It's one of those weeks where Eunice has taken leave and left me with zero brain cells, so I'm cheating and posting a post I wrote for DARE. Appropriately it's about brain fog.
I’ve been sitting here off and on for the past few hours trying to think of a topic to write about. Actually if I’m honest I have been sitting here trying to get my brain to form a single cohesive thought. Never mind making that thought into a sentence. Never mind getting my fingers to move in some sort of coordinated effort on the keyboard to form the words into something tangible. Never mind forgetting how to spell simple words like ‘and’, or even that ‘and’ is a word, or how to use it in a sentence. Brain fog strikes again, and I am lost for words once more.
For me this is perhaps the most annoying and disabling symptom that Dysautonomia has thrown my way. Once upon a time I had a brain, I know I did. I have proof on my study wall. Now I’m starting to think that my brain has made a run for it. I’m pretty sure that it is now sunning itself on a beach in Majorca and drinking margaritas, whilst I sit here lobotomized, pondering the fluff in my navel.
Frustrating doesn’t really begin to explain how this makes me feel. My brain has always been the one thing I had going for me. I could juggle complex information with ease. Be it work, academia or a round of Trivial Pursuit, I had it going on. My career choice, neuropsychology, involves the study of the brain, in particular cognitive abilities. Lordy, that makes me giggle now. Suddenly I have strains of Alanis Morissette’s Ironic*, running through my mind. (Brain fog had me calling her Alyssa Marionette for the past ½ hour without even tweaking, sigh).
I specialised in working with the elderly. I wrote protocols for managing delirium. I wrote rehabilitation and management plans for various cognitive deficits. I was the go to girl for the most complex and confusing cases. If someone was violent, or had issues with personal hygiene or body fluids, I was the girl who worked out how to manage the behaviour (hmmm on second thoughts maybe I don’t miss work so much). Now on my bad days I can make some of my ex-patients look like Einstein, and that includes the guy who thought using a metal cheese grater to itch his leg was the logical choice (if nothing else my job was never dull).
I know now that I couldn’t go back to the work I was doing. In many respects I don’t know if I would trust myself enough to get it right. The responsibility and consequences involved mean you have to be permanently on your A game and at this point I’d struggle to be the orange girl. I have to accept that particular part of my life is over and I’m onto a new chapter. If I do sit and think about it I have come to terms with not working (and I was truly devastated when I gave up work), and when I think logically about the long hours, stress and politics I don’t know if I would want to go back there.
Even no longer working brain fog and I are in a very unhealthy relationship. Hence I find milk in the cupboard and empty saucepans on the lit gas hob. I forget to wash school clothes or fill in excursion forms. I go to the shops and forget my list. Forget I even had a list and come home with yet another packet of toilet paper to add to the 46 I’ve already brought, but minus the bread for sandwiches that I initially went out for.
I frequently can’t find the words I want to use, so talk a lot about ‘thingies’. Conversely I will say the wrong word and not even realise. On bad days I slur like I’ve just knocked back a bottle of tequila, including the worm. If only. Even reading is often hard as I find it hard to maintain my concentration. I look back at things I wrote before becoming ill and I am amazed that I was so eloquent. I look back at my doctoral thesis and I can’t even follow half of what I wrote, yet I know it makes sense, just not to my befuddled brain. It’s like wading through quicksand and I’m sinking fast. It’s exhausting.
Logically, I know why it’s happening. I know that I have the pesky problem of having trouble getting the blood to flow above my shoulders. I know that the physical fatigue I feel impairs my cognitive abilities to no end. But this doesn’t make it better. For me I could put up with the physical symptoms if I still had a brain that allowed me to escape reality. Imagination is limitless and you can live a thousand lives in a thousand universes if you have your brain.
Mind you I do have the insider knowledge for when it comes to managing cognitive deficits. Slowly I am applying these techniques to my life. It’s strange that I never felt any less of my patients for having to use them, yet I have a little voice in the back of my head telling me that using them myself is admitting defeat. I’m working on that one. It’s a combination of my new mantra, ‘physician heal thyself’, and a big mental slap that says stop being so stupid woman and use your dosette box. So far the combination seems to be working.
My lack of brain does explain my love of America’s Next Top Model and Judge Judy (oh I can’t believe I just admitted that. I must learn to think before I write). That big echoing cavern between my ears has a lot to answer for.
I miss my brain.
Maybe I’ll drop him a letter. Maybe we can kiss and make up and he’ll come back home. Alternatively, I’m happy to move to Majorca and share a jug of margaritas together. I’ll even bring the sunscreen. Call me brain. Call Me.