Living with Brain Fog

Get Around the Fear, Frustration, and Embarrassment

Anxious woman working on laptop
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Cognitive dysfunction (a.k.a fibro fog or brain fog) is a symptom many people with fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) struggle with every day. It can make life difficult, but with effort, you can find ways to make it less of a detriment.

Each case of FMS and ME/CFS is different, so not all of these methods will work for everyone. It will likely take time and experimentation for you to find the workarounds that are most successful for you.

At Work

When your brain isn't working well, being at work is tough. Some of us feel that we've lost the ability to do our jobs, and all too often our bosses agree.

Every job is different, so we each need to find what works for our particular situation. However, these tips may help people with a wide variety of jobs:

  • Ask for written instructions or write things down yourself;
  • Keep detailed to-do lists;
  • Repeat information to yourself over and over to help cement it in your memory;
  • Find an organizational system that helps you stay on top of things.

Remember that, as someone with a chronic illness, you may be able to get reasonable accommodation from your employer.

Out and About

For some of us, the most stressful and even frightening episodes of brain fog come when we're outside of our normal home or work environments.

One thing you can do is to tell someone where you're going before you leave home. It's certainly a good safety net if it's possible for you. Other things that can help include:

  • Keeping a list of where you're going and why;
  • Keeping maps of places you regularly go in your car;
  • Remembering to try staying calm.

Staying calm is especially important. If you get anxious and panicky, it will only exacerbate the situation. Try to find a quiet place, such as your car, a dressing room, or a bathroom stall where you can sit and clear your head.

At Home

Everyone forgets where they put their keys now and then, but for us, it can be a constant struggle to remember where things are. Also, just as it is at work, remembering the things we have to do can be a problem.

Some things that can help include:

  • Always putting things like your keys and cell phone in the same place;
  • Clipping your keys to your purse;
  • Keeping a notepad by the phone;
  • Establishing an organizational system that works for you.