Do you know this term, ‘fibro fog?’ It refers to the cognitive difficulties that occur alongside fibromyalgia. Not all sufferers experience it and those that do don’t all experience the same thing. As with everything else with this condition, nothing is straight forward.
I thought I’d share some of my fibro fog experiences, partly so you can understand what other sufferers may be going through but partly because they’re mildly amusing – assuming you can see the funny side.
We all have have those moments where we go into a room then forgot what we went in there for, or we search frantically for our car keys only to find them in the fridge. Fibro fog is a bit like that. For me, it’s that momentary madness that makes you surprised you have managed to get through the day without any catastrophic errors.
Normally moments like losing your keys are kept to yourself or, at most, shared with close loved ones. When it happens in front of strangers it can be embarrassing. You see where I’m going, right?
As well as forgetting where you’ve put things or why you’ve gone to a particular place, fibro fog also means you get your words mixed up. Again, not horrendous when you”re chatting to your boyfriend but mortifying when you’re presenting to your directors at work. Plus, fibro fog is a more likely occurrence under extreme stress and so work situations often bear the brunt of this.
Once upon time I started a new job and on the afternoon of my first day with my new boss I went over to her desk. I confidently said, “Sorry to interrupt, but please can I pick your ear?” Cue red face and hurried chattering. What I meant to say was, “Can I pick your brain?” or “Can I bend your ear?” The amalgamation of the two was awful.
More recently I was asked to present at a board meeting. I was asked to present by Nigel, a director that I regularly worked closely with and he was keen to share our partnership work with other department directors. I had a ten minute slot to convince senior managers I knew what I was talking about and I used my work with Nigel and his team as a case study for collaborative working, boasting about our close working relationship. The only problem was that I called Nigel ‘Neil’ the entire time. No, not because I thought his name was Neil, but because I couldn’t remember Nigel’s name for the life of me and felt it was better to guess. (Don’t ask me why… on reflection, I think it would probably have been better to just admit the mind blank.)
These anecdotes on their own are quite funny and not too problematic, but when you have recurring moments like this where you become tongue tied or forgetful, people at work can begin to think you don’t know what you’re talking about. You become less credible. The answer could be to take a less high-profile role, reduce your stress/hours and slip into something you and your health can manage. Unfortunately, the old me thrives on pressure and challenges and I don’t want to let go of that.
What I would ask of you, is that if you know someone who has fibromyalgia or any kind of impairment that results in cognitive difficulties, please empathise. It’s frustrating so please bear with us whilst we do our best to sort ourselves out.