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Brain Fog: Selective?

Discussion in 'Cognition' started by creekfeet, Apr 4, 2010.

  1. creekfeet

    creekfeet Sockfeet

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    Does your brain fog get worse, faster, from some mental activities than from others? Are some mental activities more difficult for you, since you got ill, than others?

    I've been wondering if there's any discernible pattern to any of our swirls of fog.

    I always had a felicitous facility with words. I was never a math or science genius, but I was proud of the progress I made in those area when I applied myself, and got pretty quick with mental calculations.

    Then I got sick and brain fog descended. My ability to perform mental math became sporadic, and sometimes I couldn't figure out the simplest calculation, even on paper. Was this because it wasn't my best subject? However, not only math, but my reading skills suffered. Even when reading an engaging novel I found myself having to re-read paragraphs, and still not understanding them. The words and ideas seemed to swim and drown. (However I can read aloud, or hear things read aloud, and comprehend what's said for many pages at a time.) As for trying to absorb scientific or technical information, even the most simply presented is beyond me and the strain to think actually brings on physical pain.

    Still, only at my very most exhausted and in pain am I unable to come up with a haiku or an acronym. Word games remain fun and easy. Is it because they're fun that they're easy?

    With my quickness for word play and my agonizing slowness over numbers I think I'm like a lab rat with a treat bar to push. I keep pushing the word play bar and receiving treats for my brain, and I avoid the painful zap of that other bar, the math bar that delivers a shock. Practice doesn't help: pushing the shock bar more would only make me more averse to shocks.

    How about you? Does thinking hurt? Do some forms of mental exertion come easier than others?
     
  2. jace

    jace Off the fence

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    I can always - nearly always - chat on the telephone, but like you, creek, reading is difficult. Only when at my best can I take on board a new story with pleasure, and I've lost count of the number of books I've only gotten a few pages into before my brain hurt too much.

    This is from a lady that could easily eat a new novel in a night.

    My stratagy for recreational reading is to go round and round a series of 20 novels of british naval adventures in the napoleonic era... They're the only books I can get that cosy lost in another world feeling from.

    I can't deal easily with more than one loved one at a time. I told my girls to go enjoy themselves elsewhere this Easter. It took a while to get over Mother's day. What is that all about?

    I used to be good enough at drawing, I'm not anymore. Sometimes I can't even stand listening to the radio.

    Yup.
     
  3. Koan

    Koan Be the change.

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    Yes, except no Haiku for me! However, I am the undefeated world champion (ok, ok, my world only but my world is full of brilliant word people) in Boggle. None can beat me, ever!

    That said, I just spent several minutes trying to figure out how to spell "undefeated" and kept trying to spell it: "undeafeted" and wondering what was wrong with it.

    Haven't played Boggle in a while. Maybe I should hang it up!
     
  4. creekfeet

    creekfeet Sockfeet

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    Incidentally I ought to give credit for my starting this thread to Sunday, with whom I was having a conversation in pm's about this puzzling brain stuff.

    Oh, Jace! Aubrey and Maturin, yes! Series are a great comfort to this former avid reader. I can be happy within any of several already-familiar fictional worlds but have a hard time finding my way around a new one. The Aubrey & Maturin novels, Discworld, #1 Ladies' Detective Agency... I can pick up even a new-to-me book in a familiar series and get engrossed. But a totally unfamiliar fictional place just won't let me in.

    Funny you can talk on the phone, though. I get very taxed very fast from phone calls, and do better with email contact. As for in person, any more than three people around me and I'm wiped out.

    Koan, I don't know Boggle but I'll have to try Scrabble again. I've only played a time or two since I got sick and felt it was more difficult than before, but it's worth another try.

    Backgammon involves numbers and mathematical strategy, and yet remains playable. My skill definitely varies with my level of exhaustion, though.

    Acronyms and haiku are the acid test. If I can't do one of those, it's long past time for a rest.
     
  5. creekfeet

    creekfeet Sockfeet

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    I feel like what I want are maps of our various brains. I'd love to see the pathways that are closed, the ones that are narrowed and the ones that remain broad and easy to travel, and compare those from brain to brain.
     
  6. Koan

    Koan Be the change.

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    Re: talking

    I am actually quite good in conversation especially with one person, in person. I get lots of clues and cues and can focus quite intently. Less so on the phone, which I also find far more taxing, but I can still do it. I can respond to cues in the moment much more easily than replying to email or responding to posts - my several thousand post total not withstanding. But, while inertia keeps me going in the moment I am toast when it's done.

    However, if the conversation depends on anything that was said at an earlier time or my knowing the name of the person I'm talking to or, sometimes, knowing who they are... I'm sunk. :worried:
     
  7. creekfeet

    creekfeet Sockfeet

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    Oh yeah. I forgot about memory! That's a place where the fogs swirl thickly for me. I'm learning, slowly, to be able to say right out that I don't remember things. Why does that feel so shameful?
     
  8. jace

    jace Off the fence

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    Yeah - you know - thingy - whatiisname? Butter! that's the word....
     
  9. creekfeet

    creekfeet Sockfeet

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    What's the stuff, it's like candles, but you can't eat it?

    Soap, Nobby. Remember the word.
     
  10. Wonko

    Wonko Senior Member

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    I'll give it a stab but as this is one of the sorts of things that brings on fog.........

    maths - I have 2 yrs of a maths BSc - ALL higher maths functions have simply gone - basic maths is posible most of the time

    language - being unable to find the correct word, misspeaking etc is common - I've leanrt not to push it to find the correct word or I can lose awareness of my environment and can end up (from my point of view lol) in revolving darkness while i hunt - as most of the time I forgot what I was looking for................( no idea if this is a normal symptom but I havent seen it mentioned by anyone else)

    temporal sense (time) - loose time all the time (lol) - occasional episodes of things get disordered so from my point of view the morning feels like it happened after the afternoon - if you arrange to meet me at a certain time there are times when I have no idea how to reference that information - it's not memory loss persay - I just have no idea what 3pm or in 2hours time means

    communication skills - very very rare for me to initiate communication in person, by phone or email - little things like christmas cards are very difficult - I have been known to miss xmas dinners at friends not becasuse I was physically too unwell but because despite weeks of tryign I couldnt deal with writing the obligitary card - at it's worst I cant talk - the thoughts wont form enough - mental tumbleweed

    reading - can read ok a lot of the time provided it's not too complex - once fog decends become progressively mre dyslexic the more I push it

    general memory - used to have a virtually perfect memory - could easily remember word for word conversations or somethign I'd read/seen a decade or more previously - now most of the time i couldnt tell you the day of the week and I have had instances where I couldnt remember my own name - literally

    there's a lot more - all of these are how brain fog affects me at different levels - some of them may strike a chord - I've doen the simple ones - some of them might not - I may edit to include more later but as i said at the start this sort of exercise causes me issues so thats it for now
     
  11. Koan

    Koan Be the change.

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    Dearest Wonko,

    Thank you! So much was familiar and so well expressed!

    Koan
     
  12. Misfit Toy

    Misfit Toy Senior Member

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    For 18 years of this illness, I always said I had no cognitive problems. Now, that has all changed. That is my biggest symptom. Stress makes it worse. Decision making is horrible and words, which used to come so easy are so hard to find.

    I don't do math anymore. I use a calculator for practically everything. I used to be a journalist. I could never do that now. Scrabble...not so much. This to me is the worst symptom of all.
     
  13. creekfeet

    creekfeet Sockfeet

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    Yes, Spitfire, to me too, it's the worst. If I had ever been told I would one day have an illness that would confine me to my home, I'd have taken comfort in the thought that I could read and write still. That I can't is painful.

    So odd, Spitfire, that you had 18 years of illness before this hit. I wonder if others have similar experience. I struggled to continue working from the first, and became less and less able to write up any information that came from my head instead of my heart.

    Wonko, that was indeed very well expressed and I recognized so much! That feeling of revolving darkness if I push the struggle to find a word: such a social nightmare. Interesting to note that you were someone with high math skills and learning, but you, too, lost your math ability. So I can't blame my loss of maths on the fact that it wasn't my strong suit to begin with.
     
  14. Koan

    Koan Be the change.

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    You know, Creek, "executive functioning" is badly affected making organization of material a real challenge. Perhaps that is why you can still write Haiku but not longer pieces. Of course, to some extent, we can all still do it. I continued to write after becoming ill but it changed from something I enjoyed doing to something I struggled to do but found worth the effort to, finally, something that felt like it would make my ears bleed. (Writing posts makes me feel that way as does writing emails or PMs.)

    However, since I could still churn out something that made sense and didn't require a lot of work on the part of the editor - if I allowed the blood to pour freely from my ears for seemingly endless awful hours - I was still offered writing work. And, I had terribly difficult disagreements/arguments with people offering me a gig because they felt sure I was judging myself too harshly or that my ego was running amok and they would reassure me and tell me they liked my "voice" and on and on... Trying to convince someone that you can no longer do something you love because you have become just a little bit demented is a very, very difficult thing to do!

    And, leaving them thinking you have chosen to live on disability when you could write for a living (or edit films or news - two other things I cannot convince people I can no longer do) if you weren't so... so... whatever it is they conclude you have become... lazy, neurotic, insecure, mystifyingly peculiar...

    hard
     
  15. Sunday

    Sunday Senior Member

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    That is interesting. Just so y'all know, in our PM discussion, Creekfeet and I both identified ourselves as formerly excellent word people and formerly not-so-hot math people. I was wondering if maybe the grooves that are worn into our brains most deeply are the ones that keep functioning the best.

    Well, that may be part of it, but as with so much with weird neuro stuff, apparently there is no one answer.

    The thing about brain fog is, it makes me feel as if I'm living without a personality. That's painful. I will say that doing a methylation protocol has helped my brainfog. Agonizingly slowly, but I haven't had a whiteout since November, much longer than I've ever gone without one before. And my sleep is better, which I'm sure helps. Still I think, "Oh, it's not so bad any more," and then I forget something really vital or really obvious, such as what I'm in the middle of doing and why I was doing it. A

    I'm experimenting with this selectivity thing by taking on an indexing job. for one thing, I need the money. for another, since I added a new supplement to my methylation protocol, I suddenly found myself able to read straight through adult books with fairly complex content, and get it. I haven't been able to do that for months. I'm hoping that this and my well-laid indexing grooves will suffice, but it may be the awful experience I had in my last indexing job in November, in the middle of terrible crashing. Short-term memory is a very very important parts of indexing, not sure about that. But the comprehension part seems to be coming back a bit.

    By the way for my fellow brainfog bibilophiles, I find that reading children's books and YA books is an excellent way to get an good story without having so many technical difficulties to navigate. I've always read children's books because a great story is a great story - and often they say things that adult literature can't get away with, because they are "just children's books". Of course there is crap juvy lit as well as crap adult lit, but there are many wonderful reads in the juvy and young adult departments. Also I read small bits of thought-provoking adult books, in the way that one would read a poem; I read a paragraph or three, chosen by bibliomancy, and ponder.

    In our PMs, Creekfeet pointed out that she can read aloud with no comprehension problems, but reading to herself often gets caught in that snarl of...oh yeah what was the beginning of that sentence? what is this thought I'm trying to read? I mentioned that McNeil (of McNeil-Lehrer) says that universal literacy is really a very recent occurrence, and we have far more neural wiring for the spoken word, including in our stem brains. Working on the "deep grooves" theory, I was wondering if this is why it seems to be easier for many of us to speak than to read. Thoughts?
     
  16. creekfeet

    creekfeet Sockfeet

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    Indexing, Sunday! Koan, film editing! The very thought of either makes, yes, earblood.

    I wonder how Terry Pratchett manages to write so amazingly despite Alzheimer's.

    Brains... strange. Mine is done for now but I'll check back when it recovers.
     
  17. Sunday

    Sunday Senior Member

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    By the way Koan, I was replying to the post above you; while your situation is also interesting it sounds a bit cold-blooded to just say that. I thought you gave such a good description of what it's like, as have others on this thread. Longtime friends ask what I've been reading, and until very recently all I could say is, "not much". It's really really hard to get the brainfog part across to those who haven't had it. How laborious it is to do every little thing.

    By the way, I didn't leave that unfinished sentence for poetic effect, but it did position itself nicely for a q.e.d..

    Bleeding through the ears sounds just like my last indexing experience, we'll see how this one goes. At least you bleed through the ears to good effect!
     
  18. Sunday

    Sunday Senior Member

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    TERRY PRATCHETT HAS ALZHEIMER'S????

    This gives me new hope.
     
  19. Wonko

    Wonko Senior Member

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    he uses a similar method to cope as I used to - multiple monitors - I can literally forget what I'm doing if I have to scroll up or switch windows - only solution I found was to have monitors setup so i could view everythign relevant at the same time

    of course that involves sittign at a desk which isnt something i do a lot of these days - my htpc which outputs to the tv is a solution that allows me to use a pc whilst lyign on the sofa :) - but it does have it's downside if i need to remember/lookup stuff which isnt in view

    many thanks for the comments thus far - it's 'nice' to know others have experienced similar things and I'm not totally insane - only a little lol

    anyway - 1 or 2 more

    self referencing - eg how do you feel, can you do X etc. practically all of the time will cause an immediate and heavy fogbank to roll in (roll in? it's more or less instant) makes fillign in forms a nightmare and tbh is one of the reasons i dont get DLA etc. leaves me in a state where I cant answer completely inocious questions like woudl you like a cheese sandwich (questions like what would you like for.......... fall into a broadly similar category but with less severe fog and can normally be answered in undera week) -

    the only way I have found to cope with this is to answer, then provide more detail around the original answer and keep going in small stages until what I've written provides a similar shape/impression when I read it back - thats the reason for all the '-''s - they divide fragments - (I waffle in other words lol) - and it's a lot of work to remove them without reducing coherency

    Imagine how much fun I am in conversation - when I can only add/edit in one direcion lol

    executive function - whilst it feels as if there is less of me when fogbound i've never attributed lack of function/ability to this - I've always put it down to simple lack of resources - eg it's difficult to make decisions if you cant remeber all the optons are or what precisely a cheese sandwich actually is - what you use it for etc. -

    edit - simplistic and doesnt cover it but.......

    edited - intellectual function - erm.......lets just say it's down a lot even without fog - with fog my cat out thinks me

    edited - problem soving - used to be my skill - it's not any more - even on a really good day - I can solve complex problems like how to get somewhere I havent been before (edited again - yep this is now what i class as a complex problem) - but this isnt often - eg it took me 3 years to figure out how to catch a bus to my doctors after they moved (largely because its not possible to catch A bus - I need to catch 2 - and this extra level of complexity was too much for me to deal with) - most of the time i cant solve problems I havent solved previously - on a bad day problably wont realise theres a problem in the first place

    fog - IMO both system wide and selective - it affects all area's but some abilities are effectively gone when foggy where as others are mearly hampered - mainly down to some things inducing more severe (effectively paralysing mentally) fog than others - I'd suspect that area's/abiites and severity would be down to individual makeup - but if the maths thing is anythign to go by then maybe not - it may reflect individual status more than makeup - we may have more in common ..............

    anyway I'm rambling again - probably time to shut up lol
     
  20. lululowry

    lululowry Senior Member

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    The doctor that I went to prescribed daily mindfulness practice specifically because of my decreasing executive functioning. He mentioned scientific studies on mindfulness as well. Unfortunately I was so foggy, I can't really remember what he said.:Retro redface: I am working on it. I can't read the hard stuff anymore but I don't want to lose reading...
     

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