"What is this new name I have heard Fibro Fog?"
This is a question I am often asked as a therapist.
Fibro fog is a name to assist explaining short-term memory loss, disorientation, confusion, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, forgetting familiar words for people with Fibromyalgia.
People with direct experience of this find it easier to call it fibro fog rather than the medical name cognitive dysfunction. They often share their funny tales regarding fibro fog; at times, it can make us do funny things like putting the milk in the washing machine and walking into a room baffled why you are there. Humour is a superb coping mechanism to help see the bright side of things, but humour is also a sugar coating and can neutralise the effects of a decline in memory and mental faculties. Fibro fog has a dark side also and it is a symptom many finds has a cruel and negative effect upon life and the ability to function effectively.
- It was not funny when I missed a train and had a panic attack as I could not remember what platform I was on.
- It was not funny when I forget important dates and people think you are a fool.
- It is not funny that I can never remember my son’s dates of birth or home phone number or where I put important things.
In the UK Fibromyalgia is still very much a misunderstood invisible illness. I am a Qualified Complementary Therapist and me certainly never understood the true meaning of fibro fog before I experienced it first hand.
So what is Fibro Fog?
"Brain fog due to fibromyalgia is a commonly reported symptom of fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia patients often describe multiple sensations of fatigue and listlessness combined with transitory states of confusion, poor attention and concentration, and short-term memory loss. This fibro fog tends to exacerbate the deficits in daily functioning that a fibromyalgia sufferer must deal with. " (http://www.disabilitysecrets.com/)
Some claim that when people are in pain parts of their brain do not receive enough oxygen, causing confusion or disorientation. I am not sure about this theory as I have experienced pain before with Endometriosis, migraines and any other experiences such as childbirth five times but I have never felt like I do with Fibro Fog.
“You are getting Alzheimer’s?”
“You need to think, your head is in the clouds”
For me, it is always there daily and fluctuates in severity. Since Fibro Fog, my life is totally different. Society often expects pain to be the worst symptom but it is only one ingredient in the Fibro Cake.
The list of Fibro symptoms is HUGE. Everyone cannot experience the same condition exactly the same so we need to find our own coping mechanisms. The symptoms of fibromyalgia may wax and wane over time so even when you find your balance you still need to update this.
Here is a list of some of the advice I have followed for Fibromyalgia Fog.
- Use a memory book, a simple notebook or a pretty pad to write memos to yourself.
- Keep track of appointments and events in a calendar. Develop OCD about recording dates.
- Check on your medications for side effects and talk to your doctor if you believe your meds are making you confused.
- Organise your space and throw away clutter.
- Breathe better and deeply. As a therapist, I am often aware of people around me under stress simply by observing their breathing. Simply learning to breathe more deeply and slowly would benefit many.
- Quality sleep, this sounds simple yet I know for many it is not. There is so much advice within this area that I will do my next blog on the best way to maximise sleep. (If I remember!)
- Herbal supplements/Homeopathy/Aromatherapy is superb for mental clarity but PLEASE consult a professional within that field as so many holistic healers are unregulated and unqualified. If a therapist says they can cure you, run. There is no cure! Us spoonies are vulnerable adults and therapists have a duty to safeguard and promote our welfare does not give us false information to sell a treatment.
- Have a kitchen timer to remind you to take the tea out of the oven. It is also great as a timer for all the small stuff such as telling children “Ten minutes till bedtime”
- Use the alarms on your phone to remind you to do everything. Also, ask loved ones to set an alarm and tell you as a reminder.
- Avoid caffeine it is a stimulant, but you can crash when it wears off.
- Allow yourself to get in a rut by establishing routines for simple tasks can help you deal with brain fog. Form patterns/protocols of doing things. (This is why it was hard for me to complete CBT Counselling as I am in a rut and yes I do clinically present as agoraphobic but it is the best rut for managing my fibro)
- Take regular exercise, even walking to the school, to the shop daily, to the top of the garden and back. Keep going and don’t stop. Exercise not only improves blood flow but also helps improve sleep, which can help alleviate some of the cognitive difficulties associated with fibromyalgia pain.
- Eat healthy
- Drinking more water.
- Stay away from processed foods and sugars and fast foods.
- Don't multi-task as it is hard to concentrate. Just do small steps at a time to completing tasks. Slow and steady wins the race.
- Be upfront with your friends and family and be honest about how fibro fog makes you feel. You cannot expect people to understand if you do not communicate with them.
- De-stress and manage your spoons. If you wake with little energy then do what your body and brain allow for that day with no guilt over what you never accomplished. Praise the little things you achieve.
- Apply stress-relieving changes to your life. Old you (pre-fibro) is very different to the wonderful fibro warrior you are now so if you need a new system in your house to make your life stress free then implement it. This can be something as small as a post organiser. Three shoe boxes. 1. The post you need to read, school letters etc 2. Post you need to do something to such as pay a bill, return a form. 3. Completed and need to file in your file for the letter.
Please note I have tried some of the above and a few never helped me at all, however, some I now adopt daily in my rut/balance of my illness.
Thankfully I am learning how to play Fibromyalgia Buckaroo better each month. We fibro fighters need to balance our day, our life so we don’t overdo things.
When people with fibromyalgia pile too much into our day we Buck—buck—buckaroo!
Basically, we crash and have to start the balance again.
Some days we buckaroo without any logic reason even when we play by the rules. As a holistic therapist, we need to view Fibro fog holistically, step back and look at the WHOLE picture.
I wish Fibro fog would show as a coloured mist around my head some days then people would understand more but until then I am lucky for the days I can write about it.