cloudy more than the average person. Brain fog can be a stumbling block for me almost every day. One that is quite progressive. Over the last decade, I’ve experienced brain fog episodes on many different levels due to epilepsy.
Brain fog isn’t a medical term, but it’s something that many people with chronic illnesses know well. There are many terms used to talk about brain fog… “Chemo Brain” and “Fibro Fog” are two such examples.
Trust me, living with brain fog is no easy feat. It affects just about everything you do throughout the day — not to mention the interactions that you have.
Interestingly enough little information is provided about brain fog and its association with epilepsy.
When I asked The Epilepsy Network community (on Facebook) if they experience brain fog, the overwhelming census was “Yes.”
When you look up what conditions are associated with brain fog on medical websites, you’ll discover this:
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
Epilepsy was not listed.
When you look up the common symptoms of brain fog on medical websites you’ll discover this:
- Memory problems
- Inability to focus or concentrate
- Difficulty processing information
- Trouble problem-solving
- Feelings of confusion or disorientation
- Trouble finding words
If you deal with brain fog, here are 7 things that only you may be able to understand:
Much like the weather, you can’t predict the severity of the fog. It can swiftly change from one minute to the next. Some days, I articulate myself well. Other days, my mind is moving at a snail’s pace struggling to recall the point to my conversation.
What’s That Word Again?
Forgetting words or choosing the wrong word is a common symptom of brain fog
When the fog rolls in, it’s as if all of the words that I can comprehend have been scattered in my brain. I can sense the word that I want to use, but I can’t seem to verbalize it. I’m at a standstill searching for that word or an alternative, but can’t seem to grasp it.
Forget About It
Brain fog is centered around forgetfulness: Forgetting words, losing your train of thought, things on your to-do list or why you walked into a room.
I have a wall calendar in addition to my phone’s calendar. If I don’t check them regularly, I can potentially miss something.
Attempting to Explain It – In the Middle of It – Is Tough Stuff
It’s no easy task describing what brain fog is in the middle of an episode. Even when those around us are well aware of our cognitive difficulties, it can be difficult to let them know what’s happening.
When I’m dealing with the fog, sometimes I use hand gestures to signal what’s happening, what I want, need, or mean to say…. or I extend a thumbs up to assure who it is I’m speaking to that I’m alright.
You’re Always Second-Guessing
If you aren’t familiar with brain fog, imagine feeling like your eyelids are heavy with exhaustion but wondering if you’d turned off the stove or locked the door. Now imagine, that’s your every day.
Questions like “Did I take my medicine this morning?” linger in the back of our minds.
Besides alarms, oftentimes this means we’ve set in place routines such as taking our medicine after breakfast. Still, that doesn’t completely stop the question from popping up.
It’s A No-Win Situation Of Frustration
Dealing with the fog is downright frustrating. Getting flustered just seems to escalate the symptoms. It becomes even more of a challenge to express yourself. During episodes of heightened fogginess, it helps me to take time to decompress and regroup.
Yes, It Can Be Embarrassing
It’s embarrassing to know that you’re able to accomplish the easiest of tasks only to have brain fog roll in and interfere. This is especially true if your profession relies on the capability to interact with the public. This can lead to self-criticisms which we often turn to when we’re frustrated with ourselves.
On more than one occasion, I’ve experienced fogginess in the middle of conversations and interviews, feeling overwhelmingly embarrassed and self-conscious.
Positive self-talk helps shift focus away from getting down on ourselves and dwelling on things that are not in our control.
My Tips & Tricks To Help Navigate Brain Fog:
Post Bright And Colorful Sticky Notes
By placing sticky notes on or around certain areas of the house, such as bedroom or bathroom mirrors, even on the refrigerator, are good ways to remind yourself of daily tasks, or upcoming appointments.
As a stay-at-home wife, epilepsy advocate and blogger, my day can get pretty busy. When the fog rolls in, it can derail me completely. Sticky notes help to keep and put me back on track.
Take Notes On Your Phone
If you have a Smartphone, take notes! It’s a great place for keeping lists, and jotting down quick ideas.
Set Reminders On Your Phone
If you have a Smartphone, set a reminder so you never miss that appointment or
Mark Your Phone Calendar
Got a wall calendar? If so, make doubly sure you don’t miss appointments and events with the calendar on your Smartphone!
This feature has been a big help for me when it comes to dates and times of doctor appointments, events and interviews.
Set Your Phone Alarm
I like the idea of a Smartphone alarm clock in comparison to a twin bell alarm clock, don’t you?
I use the Smartphone alarm as a reminder to take my epilepsy medication each day at specific times of day which is incredibly important to avoid seizures. My husband also has his alarms set at the same time just in case my phone is elsewhere.
Jot It Down
Writing by hand forces your brain to process information in a more detailed way, which helps you successfully load that information into your memory.
Self-Care Is A Must
Brain fog is incredibly tough. One of the most important things to do is take care of yourself. It may very well ease the brain fog or at the very least, with how you manage.
Can a person with epilepsy have brain fog? Absolutely! Neurological conditions and the medications that are meant to treat them, in my opinion, can indeed cause brain fog.
Surprisingly, we don’t see epilepsy in the list of conditions associated with brain fog… I think it’s time for that list to be updated.
Do you experience brain fog due to your epilepsy?