Lately, I’ve noticed I’m not thinking through things as well as I used to. It is very hard for me to accept since clear thinking was a strength for me. I was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis four years ago. Here’s what my brain fog looks like.
About two years ago, when I was still working as a counselor, I noticed that I occasionally forgot important information when talking with a client. For instance, if I were talking with someone about a topic in the news, such as a flood, I would forget that they had been through that experience five years before. I would remember later as I reflected on our conversation, and feel bad I hadn’t remembered. This didn’t happen very often, but when it did, I always called the person back and apologized for forgetting. I was a counselor for 30 years and was very good at remembering what happened in people’s lives, so experiencing brain fog in this way was very distressing for me.
Difficulty thinking through things thoroughly
About a year ago, I started having trouble thinking through all the factors pertaining to a certain problem or situation. I would think about some things, and completely forget to consider other important dynamics. I’m now able to recognize this tendency and ask my husband about once a week to “help me think through something.” I will lay out what I’m thinking about or planning and ask him if I’ve missed anything. He is very nice to process these situations with me. About half the time, I miss considering an important aspect.
Trouble solving problems
In the last two weeks, I’ve had trouble coming up with solutions to problems when I’m not at my best. Last week, I was at the grocery store with my portable liquid oxygen stroller. I cranked it up to 10 liters per minute and walked slowly, leaning on the cart.
As I walked back out to the car, I became out of breath. My reaction was, “Oh, that’s weird.” But I never checked to see what the problem was. When I sat down in the front seat, I noticed the cannula had pulled off of the stroller, and I wasn’t getting any oxygen. No wonder I was out of breath! It was very upsetting to realize I hadn’t looked down to figure out what the problem was.
Just a few days ago, I woke up and was very cold. I snuggled up in my blankets and couldn’t imagine getting out of bed because the room was so chilly. My husband came in after a while to check on me, and I told him I couldn’t get out of bed because it was too cold. He looked at me and turned on the space heater that was right near my bed. I couldn’t believe I didn’t think of it.
It’s been very discouraging to see brain fog affecting my ability to think clearly.
Ways to cope with brain fog
- Tell your loved ones this is happening so that they understand the changes they see in you. I forget things from time to time, and often tell my husband, “I know you already told me, but could you let me know again?” Ask loved ones to help you think through things.
- Make rules for situations you have trouble with. For instance, I have a rule that if I ever start coughing like crazy, I put on my oxygen mask until the cough goes away. This helps me, but I doubt I will think of it at the time.
- Keep a notebook by your side to write down important things you don’t want to forget. Every week, I make a list of all the things I need or want to do. This really helps me remember things that are important.
- Use your oxygen as much as you need to in order to stay above 90 percent saturation rate. Exercise as much as possible to make sure your brain is getting the oxygen it needs.
- Eat a healthy diet to give your body and brain the nutrition it needs.
- Try a brain training program to keep you as sharp as possible. Here’s a great article about which brain training programs really work. Harvard Medical School has published a very helpful report on how to improve your memory.
Why does this happen?
Good question. It’s complicated. Check back next week when I address this important issue with input from Dr. Noah Greenspan.
I’d love to hear from you
Do you struggle with brain fog? What tips and tricks have helped you manage your tendency to not think as clearly as you used to?
Please leave a comment below or on social media.
Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.