What’s That Called Again? Oh, Yeah. Brain Fog.

Remember (re MEM’ ber)- verb. To have a hazy recollection of a particular word, an important conversation, or the location of a file you were just working with; often used by an exasperated co-worker, “We already decided on that, re-MEM-ber?”

Memory is a funny thing. It is everything that matters most to you–birthdays, weddings, first steps–and it also consists of information that is virtually meaningless, like celebrity gossip (unless you’re playing trivia). But for as much as we rely on memory to find our cars in grocery-store parking lots, we forget how much we need memory until we start losing it.

Everyone has experienced a slip up when it comes to remembering things, coming up with the right word, or just concentrating in general. And most of us expect our cognitive abilities to go down the crapper as we become elderly. But folks with lupus know that you don’t need to be elderly to experience these same issues. Unfortunately, many people with lupus are young women at a point in our lives when we most need to be on our game, often working and raising families, all the while operating in a sort of brain fog.

Brain fog is very common amongst people with lupus (Kim Nault of Lupus Magazine estimates that “70-90% of SLE patients” experience it). And for people such as myself who fancy themselves wordsmiths, brain fog is one of the worst parts of having lupus. No one wants to be perceived as unintelligent, so imagine the frustration of forgetting what you’re saying mid-sentence, or finding yourself literally at a loss for words as you strain to conjure up a word that’s right there but somehow out of reach.

I’ve been experiencing these types of symptoms increasingly over the last couple of weeks, and it’s most noticeable at work. It’s embarrassing, and I’m worried people might perceive my fogginess as incompetence. But it comes and goes, so I’m trying to wait it out and see if I don’t regain some of my cognitive abilities before I make any truly epic mistakes.

Like lupus, there’s no cure for brain fog. However, WebMD offers some helpful tips to mitigate the symptoms, including writing down tasks and appointments instead of trying to remember everything and scheduling certain tasks for when you feel the most mentally alert.

In the meantime, I’m weighing the pros and cons of telling my boss the exact cause of my fogginess, if I could just find the right words to tell her…

2 Responses to “What’s That Called Again? Oh, Yeah. Brain Fog.”
  1. lupusadventurer says:

    Looking for the right words… just say “I have lupus” and then explain that it sometimes affects your short-term memory, but it passes and you get over it. Let her know what you are doing to compensate, like writing more things down during or after conversations. Use a task tracking tool, such as Outlook tasks faithfully. You might try getting a lupus brochure from your local LFA chapter to give to your boss when you have that conversation. I attached a copy of the LFA “What is Lupus” brochure to my formal ADA accommodation request. I have brain fog, and CNS involvement, but have successfully managed a government law office for over 20 years. Show her you have a can-do attitude about it, and that you are creative in coping with it.

    • lupinelife says:

      Thank you–you always offer great advice. Thankfully, I’m already using Outlook religiously, and it really helps me organize my day. I like the idea of being able to hand my boss a brochure that would help explain what lupus is; it takes some of the pressure off of me, and it’ll give me an opportunity to educate someone about lupus! Thanks again for your advice.

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