One of the more delightful aspects of rheumatoid arthritis (yes, I'm being sarcastic) is the very real issue of brain fog. What is brain fog? It's when you feel confused, forgetful, lack mental clarity, and in all seriousness, feel like you are in the early stages of dementia.
Unfortunately, many of those with chronic illness suffer from brain fog, and I'm no exception. I used to pride myself on my memory. I could have a list of things to do in my mind and never forget a single one. Words came to me easily. Focus wasn't hard. Conversations were easy since I hardly ever lost my train of thought. And now? I'll be writing and can't for the life of me think of a simple word I need to use. This happens in conversations, too. And many times, I'll be talking and struggle to find my words, which results in me feeling quite embarassed since I flounder around like a beached whale. I am forgetful, make mistakes at work that I never did before, and can't find the focus I need unless I literally close my eyes and force myself to.
It's not fun. But it's something I have to deal with, and I'm learning to find ways to work around it. For example, I make lists. It's a must. And at work, I have to force myself to slow down and double check my work. Zipping around on social media, flitting from Twitter to FB to Pinterest doesn't help, so if I really want to focus, I need to have all those tabs closed. Finding my words is harder to fix, but slowing down when I talk to people or pausing to collect my thoughts is about the best I can do.
And writing? Oftentimes, I'll rely on my thesauraus to help me out - the word I want is often listed amongst the synonyms of a related word.
Brain fog isn't fun to deal with. It's frustrating and at times, scary. But having a plan of action to combat it is vital.
Lately, I've had to really force myself to look at my illness in a different light. Yes, I have a chronic illness. But it doesn't have me. I am more than my illness. It is not my identity. That's hard to remember when my joints are aching so bad that I'm in tears, or when I'm so exhausted all I can do is sleep. However, it's necessary for good mental health. I'm not going to lose who I am - and I am many things: a wife, a mother, a daughter, a niece, a sister, a friend, a co-worker, a writer, a creative person, a historian, a fighter - to this disease. I am far, far more than my illness!
If you're suffering with a chronic illness or condition, please know that your illness does not define you. It is a part of you, yes, but you are made up of many, many parts!
I always like to turn to Jared Padalecki (of the TV show Supernatural) and his wise words of wisdom: Always keep fighting!
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