Woman with brain fog looking concerned as her thoughts float away from her

I Am in PsA Remission and Difficulty Concentrating Still Haunts Me

My job was eliminated due to my psoriatic arthritis and Crohn’s disease symptoms. I was forced to apply for disability. During my last few months at the job, severe fatigue and the inability to concentrate became a new normal. It was like a never-ending cycle of pain, fatigue, swelling, brain fog, and the GI symptoms to deal with.

I thought once my psoriatic arthritis was in remission everything would improve, including my difficulty concentrating. Well, I can’t always be right. Right?

Disability and psoriatic arthritis

A year prior to losing my job, I left for a better paying position with a client. Six months later, there were mass layoffs. My former boss allowed me to come back to the old job, but as a contractor. As a contractor, I lacked protection provided by the American’s with Disabilities Act.

As we started discussing going back to full-time status, I found myself unable to concentrate and read the same thing over and over again. The inability to concentrate carried over from work to home. It was scary at times. Imagine being mid-sentence and having your thoughts vanish from your brain.

My family knows me as someone who has a very good memory. But at a certain point during this specific flare, it felt like I was losing my mind.

Filing for disability

It’s interesting to have an in-person conversation about filing for disability. You can gather rather quickly from social queues, whether someone is offended by your being on it or talking about it. So, if you’re offended, apologies in advance.

During the disability application process, the person charged with my file requested a psychological exam. It wasn’t quite explained why I was there. Anxiety due to my declining health was on the application, and anxiety can send you in for this type of review.

What I was not aware of was that this review also tests your cognitive function. Your memory and processing of more than one question at the same time are tested. Sometimes, they are tested simultaneously. Needless to say, I walked out of this test in tears. My mother drove me to the test because it was too painful to drive. Why was I in tears?

The struggles of concentration

The rapid-fire session of questions by the psychologist, whom I never met before, was overwhelming. I was struggling to answer the first question while she was embarking upon questions two, three, and four. By the time I was at four and asking her to repeat it, she then asked me something about question one. My chest grows tight just thinking about this memory.

Prior to losing my job, I was able to read very technical documents and lay them out for lay-people to read and learn from. I was also able to understand what I was reading or form questions appropriate to learn more about the subject matter.

Both of these skills had left me at the start of this flare. As the flare increased in severity, my ability to concentrate and understand things diminished further. I wondered if I was going to end up impaired and if it was going to be permanent.

Concentrating in the workplace

On more than one occasion, I apologized to someone while trying to laugh it off saying, “Sorry, I have the dumb today.” Quizzing my doctors was futile. No one really knew if this would stick around.

Here’s how I learned to better organize due to my concentration and memory issues. I was always a note taker. So, I applied this at home, as well.

  • Sticky notes make for great visual reminders.
  • Notepad and To-Do List applications on my phone.
  • Email task manager helps remind me of emails to prioritize, as well as tasks that need to get done on the computer.
  • I have a running text message with myself. Ideas that I want to revisit during downtime.
  • I highly recommend taking good notes while on calls or meetings.

Tips to improve concentration

I’m able to freelance again, which is great. But even now, my ability to concentrate haunts me. The other night, while on a Zoom meeting call, something happened. I remember responding to a question and a few others on the call responded as well. Then, it happened, "Jaime, what do you think?" I froze.

For the life of me, I can't remember anyone inserting a new question into the conversation.  I froze hard enough for the meeting leader to think my connection froze and that I replied while it was frozen. I guess technology saved me.

Difficulty concentrating still haunts me

After that, I wrote down every question. Then, I prepared my answers and thoughts in easy-to-read bullets all while trying my hardest to listen to every word spoken. I disconnected from the meeting and felt relieved yet sad.

While I feel like I recovered from that blip and then some. It is still replaying in my head three days later. So, even in psoriatic arthritis remission, my difficulty concentrating still haunts me.

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