Dealing With Brain Fog in College

Having made it through a few years of college, I know I'm smart. Yet, there are many days where brain fog makes me question my IQ. One day I can take a physics exam no sweat, the next I can't even do simple math. Or worse, I forget a homework assignment. Those moments aren't just frustrating, they totally shatter my confidence. There have been many times I considered dropping out, not feeling cut out for college.

The one thing that keeps me going is knowing that brain fog is a part of my disease, not a part of who I am. Taking arthritis to college, I thought my only obstacle would be managing chronic pain and fatigue during all-nighters. I never imagined that when my arthritis got worse in freshman year, that my brain fog would go crazy. But once I came to accept that brain fog is just another part of my disease I have to manage, things got easier. I ended up finding a lot of ways to cope that ended up making me a better student in the end.

Use lists

I believe every student should make lists, and follow them religiously. Not just for daily assignments, but for everything. After I accidentally submitted a paper that missed an entire section on a particularly foggy day, I knew I needed to get more organized. Making check-lists of things to do, emails to send, and even sections in a paper has helped me on days I feel totally lost and forgetful. Thesis statement? Check. References? Check. Bibliography? Oops, I almost forgot! While it's not foolproof, it helps keep me on track- even during times the fog has lifted.

Ask for help

It's okay to ask for help in college; this is the time to take advantage of any help you can get. It's useful to have a friend, tutor, teacher's assistant, or possibly your professor double check your assignments. Most will be happy to do so, and it's a good practice for students anyway. Software like Grammarly can also act as a proof-reader, especially if you're feeling foggy while writing.

Tape lectures

Lectures can be absolute torture for someone with chronic pain, chronic fatigue, and brain fog. I've had more than my fair share of lectures go way over my head. Even forcing myself to take notes can be useless, especially after the first half hour (my lectures average three hours). Having a friend in the class can be a lifesaver if they take concise notes. If not, consider recording the lecture and listening to it when you're feeling more up to it. For me, this was usually at home, in comfy clothes and covered with heat packs.

Label, label, label

Label everything clearly. Make sure you write down every requirement of an assignment in detail. Make your formula sheets extremely readable, and label which equation is used for what. If you're anything like me, you'll think "I don't need to write this down, I'll remember this." No - just write it down. You'll thank me later.

Learn to laugh

When I first started college, I never imaged brain fog would be the symptom I struggled the most with. It's hard to be in college with a chronic illness, especially when pain makes it hard to think straight. But just remember that you made it to college! You're smart and deserve an education. Try to laugh when you can - life is a lot better when you can laugh at the fact you just called an orange peel a "wrapper." With some planning and support, brain fog doesn't have to make college impossible.

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