Fibromyalgia can cause brain fog as well as chronic pain. Sarah Alexander-Georgeson shares her experience with daily "fibro fog."
Brain fog, or “fibro fog," is a common problem for people with fibromyalgia. After receiving a fibromyalgia diagnosis almost 15 years ago, my cognitive function has been severely impacted.
When fibro fog sets in, I have difficulty concentrating and feeling alert. That means I can struggle to have a conversation or even to understand language sometimes. Fibro fog can also cause forgetfulness and an inability to think quickly. Sometimes, I forget the information I've only just learned.
Fibro fog is often caused by pain and lack of sleep. These symptoms are prominent among people with fibromyalgia.
It's always incredibly frustrating when I can’t recall a memory or find the right word to use in a sentence. My moments with fibro fog are commonplace. As I'm a writer and a chatterbox, that can be very annoying!
(In fact, I've just had to internet search "the opposite to rare" as I couldn't summon the word "frequent" for that last sentence.)
This kind of thing happens all the time, in conversation and while I'm writing. As I write for a job and as a hobby, it can feel very demoralising.
My mind just goes... blank
Brain fog hit me hard when I studied English at university. I would be discussing a novel in a seminar when suddenly, my mind would go blank. My whole vocabulary would trickle away to nothing, and I would be unable to finish my point.
I'd be staring at the tutor, mouth open, desperate to use language but unable to function or focus. It would feel like I was an infant with no grasp of the English language, no understanding of context, and no memory of using words.
The number of times I had to apologise for losing my train of thought was embarrassing. What made it even more infuriating was that I knew what point I wanted to make. I was desperate to share it, but I couldn’t.
I couldn’t remember common words. I couldn’t think of any other words to go in their place.
All I could do was stop what I was saying and hope somebody would understand and help me.
These days, this is part of my daily life. It’s how my mind works or, rather, how it fails me. I used to get into arguments with family and friends because they'd tell me something, and I couldn't remember it.
The forgetfulness is frustrating
I pride myself on being a good listener. Although I like to talk, I am very interested in what others say. So it was difficult when loved ones would tell me that I was a "bad listener" and "needed to listen more" carefully because I wouldn't remember things.
Yes, I can't remember every detail, but I desperately want to. There's a cognitive blockage. Something isn't working in my brain, preventing me from recalling what's been said.
It's just as tedious for me as it is for others.
Some people believe I don't value them or what they say, but I do. I respect everyone, but the fog consumes my brain and takes information from my grasp. I wish I could get it back, but I don't.
Fibro fog can also make me talk gibberish. Sometimes, while I'm desperately trying to speak, I'll find words but not the right ones. My boyfriend now refers to curtains as "window doors" because that's what I called them when we first started dating. I also called eyebrows "eye stickers" and a river a "fast canal."
My boyfriend can decipher what I'm saying most of the time, but the difficulties frustrate me. I don't want to have to be translated; I want my brain to access language and be able to use it correctly.
I don't want to get frustrated when I speak (or try to speak).
I think pain and fatigue play a massive role in how I'm affected cognitively. I have far more issues with brain fog when I'm having a pain or fatigue flare-up. When I'm flaring, not much sense comes out of my mouth, and no amount of sleep will help.
I have tried various brain teasers and exercises to help manage my fibro fog, but I haven't found anything that helps me – yet.
I'm always willing to try something new, though. Because as much as the fog annoys me and interferes with my life, I won't let it control me.
NPS-IE-NP-00709 May 2023