One of the symptoms common to many chronic illnesses is “brain fog”. It’s a nebulous thing that doesn’t sound like much until you’re dealing with it. Once you have dealt with it, you realize how debilitating it is, all on its own. Trying to describe it to someone else is probably futile, but here goes. Imagine being incredibly hung over, and being woken up out of the dead sleep of the hung over by a blaring alarm. If you can imagine (or remember) that feeling of complete disorientation when your brain is refusing to make connections with what’s around you and you can’t remember where you are, or what’s happening and you can’t figure it out because neurons seem to be mis-firing… well, that’s about it. Except it doesn’t clear up once you wake up, shower, and get some coffee in you. Or it only partially clears and like the fog that hangs over a swamp, clumps together and drifts in and out throughout the day. Yep, loads of fun.
It occurred to me to check my blog today, and I was shocked to see that it has been two months since I’ve posted anything. Surely not! But of course, yes it has. It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long from my perspective. But I’ve been slogging through the days with worsening fatigue and brain fog and hadn’t realized how bad it had gotten. I mean, I *knew*, but I didn’t really *realize*.
True to my nature, I realized things were sliding the wrong direction, and I researched the hell out of everything. I determined that I had all the symptoms of low thyroid, and had requested labs drawn by my doctor. I’ve had increased frequency and severity of my migraines since mid-December, and have essentially quit trying to work out or do anything beyond what I’ve had to in order to get through life. This 6-week session in school has been a disaster by my standards, as I’m currently pulling a high “C”, and while I’m still effective at work it’s been an uphill challenge for me and I don’t feel I’ve been as good as I should.
My labs showed my thyroid factors to mostly be in the low end of normal, and my doctor sent me for a sonogram. Which showed a number of very small nodules which are not concerning for cancer or anything (thank goodness) but my research turned up a link to a medication I’ve been on for a couple of years now for my rheumatoid disease. Dr. B had indicated she wanted to try taking me off of it at our last visit to see if I was in remission due to my lack of swollen joints and good labs, but I’d been resistant to that. Now that it seems to be implicated in continuing joint pain, fatigue, and brain fog I guess it’s not a bad idea. I stopped taking it last week, and I believe my fatigue and brain fog are starting to lift.
Of course, chronic illness is teaching me (the hard way) not to trust it when I start feeling good. I view it with total suspicion. Is it a trap or a trick? Is it luring me into trying to do too much today so I’ll be flat on my back feeling like a truck ran me over tomorrow? Or is it for real, but removing the only thing inhibiting my rheumatoid disease going to grant me a few days of blissful normality before the spikes grow back in the arches of my feet and my hands start feeling the vices closing in again?
Hope and trust is what chronic illness robs you of. Today’s post should be one of hope and achievement that I’ve located what was causing my problem (most likely) and that I’ll start feeling better again. That I’ll be able to re-join activities that I’ve been wanting to, and my quality of life will get better. Instead my attempt at realism likely reads as hopelessly pessimistic. I really am not a pessimist. I believe that I’ll navigate this chronic illness and find a balance for my life that works for me. I just have quit believing that I’ll ever see what I used to think of as “normal” again. Which is a little sad, and that’s OK. I’m one who believes that if you constantly expect the world to give you roses, and it doesn’t, the disappointment crushes you. But if you prepare for it to slap you in the face and every once in a while you get roses, then you’re delighted. Maybe there’s a middle ground I’ve yet to find. We’ll see.