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Fibro Fog: Tips for Communicating

  [ 13 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ]
By Melissa Swanson • • August 13, 2017

Fibro Fog:  Tips for Communicating
Ask anyone who knows me and they will say that I like to talk. I always have. I’ve been going through old pictures, report cards, etc., and it’s no surprise that every year the Teacher's notes say “Melissa likes to socialize too much.” If I wasn’t talking to someone in front of me, I was talking on the phone.  I tell people that I talk in my sleep because I don’t get enough of it done during the day.
However, things have changed.
According to a 2015 review in Rheumatology International, some patients report that the loss of mental clarity can be even more devastating than the pain and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia.
Fibro fog can affect communication in different ways. Some symptoms include: 
  • short term memory loss
  • becoming easily distracted
  • difficulty having conversations
  • inability remembering new information 
Fibro fog has made it so that I really hate phone calls. Phone calls are not only challenging, but I find it exhausting to focus on a phone conversation. I have a lousy short term memory, so even if I answer a telephone call, by the time I am done talking, I may have forgotten most of the conversation.
When we are on the phone, we’re often surrounded by other noises or trying to do other things. Noises and multi-tasking can make it difficult to completely pay attention to the conversation.
Fibro Fog adds to the stress of phone calls. I feel so dumb when I can't spit out the words I am trying to say or having to have the person on the other end repeat what they have already said.
Texting or Emailing is easier for me.
Saving my text messages and emails is like having a back-up disk for my memory. I can reread it as many times as I need to and at any time of the day or night. I can reply in my own time when I am not feeling "foggy" or rushed. It gives me time to find my words and to reread my message several times to make sure that it expresses what I am trying to communicate. Texting or emailing makes setting appointments, renewing prescriptions, etc., so much easier for myself.
I often let phone calls go to voice mail so I can take the time to listen to the message and make any notes I need before I return the call. When a good friend, family member or physician calls, I will inform them in advance if I’m having a foggy day. I will tell them "Today isn't a good memory day and I am having trouble finding my words, so bear with me."
My friends understand and text me before calling and ask if I can talk.
As a Fibromyalgia Health Advisor, my phone skills are extremely important. I need to be able to listen to what my clients are telling me and to respond properly. Whether I am returning a call from voice mail or talking to a client, I’ve found some tips to help make it easier.
  • I schedule my calls for the times during the day that I am at my best.

  • I never make a phone call without a pen and paper in hand. I have a notebook where I track voice mail or previous call information.

  • Prior to making a call, I make notes on what I want to ask or discuss.

  • I try to eliminate as many distractions as possible. I will go to a room where I will not have background noises or a barking dog.

  • I use my notebook to write notes during my conversation. As I am listening, if something pops in my head that I want to bring up, I will jot it down, and I always look over my list before the call is over to make sure that I did not forget anything that I wanted to discuss.

  • A voice to text app is another option rather than talking or texting. I personally have not used any of these apps, but I have several friends who use them and say that they are very helpful.

It is so important that we not allow our fog, pain, or fatigue to cut us off from communication. We cannot allow ourselves to become isolated from the outside world. 
I would love to hear about ways that help make communication easier for you. 

Melissa Swanson is a chronic pain patient, advocate, and author of Ravyn’s Doll:  How to Explain Fibromyalgia to Your Child. Through her Facebook page, she offers positive encouragement, medical information, resources, and support to 16,000+ fibromyalgia and chronic pain patients. In addition to her own blog, Melissa has been published in "Living Well with Fibromyalgia" and the NFMCPA "Advocate Voice." She's a graduate of the 2014 Class of Leaders Against Pain Scholarship Training sponsored by the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association and a member of the Leaders Against Pain Action Network.
You can find Melissa at:
Twitter: MelissaSwanso22

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