Learning how to “better” manage brain fog

For me, there are many crummy things about chronic illness, but the second worst of them all — after fatigue — is brain fog, i.e. the much harder challenge of keeping a clear thought.

Time was before my illness that my brain would whir to life and I could quickly motor off anything I needed to.  Ask me the strategy to something, and I’d leap up on the whiteboard and starting jotting ideas down.  But now, keeping clear thoughts is difficult. Answering any question that requires me to go into the memory bank is a challenge, and anything with some uncertainty or complexity is a challenge unless I have time to process.  Spelling?  I used to be great, because I would literally picture the word in my head and recite what I saw, but now I don’t see the word and am kind of stabbing in the dark.

Needless to say, this has made my job as an analytical sales person in a cutthroat industry hell.  But I think I’ve developed a list over the past few years that has helped. I’m not 100%, or even 90%, but I’m getting better and I’v adapted.

Checklist in OneNote.  OneNote is good because it’s free and I can access it from my computer, iPad or iPhone.  What I do is make a checklist of each item at the office I have to get down, then I break it down to how much time to spend on it.  For example: Answer emails – respond during morning coffee.  Send out follow up reports from yesterday – 30 minutes.  Send out status check note to 500 customers – 20 customers a day…  I’ve noticed this is important – I’ll lose paper lists, or I start moving things around until it gets messy (I can cut and paste); also, I can keep a template that I copy and paste into a new Tab every day so every day I am starting with a fresh checklist.  Plus, my razor sharp memory no where I was on a task has evaporated, so now I can search in OneNote to find out what I’ve done on something.

Stick with the Checklist.  It is tempting that if I come to complexity in my checklist to pass it off until later.  For example, if “Respond to email” includes an email that involves research, my temptation is to push it aside until later the day.  But I’ve learned I need to take a short break, grab another cup of coffee, return and take the steps needed to complete that email.  If I push it off, I start to get overwhelmed and fight the urge to shut down.  So even it means taking a pause while I gather my energy, I do nothing else until complete that next task.

One Thing At A Time.  My days of answering email while on a conference call, or making a phone call while waiting for my computer to re-boot, are over.  So I have to focus on one thing at a time.

Take Breaks.  The days of crazy 12 hour days are over.  I have to take several breaks during the day to make sure I maintain the energy needed to keep brain fog at bay.

Accept the Inevitable.  I will never be as crisp, sharp and productive as I once was.  I can’t compare myself to the old me, which thankfully was 200% of most people (honestly).  Instead, I have to focus on doing the best I can with what I have now.  I this were a five-card poker me, the old me had six cards to choose from, the new me has 4 cards to work with (versus everyone else’s 5).  I can’t worry that I used to have 6 or that some have 5, I just have to do the best I can with 4 and realize that I won’t win as much as I used to. That takes some pressure off.

Lots and lots of coffee.  There is no way of getting around the fact that coffee is the new normal for me at the workplace.  If there are side effects so be it, but I have to have the energy needed to keep my job and pay my bills.  On the days where I need an extra burst of energy, I take a caffeine pill and pray for a “good” day.

My two cents.  Since life gave me lemons, I’m doing the best i can to make a decent lemonade.  (I’ve had to relearn how to do my to do list – I used to do it mostly by memory and prioritization, but that’s not possible anymore, and too long of a checklist is overwhelming 🙂 ).

 

 

Learning how to “better” manage brain fog

Confessions of an “always late” person

I am always late. Usually 10 minutes, almost to the minute.  When something is very very important and a special event (e.g. Interview) I am on time, but otherwise I am late.  I think one of the reasons why is because I am results focused.  That is, when I sit down to do something, I hate leaving it just to move on to an appointment.  For example, if I am composing an email and it is 10:50 and I need to leave for an 11 o’clock meeting, I hate leaving that chore for later, since inevitably more emails pop up and I’m worried about losing my focus and train of thought. So usually I finish the email, then I am late to the meeting and people complain (usually as a passive aggressive tease or behind my back later 🙂 ).  But no one mentions when I am late how I also tend to be a *lot* more productive than 99% of the people.

I don’t like being in a society where we judge literally by the minute versus completing a task.  But it is the way of the world.  So the world will just have to wait for me sometimes :). And I’ll just have to tolerate the criticism.  After all, lets’s be honest, I am 48 and I’ve been like this my whole life – if I haven’t changed by now I’m not going to.

On a side note, I am rarely sick or call in sick or miss things – but I am late to them.    

Confessions of an “always late” person

It is so hard to have a depressed family member

Our oldest is going through some serious emtional (depression) issues for the past six months, and especially the past two months.  Will go days without getting out of bed, and has resisted therapy (except hormonal therapy prescribed by her dubious “doctor”)  but now is open to seeing someone.  I will start on this.  I’m not looking forward to it, since I battle chronic fatigue and it’s all I can do every day to seem “normal” (I wish I had a nickel for every time a close friend tells me they forget that I have a chronic disease).  

It is really hard to have a child going through this, the not getting out of bed for days, which strikes too close to home for me (my mom’s family is prone to this).  Although I myself have battled depression at times, no one would suspect it and I make an extreme effort to keep fighting through those days best I can and in my entire life had only had maybe 1 day where I could not get out of bed (after staying out with friends till 7 AM, I slept and watched sports all the next day 🙂 ).  Even after my lung surgery, I spent my days walking the hospital (with my IV and oxygen tank in tow 🙂 ) rather than laying in bed.  

I’m not upset with my child, I just want to be able to help her.  I don’t have the time or energy for this, but will have to carve out time/energy.  😦

It is so hard to have a depressed family member

Am thinking of that college kid who made the job application video that went viral

Was it 10 years ago?  When the college kid made a video showing his achievements but which had clearly been editied. It showed him bench pressing like a bazillion pounds and zipping tennis balls a thousand miles an hour and similar achievements, and he sent it to prospective employers to demonstrate what he can do when he puts his mind to it.  A malicious soul in HR shared the video with friends and it went viral and he was mocked a lot, even in the press.  What an unfortunate thing that was.  I admire a kid willing to put himself out there to find a job, and what a shame that a 22 year old is held up to the world to be mocked.  I wonder where he is today, and hope he is doing well and is a good person and uses that experience to show compassion for others.

Am thinking of that college kid who made the job application video that went viral

Funny story in “Underbelly Hoops”

Reading “Underbelly Hoops,” following a season in the CBA (minor league basketball).  It’s an enjoyable book and a funny story I read in it overnight:  a player has too much to drink and passes out on a night off, and as a prank some of his teammates deposit him under the Christmas tree (like a gift) at the police department.  

The writer of the book played ball at Purdue before playing minor league basketball.  I read that he is now a professor at DePaul (which ironically was my favorite college basketball team in the early 1980s, when I was in junior high school and Ray Meyer was coach), which is impressive.

Funny story in “Underbelly Hoops”

Funny story in Underbelly Hoops

Reading “Underbelly Hoops,” following a season in the CBA (minor league basketball).  It’s an enjoyable book and a funny story I read in it overnight:  a player has too much to drink and passes out on a night off, and as a prank some of his teammates deposit him under the Christmas tree (like a gift) at the police department.  

The writer of the book played ball at Purdue before playing minor league basketball.  I read that he is now a professor at DePaul (which ironically was my favorite college basketball team in the early 1980s, when I was in junior high school and Ray Meyer was coach), which is impressive.

Funny story in Underbelly Hoops

Holy cow – the war in Syria is bad. I’d love for the US to accept refugees from there.

We watched the Oscar Nominated documentary shorts yesterday, and 3 of the 5 films were about Syria.  In one of the films, the Greek coast guard is helping rescue the boatload of Syrian refugees risking their lives to cross the Aegean Sea towards Europe.  In the second, we see a family whose father is killed and migrates to Turkey then Germany.  In the third, we see the volunteers who rescue people whose buildings are blown to bits by the airstrikes. 

This compelled me to read about what is happening in Syria. From what I see, in 2011 Syrians rose against their restrictive government.  Soon, a full blow Civil War materialized.  There are government loyalists, Free Syrians who want a free Syria, ISIS, and other groups all fighting.  And, of course, other countries such as Russian and the US are contributing.  Syrians are getting killed, buildings are getting blown to bits and it looks like an absolute war zone, with the people of Syria caught in the middle.  

What I saw from the movies and what I sense from my reading is that the Syrians are not diabolical terrorists but people fleeing a worn torn country much as people fled Europe in the 1940s.  Why the heck aren’t we the US not allowing them in?  We took in countless Vietnamese in the 1970s, which is great – why won’t we take in the Syrians now?  Might there be a terrorist or two in them?  Sure, maybe a bad apple or two.  But we have domestic terrorists, too (Boston Marathon bombers, the many school shooters, etc.).  For god sake, let the people in.  Show some compassion like I’d love to have compassion if Trump Supporters and Hilary Supporters were blowing up my neighborhood.

I loved those three films.  They showed the humans behind the news headlines.  And if we want to make America great again, instead of blowing the heck out of neighborhoods how about we show a little compassion. 

Holy cow – the war in Syria is bad. I’d love for the US to accept refugees from there.