Brain Fog - What I Need Others Around Me to Know
Last updated: May 2023
I woke up struggling. A long night of storms made for little sleep and lots of pain. Thunderstorms are my worst psoriatic arthritis (PsA) weather flare. I wanted to stay home from work, but it was payroll processing day. If I didn't go in, no one got paid. So, I pressed on.
Then, it happened. My husband said something to me... and it didn't make sense. I heard words, but no cohesive thought. I couldn't comprehend what he said. He just didn't make sense. But, it wasn't him. It was me. I just stared at him. He said more words, but it still did not make any sense to me. Then, I panicked. I knew something was wrong. I thought I was losing my mind. I thought I was having a major medical problem. I broke down and started crying. I remember saying, "I don't know what you just said. Your words don't make sense to me and I'm scared." At least, that's what I thought I said. I'm really not sure if that's what came out of my mouth.
Brain fog and psoriatic arthritis
It is hard to describe to someone who has never experienced PsA brain fog just what it is like. It is not just an occasional slip in memory. When I have brain fog, I am impaired. My thoughts, my movements, my feelings, my expressions – they can all be impacted by brain fog. I may sit for minutes trying to think of a simple word or the name of the object in my hand. There are times I can't drive because I can't concentrate on the road. I can't focus on conversations enough to contribute or recall information. Simple math is beyond me. Sometimes, I can't remember how to operate the microwave.
Brain fog occurs when my brain is recovering from overstimulation due to pain and swelling. It feels like wet blankets thrown on my head – heavy, weighed-down, pushing on my head and drowning my vision. I can't peel them off, no matter how hard I try. The only good part about brain fog is that it eventually goes away. Once my brain has had enough recovery time, I'm back to normal.
Weather as a trigger
I've had enough PsA weather flares to anticipate brain fog and plan accordingly. I try to let those around me know when I have brain fog so I will not concern them if my behavior seems off. But, I also share this information with them to let them know there are things I need from them while my brain is recovering.
How others can help when I'm experiencing brain fog
Patience – I am not ignoring you. I simply cannot process things right now. Conversation and tasks are a serious struggle. You may not see it, but I am really concentrating hard just to be here. Please, have patience with me.
Time – I am not putting you off. I am not making up my inability. I am incapacitated right now. It won't last. If you can give me time, I'll be back to myself soon.
Rest – I will still try to do, go, and be, but I will not be at my best. What I need is to let my brain stop processing information for a while and simply rest. Allow me to do what I feel up to doing until the fog lifts.
Quiet – I may pass up stimulating activities that involve noise or action. It's not that I don't want to participate, but my brain has already been overstimulated and cannot handle any more. Please, care for me enough to let me be quiet for a bit. I'll join in when I have recovered.
Do you have any questions about PsA?