helpful tools and devices

Fuzzy Brains: RA, Pain and Cognitive Issues

Lene Andersen Health Guide November 07, 2012
  • In 2004, I was in one of the worst flares of my life, the pain so intense and omnipresent it cast a shadow over everything. For the first time in a long time, I had problems focusing. Where I once was able to relate a conversation in detail, now I couldn't remember what someone said half an hour ago....

23 Comments
  • Brad
    Health Guide
    Nov. 08, 2012

    Hi Lene,

    Great article, and so very true. I hate to admit that I have the attention span of a earthworm anymore (maybe less, not sure how much attention an earthworm can muster) I just had a home health care NP visit the other day and she tested me on it after I told her WHO? ME? No way do I have that issue......... she told she would say 3 words to me, then...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    Hi Lene,

    Great article, and so very true. I hate to admit that I have the attention span of a earthworm anymore (maybe less, not sure how much attention an earthworm can muster) I just had a home health care NP visit the other day and she tested me on it after I told her WHO? ME? No way do I have that issue......... she told she would say 3 words to me, then tell me a simple riddle I had to solve and write down the answer to....... then repeat the 3 words to her. She started, "Penny, Apple, Watch...... what do people look at to tell the time?" I wrote down Clock...... and looked her square in the eye..... "PENNY, APPLE..............DOH!!!!" I could not remember Watch to save my life.... FAIL! Well, the cat is out of the bad anyway! This is scary, but it is somehow less scary when you know others are going through the same thing. Thanks for casting a light on it for us! 

     

    Brad

    • Lene  Andersen
      Health Guide
      Nov. 09, 2012

      Yeah. I hate that test.

       

      it took me a long time, but I've finally acclimatized. Granted, I generally have more brain now than I did when I was in that bad flare, but I think I would still be a lot sharper without RA, chronic pain and fibro. I started laughing at it and being really open about having a mind like a steel trap sieve - it's made it easier....

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      Yeah. I hate that test.

       

      it took me a long time, but I've finally acclimatized. Granted, I generally have more brain now than I did when I was in that bad flare, but I think I would still be a lot sharper without RA, chronic pain and fibro. I started laughing at it and being really open about having a mind like a steel trap sieve - it's made it easier. I do have notepads and pens in every room and often write on my hand. It helps.

       

       

    • Brad
      Health Guide
      Nov. 10, 2012

      Another thing that helps me is recording notes on my phone. Course I have to remember they are there.......... And, as I noted above Finger Fog is what a small group of us have come up with, all of us are RA patients and have been friends supporting each other for many years, we call ourselves Misfits. So when we lose track of what we are typing, or type it...

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      Another thing that helps me is recording notes on my phone. Course I have to remember they are there.......... And, as I noted above Finger Fog is what a small group of us have come up with, all of us are RA patients and have been friends supporting each other for many years, we call ourselves Misfits. So when we lose track of what we are typing, or type it all crazy.... we call it Finger Fog! Works for us! :) 

    • Rena
      Nov. 10, 2012

      "Finger fog"...I love it. 

  • Leslie
    Nov. 11, 2012

    I find that the whole fuzzy brain thing has impacted my work. I really worry about this sometimes. So far, no one has complained about the quality of my work but I know that it is not quite what it was - I am certaintly not at the top of my game mentally. There are days when this memory issue really causes me to struggle in my job. I know it's obvious sometimes...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    I find that the whole fuzzy brain thing has impacted my work. I really worry about this sometimes. So far, no one has complained about the quality of my work but I know that it is not quite what it was - I am certaintly not at the top of my game mentally. There are days when this memory issue really causes me to struggle in my job. I know it's obvious sometimes but my supervisor seems forgiving at least for now. I feel frustrated! I'm in charge of some pretty important stuff and often have to depend more on others in my team than I used to for some simple things. So far, everyone has stepped up - it's a good thing - but I sometimes feel I am not pulling my weight.

    • Ruth
      Nov. 12, 2012

      Thanks for all these posts, Even though my RA is well controlled, I still feel this fuzzy brain at times, and I do wonder how long I can continue my full time job as an RN. But of course I need the good health insurance for my Enbrel.  Sometimes I worry I am developing alzheimers,  I am so frustrated.  Even typing this post has taken me...

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      Thanks for all these posts, Even though my RA is well controlled, I still feel this fuzzy brain at times, and I do wonder how long I can continue my full time job as an RN. But of course I need the good health insurance for my Enbrel.  Sometimes I worry I am developing alzheimers,  I am so frustrated.  Even typing this post has taken me longer than I think it should.  Like someone said, just knowing we are not alone in this is a help.  I think I will rent a child's animated video to laugh and not think too hard.

    • Lene  Andersen
      Health Guide
      Nov. 13, 2012

      Ruth - I just left a comment for Leslie with a joke about giving someone the wrong medication. Oops! Wink . And speaking of joking… Once, when my fog was really bad, I asked my doctor how we would know if I developed Alzheimer's. She reassured me, saying that she'd know. That was a really big help in getting me to freak out less about it.

       

      Working...

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      Ruth - I just left a comment for Leslie with a joke about giving someone the wrong medication. Oops! Wink . And speaking of joking… Once, when my fog was really bad, I asked my doctor how we would know if I developed Alzheimer's. She reassured me, saying that she'd know. That was a really big help in getting me to freak out less about it.

       

      Working and RA are a recipe for exhaustion. Try to be good to yourself, look at some of our tips for building energy and get more sleep whenever you can. Back in the days where I worked in an office, I used to go to bed right after dinner in the middle of the week. It was the only way I could handle the rest of the week, both physically and mentally. Listen to your body. It will help you develop the tricks you need to manage.

       

       

    • Lene  Andersen
      Health Guide
      Nov. 13, 2012

      Y'know... I bet you're pulling your weight. I bet you pulled more than your weight in the past and what you're doing now is actually reasonable. So many of us have such high expectations of ourselves and get really down on ourselves when we can't perform up to those expectations. One of the things that helps me a lot is to get a bit more perspective on what...

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      Y'know... I bet you're pulling your weight. I bet you pulled more than your weight in the past and what you're doing now is actually reasonable. So many of us have such high expectations of ourselves and get really down on ourselves when we can't perform up to those expectations. One of the things that helps me a lot is to get a bit more perspective on what I do and what I have to do. I asked myself the question whether my being upset about my cognitive issues maybe put more of an importance on this things I wasn't doing and there was something to that. I don't know what kind of work you do, but as long as you aren't killing people accidentally because you forgot to give them the proper medication or turn off the nuclear reactor, it's probably okay. Which is not meant to belittle what you do or your concerns at all, just to remind you that maybe taking a deep breath, taking a step back and looking at it without the worry connected to your disease and the fog may give you some peace.

       

      That said, it does sound like you work in a great environment. The whole point of a team is to complement each other and obviously, that atmosphere is fostered in your place of work. If you do get to a point where you do the perspective exercise I mentioned above, think about how you complement the needs of others on your team. I'm sure that there are things you do because someone else need some support in a particular area. It's what good teams and good friends do. No one is perfect, so we help each other.

  • Rena
    Nov. 10, 2012

         Lene, you have hit the fuzzy nail, with a fuzzy hammer, on its fuzzy little head!  I feel like I have lived with fuzzy brain for years.  Some days are worse than others.  Sometimes the words are floating around in my brain and there is even an uncomfortable delayed reaction in my ability to get the words out of my mouth...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

         Lene, you have hit the fuzzy nail, with a fuzzy hammer, on its fuzzy little head!  I feel like I have lived with fuzzy brain for years.  Some days are worse than others.  Sometimes the words are floating around in my brain and there is even an uncomfortable delayed reaction in my ability to get the words out of my mouth when I am talking.  Forgetfulness is a difficult thing to adapt to and deal with.  It is best to deal with it in a positive and fun way.  It is much better to laugh at my forgetfulness than get upset about it.  Sometimes it is still upsetting though.

         I make notes all the time to help me.  I call them "my paper brain".  I also us a daily flip calander to help me remember the day and date.  I use a data book calander as well as a hanging wall calander to remember appointments, birthdays, holidays, etc. 

    • Lene  Andersen
      Health Guide
      Nov. 13, 2012

      my problem with the flip calendar would be forgetting whether I had torn off today's page or not. Of course, that's one way to get through the winter faster. Wink

       

      good tips - thanks for sharing them. And have a great (fuzzy) day!

  • Nichole
    Nov. 10, 2012

    Thanks for writing about this. Six weeks after my RA Dx, I moved to another country. It's now been a month here, and I feel as though I'm just coming out of the fog - not easy when you're trying to learn another language! Thankfully my meds seem to be keeping me from flaring, but the fatigue has been intense. It's a mental fatigue that has meant I have not...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    Thanks for writing about this. Six weeks after my RA Dx, I moved to another country. It's now been a month here, and I feel as though I'm just coming out of the fog - not easy when you're trying to learn another language! Thankfully my meds seem to be keeping me from flaring, but the fatigue has been intense. It's a mental fatigue that has meant I have not been able to hold up my half of any conversation, and I haven't been able to do anything but the tasks of daily living - those have been challenging enough! After carpal tunnel syndrome and fatigue, brain fog was one of my first symptoms, and the one that worried me the most. I know now that, for me at least, it comes and goes. That's encouraging. If I can't manage X today, then maybe I will be able to in a week or two if I intensively rest. It's good motivation to take care of myself. It's so helpful to know that others are going through the same thing.

    • Lene  Andersen
      Health Guide
      Nov. 13, 2012

      living in another country and trying to learn a new language while having fuzzy brains? You're my hero!

       

      It's good that you found a way to be forgiving of yourself when you can't quite get there, mentally. I think that's one of the biggest hurdles we face, this expectation that we should do better. It takes a lot of energy, thereby making you even more...

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      living in another country and trying to learn a new language while having fuzzy brains? You're my hero!

       

      It's good that you found a way to be forgiving of yourself when you can't quite get there, mentally. I think that's one of the biggest hurdles we face, this expectation that we should do better. It takes a lot of energy, thereby making you even more tired! Being kind to yourself and allowing yourself to do it the way you need to do it is a huge step in managing the situation. I would suggest, though, that you look into B12 shots and adddng vitamin D to your daily vitamin routine. They can both be huge helps in increasing energy.

       

      Thanks for your comment!

    • Nichole
      Nov. 13, 2012

      Thank you!!!  Sometimes I think I'm nuts for doing this, but it makes sense in a nutty sort of way, so here I am.

       

      "I think that's one of the biggest hurdles we face, this expectation that we should do better." Amen. So, so true.

       

      So, I just want to say that you've really inspired and helped me, Lene, to accept my RA and live my life. As someone...

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      Thank you!!!  Sometimes I think I'm nuts for doing this, but it makes sense in a nutty sort of way, so here I am.

       

      "I think that's one of the biggest hurdles we face, this expectation that we should do better." Amen. So, so true.

       

      So, I just want to say that you've really inspired and helped me, Lene, to accept my RA and live my life. As someone who's a newbie at this and without so much pain or physical limitations yet, it can be pretty scary thinking about what may come my way. You've gone through a lot and lived to tell us all about it. That's incredibly reassuring for me. So, hugs and thanks!

    • Lene  Andersen
      Health Guide
      Nov. 16, 2012

      thank you, Nichole. It's really sweet of you to say that. And it's the thing about living with something like this for long enough - it makes you realize that life still happens. It's scary in the beginning when it seems that the disease is everything, but you quickly figure out that it's just part of life.

       

      I'm glad I could be of help.

       

  • Diana Troldahl
    Nov. 09, 2012

    My foggy brain impacts me most when trying to write, usually a book review.

    On those days the words I want are floating way out of my reach, I write as much of the review as I can (looking up details about which book is next in series etc) and when I can't find a specific word, I use parentheses surrounding words that mean close to the one I want and any details...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    My foggy brain impacts me most when trying to write, usually a book review.

    On those days the words I want are floating way out of my reach, I write as much of the review as I can (looking up details about which book is next in series etc) and when I can't find a specific word, I use parentheses surrounding words that mean close to the one I want and any details about the word (first or last letter etc) I can think of. This helps me fill in the word later.

    As an example, using the above sentance, "If I can't find a (discrete, exact meaning, s----c?, perfect) word, I..."

     

    Where I really suck is remembering things I should do on a specific date. Even a calendar reminder doesn't always help.

    • Lene  Andersen
      Health Guide
      Nov. 09, 2012

      that's a really handy tip about the parentheses in writing - I do something similar.

       

      I never used to forget birthdays, now I do it all the time. I may know that it's someone's birthday on November 9, but I forget that today is the ninth. It probably doesn't help that I work freelance and base my what happens on an individual day in the week (Monday,...

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      that's a really handy tip about the parentheses in writing - I do something similar.

       

      I never used to forget birthdays, now I do it all the time. I may know that it's someone's birthday on November 9, but I forget that today is the ninth. It probably doesn't help that I work freelance and base my what happens on an individual day in the week (Monday, Tuesday, etc.), rather than the date. Luckily my friends are very forgiving. Wink

    • Diana Troldahl
      Nov. 09, 2012

      It is so frustrating! I can remind myself that my brother Kelly's birthday is April 30th for the entire week leading up to it, add calendar reminders and notes to myself, and if the 30th is a foggy day, I think may not compute that the reminder was on that morning, (sometimes one day seems like two, or something) I really hate that.

      I've thought about just...

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      It is so frustrating! I can remind myself that my brother Kelly's birthday is April 30th for the entire week leading up to it, add calendar reminders and notes to myself, and if the 30th is a foggy day, I think may not compute that the reminder was on that morning, (sometimes one day seems like two, or something) I really hate that.

      I've thought about just assigning a random day and sending everyone thier birthday card the same day, once a year :-}

    • Brad
      Health Guide
      Nov. 10, 2012

      Diana,

      Or, if I could suggest it, send the cards out on the first of the month for everyone that has a birthday that month! Works for us! 

       

      Brad

    • Diana Troldahl
      Nov. 10, 2012

      Thanks Brad! Good suggestion. 

    • Lene  Andersen
      Health Guide
      Nov. 13, 2012

      that's a fantastic idea, Brad! Thanks so much - I'm going to start doing that.

  • andrew
    Nov. 08, 2012
    Lene, Thanks for addressing this topic that commonly gets swept under the rug. Cognitive impairment from RA is a real biological phenomena. I'm in the middle of a pretty nasty flare and getting the brain to get going is like getting my body to get going...it takes a long time and doesn't last long. It feels like thing are in slow motion. Along with this comes...
    RHMLucky777
    Read More
    Lene, Thanks for addressing this topic that commonly gets swept under the rug. Cognitive impairment from RA is a real biological phenomena. I'm in the middle of a pretty nasty flare and getting the brain to get going is like getting my body to get going...it takes a long time and doesn't last long. It feels like thing are in slow motion. Along with this comes an emotional roller coaster. The only way I can deal with it is to rest as much as possible and cut back on activities that require cognitive processes...like thinking! :) I wrote a post about the biology behind RA and brain fog a few years ago...http://livingwithra.wordpress.com/2009/12/14/the-brain-fog-of-ra/ Andrew
    • andrew
      Nov. 08, 2012
      Here's another article on research confirming that brain function is impacted by inflammation. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090217173034.htm
    • Lene  Andersen
      Health Guide
      Nov. 09, 2012

      thank you so much for the very helpful links, Andrew - I put them on my list of go-tos.

       

      I'm having a no-thinking day myself. It's really aggravating. I'd leave a much better reply to your comment if it wasn't for my brain refusing to come up with those word things. Wink