I am sure a majority of you with fibromyalgia have experienced, at one time or another, speaking on a subject only to forget an important … um, what do you call it .. um, um (snapping fingers)? Oh, the frustrations of having fibro-fog, the affectionate term for such cognitive issues as word-finding difficulty, memory loss, and overall comprehension.
I try to laugh it off, calling it my “Duh!” moments, but deep down, it can be very disconcerting. Certain issues create a stronger visceral reaction than others. For me, some of the response is pride as much as wanting to remain consistent in my functioning.
In high school, I was an above-average student in English, with accolades to literature as opposed to grammar. That said, I feel that the river of vocabulary words is not very deep, so when one word cannot be retrieved, few synonyms are readily available. I also have been one to express myself more effectively through writing, so if I am struggling to find words when writing, can you imagine the amount of slang and basic terminology that comes out of my mouth when speaking?
I can’t recall when the word-finding first began. However, I do know when it magnified to the point of being disturbing. I was at a deli ordering sandwiches and I forgot “tuna fish.” I literally had to point at the item through the glass-enclosed counter. At that moment, I wondered if this was what people with early stage dementia experienced. It is a harsh reality, and a scary one at that, but at least we are fortunate that the symptom doesn’t last.
Another fibro-fog symptom is when logic or comprehension is blurred. When this happens to me, I feel like a placard with the phrase “Does Not Compute” might as well be placed on my forehead. Not only is it embarrassing, I worry that others will think I am not very bright. I think this is the hardest one for me to face.
Pre-fibromyalgia, and before the illness had progressed to the severe stage, I was a hard worker, a fast learner, and enjoyed a challenge. I was pleasantly surprised when professors and mentors called me smart. To lose that edge, I feel helpless and admittedly inept, as if all the years of acquired knowledge have been sucked out of me, like putting a vacuum in reverse.
Least I not forget, being forgetful. My memory was something that made me proud. I could recite portions of a conversation verbatim. At work, when conducting psychiatric interviews, aside from taking thorough notes, I could remember most from memory when writing up a report or discussing in a meeting. To lose that skill is hard to tolerate sometimes. Post-It notes always have been my best friend when it came to making lists. Now, it is a reminder for most things. Making it known to myself only aggravates the problem, especially word-finding difficulties.
As I mentioned, these deficits occur out of the blue and can disappear just the same. I have not found a pattern, and an onset of a flare does not guarantee its occurrence. When it does happen, I try to take a deep breath, and if needed, tell others who know that I have fibromyalgia that I am having a lapse in memory, or understanding, or trouble finding the exact words. If it is someone who does not know my health status, I just laugh off the event with a joke or ask the person to “refresh my memory,” or state something to the effect of “can’t think of the word.” In other words, I make comments that many use in everyday situations, without tipping them off to my cognitive issues.
I try to read every day, whether it be the news, research articles, or inserts in the mail. I also play crossword puzzles and “Bookworm” (an online word search game). Not only do I enjoy such activities, but I like to think I am taking a step toward keeping my brain active and strong.
Mainly I try to remember that my current self is still intelligent and contributing, regardless of any limitation.
Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.
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