Foggy Moments! Fibro Fog For Carers
By Chris Newton
One of the most debilitating conditions for a Fibromyalgia sufferer is one of the least understood by friends, family, loved ones and carers. It is affectionately known as Fibro Fog (Brain Fog to the rest of us).
We all get it to some extent, whether suffering from Fibromyalgia or not. It’s hugely frustrating because you cannot complete any tasks. Even eating or watching TV becomes a challenge. Heaven forbid you have to drive a car when fogged out.
For those carers that do not suffer from FMS, and have rarely experienced Brain Fog themselves, I’ll give you the overview so you can appreciate what is happening to your loved ones that do.
Why your computer is running slowly.
Bear with me here but computers are the perfect analogy to explain what is going on. In simple terms, Brain Fog happens when you nervous system runs out of processing power, just like a computer.
Imagine you have the latest computer; brand new and lightening fast. You’ve loaded two different applications to it that you use to get your work done. With this computer it is possible to run both applications at the same time, plus run the system software, generating all this important information simultaneously. This is known as Multitasking.
Now imagine one of the applications gets a glitch in it. Maybe a virus has changed a line of code and now it takes double the processing power to complete a task. You try to use the other app and this seems to be running slow too now. This is because the first application is using up all the processing power, leaving little left for the second application and the system software (which takes president over all other software). Your computer now cannot Multitask. If enough power is taken by that troubled app your computer will only Monotask (one thing at a time plus the system software). If any more power is taken then we have a crash – Brain Fog!
Just like the computer chip the human brain needs to Multitask. In fact, we can all multitask extremely well, it isn’t just women! But glitches in our software (our nervous system in this case) can draw down our power and reduce processor speed.
To create a situation where Multitasking becomes Monotasking or Brain Fog, the nervous system requires a glitch that it sees as a threat. Our brains are made to assess and protect us from threat as the primary system software. These are subconscious software programmes that we have little control over so a glitch here is deemed of high significance, and a glitch can be as simple as a pain receptor sending a faulty signal.
In the healthy public, simple monotasking is very common. You’ve slipped into it on those occasions when you can’t remember why you got up and went to the kitchen. Your brain was absorbed with something, so it managed to get you up and move you but didn’t have the processing power left to retain the reason why. In other words, you can’t hold two ideas in your mind at the same time, which is normally a doddle.
As for Brain Fog, well, have you ever forgotten everything including your personal details when doing an exam? That’s it right there, caused by simple and pointless stress!
Brain Fog in Fibromyalgia
Pain is deemed a threat by the nervous system. The more pain, the more threat. It takes a great deal of resource to manage this pain, which leaves very little left to complete other tasks.
When a FMS sufferer is forgetful it is likely they are monotasking at that moment. Their brain is preoccupied with the threat they feel and little reserve is left for anything else. Brain Fog comes when they are pushed over the edge.
When your brain perceives threat and makes you monotask it won’t have the capacity to deal with another threat. Anything they perceive as stressful at that moment will drive them over the edge. An argument, a stub of the toe and what is quite amazing is that something as simple as an unexpected brush against the skin can be enough to do it.
A brush against the skin is known to Neuroscience as Crude Touch and Crude Touch uses the Pain Pathways in your nervous system. This means that just a kind gesture to rub your partner’s back, when in FMS Monotasking, could be enough to trigger Brain Fog. In this condition, sleep is the only remedy.
What can be done.
As a career there are few things you can do for Brain Fog but it is possible to still be of help. Here are our Top Tips.
Learn to recognise when people are Monotasking (the precursor to Brain Fog). Look out for when they struggle to remember what they are doing. This is a big sign. Another great sign is when they lose their temper or get very irritable over seemingly simple things. It is purely because they don’t have enough processor power to rationalise. If you and they can learn the signs, then you can take action early to avoid three days of Brain Fog ensuing.
Once you notice the signs be gentle with them. They can’t handle any stress at this point because it will overload them. Encourage them to do these three things
Drink plain, filtered water
Get fresh air
Or go to bed and sleep
Support, support, support. You’ll need to curb your own negative reactions. I know this is hard. It is immensely challenging to retain compassion, day-in-day-out, with somebody that is fine one minute and not the next. There are clear neurological reasons for why they are reacting this way and every part of it is real, so they deserve your compassion. To support them when they are monotasking will help because you are on the knife edge of Brain Fog, which is much more difficult to cope with. A little help now will save a lot of heartache later.
Neuroscience explains many, if not all the symptoms of Fibromyalgia. At The Fibro Project we are able to assess and treat the reasons pain may exist within the nervous system. If you’re reading this article as a carer, a friend or a loved one then we can help. Our work is specifically tailored to reduce symptoms of FMS and help reduce occurrence of Brain Fog. For more information please contact us for an informal chat.