Brain Fog

Brain Fog

There are a lot of things I hate about having dysautonomia. The dizziness, the lightheadedness, the tachycardia, the salt, the fluids, the compression socks (even though mine are cute), the occasional need for a wheelchair in public that makes people think I’m a crazy faker because sometimes I can walk and sometimes I can’t (because people don’t understand invisible disabilities.)

But one of the main things I hate about dysautonomia is part of the reason I have been writing less and less as time goes on, and why what I have written hasn’t exactly been stellar.

Brain fog.

img_0886This is not just a getting-older-I-forgot-where-I-put-my-keys kind of thing. Or when my husband forgets where he put anything and everything because he’s a man (and somehow I know where everything is, because I’m a woman.) But I am not normally a forgetful person. I remember things I have no business remembering (ask my childhood friend Jenny.)

What I’m talking about is actually quite disturbing to me.

Brain fog in dysautonomia, specifically POTS, is likely caused by the physiological decreases in cardiac output and cerebral blood flow that occur in the upright position in patients with this disorder. (And remember we already know that my cardiac output decreases in an upright position thanks to my hemodynamic test.) Patients often describe symptoms of lightheadedness, impaired awareness, mental fatigue, and cognitive deficits. Interestingly however, symptoms are not typically relieved when the patient returns to a supine (laying down) position. I thought I knew what brain fog was, but now I realize I was completely missing the picture before.

img_0895Now, whenever I have a thought about something, I need to act on it or write it down within about 30 seconds, or I will forget it. This is the one that happens most frequently out of all my brain fog manifestations. When I got the idea for this post, I had to immediately create a draft with a title telling me what I wanted to write about to remind me I even had the idea in the first place. When I was just searching for a sticker to put in my planner to remind me to do something, I was searching for the sticker, searching for the sticker…and then suddenly could no longer remember what it was I wanted to put in the planner to remember. Aaaand it just happened again with a different idea: I get an idea. I look for a sticker. But as I’m looking for the sticker, I forget what the idea was and therefore what kind of sticker I’m looking for. There’s that 30-second rule again…

img_0890I have trouble remembering what things are called. Last week I called a pickle jar “the thing that the pickles are in” because I couldn’t remember the word “jar.” And this wasn’t just a “brain fart”; I literally could not remember the word.

I have trouble spelling words. I was writing in my journal a little while ago and it took me a good five seconds to remember how to spell “where.”

I forget if I’ve taken prn (as needed) medications, like an antiemetic or painkillers. So if my symptoms don’t go away, I don’t know whether it’s because I thought I took the pills and I didn’t, or if they just didn’t work. So I’ll usually end up suffering for a few hours longer because some of this stuff you can’t safely double dose. I may need to go back to writing down every time I take something, if I can remember to write it down in the first place.

This one isn’t as big a deal, but I forget to respond to emails and comments on my blog, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Please don’t hate me if I don’t respond; I may have just forgotten.

I feel like Neville with his Remembrall.

These things may not sound like a big deal to some of you. I know you may be thinking, “Oh, I forget things all the time.” But this is different. I would sometimes forget things in the past, too; it’s a pretty common occurrence for anyone in general.

But. This. Is. Different. I can’t adequately express how frightening some of these things are when they happen. Occasionally misspelling a word, ok. It’s more of a fluke than anything, just rushing as you’re writing and your brain mixes the letters up. But how often when you’re writing do you actually forget how to spell something you’ve known how to spell since at least kindergarten?

My brain doesn’t normally forget. So forgetting ideas I had? Word-finding difficulties? Forgetting how to spell? Forgetting if I took medications? This is not characteristic of me at all. And I really don’t like this new version of me.


17 thoughts on “Brain Fog

  1. I know the feeling. When my brain fog was at its worst, I couldn’t have given you the answer to 2+2 to save my life. And I couldn’t remember basic things, either.

    Are you checking your diet for triggers? Food is a huge trigger for me (all my symptoms improved when I changed my diet) and I might not have become as food-sensitive as I am now if I had figured it out earlier and avoided/eaten certain things in moderation.

    1. Glad to know I’m not alone (although not glad you have experienced the same)!
      I’m already on a gluten free diet. Interestingly, one of the main things that happens to me when I accidentally ingest gluten is a few weeks of brain fog, but it’s never this bad. Do you know of anything else that can trigger something like this? What is your diet like now?

      1. Hmm, consuming salt helped immediately, but I know you’re already doing that. But I’m sure changing my diet played a role. I did both around the same time.

        *coughs/laughs* Well, I wrote that I changed my diet… It’s more like I removed practically everything from my diet. I live on Ensure, eggs (no yolk), tomatoes, fish, low-fat milk. At one point I could eat biscuits in moderation, but not currently. Low-fat, no sugar yoghurt is fine too.

        Carbs/sugar seem to be really bad for me, and anything that’s hard to digest. If/when I try to eat anything other than what I listed above, I end up having palpitations, chest pain, difficulty breathing and I can barely move or walk around.

        Before I adjusted my diet, I had the above symptoms + brain fog + light-headedness + (I think) gastroparesis.

        So currently, I’m able to keep my symptoms mostly under control (except for when I go ahead and try my trigger foods because you know… food…) but I’m also just barely getting enough daily nutrition.

  2. Brain fog is the worst. I’m the same as you about PRN medications. I usually make a note or something if I’ve taken them, but last week we had a really hectic morning and I didn’t do that. So I took my anxiety medicine twice. I didn’t know it would make me way more anxious if I did that! It was awful.

  3. I like how you described some of the physiology behind your brain fog. And I hadn’t realized how relevant Dory is to this problem – love it!

  4. I know how you feel. I use my phone to jot down everything. I don’t even give myself a chance to type it out- I immediately tell “Siri”.
    If you find good coping skills to this please let me know. Sending love & light! -Kelly

  5. Thank you so much for such an informative post on brain fog. I know I get it a lot and it drives me bonkers. Reading your experience makes me feel less alone! Xo, Faith via

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