Whether you call it cognitive deficits or fibrofog, the intellectual and perceptual difficulties that come with this disease are no fun, unless you try to deal with them with some humor and a bit of organization. You can develop small habits to trigger your memory. I’m sure all of us can relate to the short story below, author unknown. (Remember, I said we need a sense of humor.)
Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder (AAADD)
This is how it manifests: I need to wash my car. As I start toward the garage, I notice that there is mail on the hall table. I decide to go through the mail before washing the car. I put my car keys down on the table, put the junk mail in the trash under the table, and notice that the trash can is full.
So, I decide to put the bills back on the table to take out the trash first. But then I say to myself, since I'm going to be near the mailbox when I take out the trash anyway, I might as well pay the bills first.
I take my check book off the table, and see that there is only one check left. My extra checks are in my desk in the study, so I go to my desk where I find a bottle of coke that I had been drinking.
I'm about to look for my checks, but first I need to push the coke aside so that I wouldn't accidentally knock it over. I notice that the coke is getting warm, so I decide that I should put it in the refrigerator to keep it cold.
I head toward the kitchen with the coke. A vase of flowers on the counter catches my eye - they needed to be watered. As I set the coke down on the counter, I notice my reading glasses which I’ve been searching for all morning.
I decide I had better take them back to my desk, but first I must water the flowers. I put the glasses back down on the counter, fill a container with water when suddenly I spot the TV remote. Someone had left it on the kitchen table. I realize that tonight, when we go to watch TV, we will be looking for the remote, but nobody will remember that it's on the kitchen table, so I decide to take it back to the TV room where it belongs, but first I must water the flowers.
I splash some water on the flowers, but most of it spills on the floor. So, I put the remote back down on the table, to get some towels to wipe up the spill. hen I head down the hall trying to remember why I'm going that way and what I was planning to do.
Now it’s the end of the day; the car isn't washed, the bills aren't paid, there is a warm bottle of coke sitting on the counter, the flowers aren't watered, there is still only one check in my check book, I can't find the remote, I can't find my glasses, and I don't remember what I did with the car keys.
I try to figure out why nothing got done today. I'm really baffled because I know I was busy all day long and now I'm really tired. I realize this is a serious problem, and I'll try to get some help for it.
But first I'll check my e-mail.
* * * *
We have put up a large tack board in our kitchen to keep track of appointments and other important paperwork we need to deal with. Across from it is one of those white note boards that can be written on and erased, on which I write reminders of chores, and things that need to be done on a weekly or monthly basis. In addition, things get written on the calendar in the family room.
Recently, after a couple of years without needing one, I had to get a pocket calendar to keep in my purse. Thanks to my Rheumatologist, and Medicare, I will be having weekly massages for a while. But I knew I had to keep track of other appointments in order not to plan to be in two places at once. Retired, and I still need a calendar to keep track of myself!
I also have formed some habits to keep myself organized. My keys always get put in the same place in my purse. I managed to lock both my purse and my keys in the car twice, both times with groceries in the trunk. One time I actually left the car running to get the mail, and locked the door before I realized it. I think it’s those automatic habits that get us in trouble, so I try to form automatic habits to prevent the problem.
In my morning paper today, there was a suggestion about how to remember the things you have to take somewhere with you by putting your car keys with the item. It seems to make sense that you can’t leave without your keys. But I would rather forget what I was supposed to take than spend an hour, and probably a headache, trying to locate that little item that starts the car!
I am also the one who pays the bills in our house. I have a specific place on my desk that is the bill depository. I open them, and put the due date on the outside of the envelope, which makes it easier to prioritize when I sit down to write checks. I’m considering trying bill pay through my bank so I can do it online, and save the stamps. I just haven’t gotten that organized yet.
The challenge of fibrofog is to find ways to work around it, while maintaining both your sense of humor and the ability to laugh at yourself.
It may take some time to find the little habits and reminders which help you control the details of your life. There will likely be some disasters, like my locking my keys in the car while it was still running. It didn’t seem very funny at the time, and I’m thankful for AAA, but I can certainly laugh at it now. It takes some time, perhaps on some of your less foggy days, to develop the organizational habits you need, but there are ways to manage your life, and enjoy the little foibles that befall us because “our heads are in the clouds”.
I seem to manage to find something to giggle at myself about every day. Laughing is certainly much more pleasant than the frustration I used to feel when brain fog interfered with my life. Learn to organize and control what you can, and face the rest with a sense of fun and amusement. Learn to make a joke of your mix-ups. I’m old enough to blame my age. I’m sure you can think of a reason or two for why your mental function is sometimes topsy-turvy. Take care and be well.
Yours in Health, Eunice
Note: This updated article from the ProHealth archive originally appeared in 2003. The information and opinions included here are generic and anecdotal. It is very important that you empower yourself with knowledge and participate in your own search for care. Any advice given is not intended to take the place of advice of your physician or mental health care provider. Always follow your physician's advice, even if contradicted by something written here. You and your physician know your situation far better than anyone else could.