November Dandelions

I sat outside to get some fresh air and watch my pups romp. Nature always helps me to reset, if only marginally, regardless of whatever is going on. Today was no exception.

Currently, there are a lot of things making it difficult for me to feel grounded and steady. Most obviously: today's election and the undercurrent of unease, fear, and even anger emanating from pretty much everyone I come into contact with. Not to mention my own variances of those emotions with which I'm try to balance and grapple. 

But there are other things as well. Largely difficult and emotional things friends are going through, as well as some somewhat painful self-growth and deep-seated things I'm trying to sift through myself. 

So, I sat outside to get some fresh air and watch my pups romp. I thought about how interesting nature is; how, in so much turmoil—like today's and all the various turmoils and changes that have come before—nature just goes. Not actively or outwardly, really. But with a quiet strength and steadfast feeling I want to wrap around me.

And then I wondered what it must be like to be so stable, to move along without too much change between one day and the next. How, when nature does change, it is slow and deliberate. How even its changing is steadfast. 

I thought about this and smiled at my fluffballs as they sniffed around, wondering what I could do to help with all this chaos inside of me and around me. And then I found, next to my house where I usually sit, a wee dandelion.

Dandelions are my thing; I have had a long standing love-affair with dandelions for a myriad of different reasons. But in all my years, I have never seen one this late in the season.

So I sat outside with my dogs and breathed the fresh air and found this rogue dandelion and now I think: maybe we'll be OK. Maybe we'll be OK as long as we keep close. If we work to surround ourselves with people who know us and love us. People who forgive us if we act out of anger and who will listen to us when we try to speak. People who get us and root for us, who shelter us and believe in us. And the people who don't? To do neither harm nor spend too much of our energy on them if it is not appreciated.

Usually I pluck up dandelions, make a wish, and give them a blow to the wind—but I figured November dandelions are special enough to warrant a change, don't you think? So I stayed on my step, took a deep breath, and made a great big wish for all the people in my heart. All the ones I keep close. And then I smiled and went back inside, leaving the dandelion where it found me. Because, this time, it felt better to keep its little roots in, down into the earth. The earth that just goes. Not actively or outwardly, but goes. Just goes and goes with a quiet, steadfast strength.

 

 

The Difference Between Brainfog and Forgetfulness

Really? I’m dedicating an entire post to brain fog?

Yup. Because after I go through all the technical explanations about my (insert whichever chronic illness I am trying to describe here), brain fog—more than anything else—leaves people a bit perplexed.

While one can often scientifically (and laboriously) describe the effects chronic illnesses have on the body, brain fog can come across as more of a general, non-specific term. I mean, look at it. Brain fog. It’s like the name of a slapdash band from the 1980s or something my nephew made up.

Regardless, even while the medical field doesn’t always acknowledge it (though recently I have had more doctors recognize it), and a slicker sounding name might be better (i.e. Cerebrum stuffyconfusa…?), it doesn’t make it, or the massive frustration is brings, any less real.

I have always had a sharp memory. Freakish even. Tiny details of what a stranger was wearing at my brother’s graduation party when I was 6, where a specific bit of information is in a 500-page textbook, birthdays mentioned in passing.

But things are different these days.

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More often than I would like, I am in mid-sentence when I completely shut off. Mouth agape, eyes rolling around in my head as I desperately try to think of that rudimentary word. (It’s “door,” Sarah! Door!) Sure, lots of people forget what they were going to say but with brain fog, I forget everything I was saying. Often times, even after I’m reminded of what I was talking about, it takes me a good minute or two to call it back to memory. Additionally, how embarrassing is it when you have to sit there for 20 seconds to recall a word like “door?” “I walked through the…” “Reverie? Time-space continuum? Electromagneticastrosphere?” “Um… no. The thingy that does this: *hand gestures*

Thankfully my family and friends are aware of this, but when it happens with strangers it can be mortifying.

Similarly, I often forget what day it is. Then I forget what day it is five seconds after I ask what day it is. If someone requests for me to bring them something, I’d say 10 percent of the time I actually remember to do so. I forget doctor’s appointments, responding to email/phone calls from people checking in to see how I am, changing the oil in my car.

(Personal lament: I love words, so it’s always extra fun when, after sending an email, I find I forgot how to spell something. Or, if that isn’t enough, I’ve completely omitted words from a sentence and/or substituted a completely unrelated word. “Dear Boss, I have the book busy today. Thanks!”) Sigh.

Most of the time I’m able to get a kick out of these things, but brain fog can also have more detrimental effects.

I have been taking my medication at the same times every day for years, but there have been weeks where I just completely forgot them. And it isn’t like my routine had changed at all. Work didn’t start at a different time or I was at someone’s house in a different time zone. Things were exactly the same... I. Just. Forgot. Then, of course, because I’m missing meds, my symptoms get worse, which means I get more brain foggy, and more spectacular emails to my boss are sent.

How much water have I had today? It has to have been a couple liters, right? (Try barely a glass full.) Did I forget to send my nephew a card for his birthday? (Damn it.)
I even have to make a note to, “make a note of things to do today.” And don’t get me started on how demoralizing it is to try to sit down and write. I haven’t been able to focus for months.

However, out of all this information, I think this may be the most important to understand: Forgetfulness and brain fog bring about two different kinds of feelings because they are two different things. Sure, I’ve been preoccupied in my thoughts and then found myself trying to remember what I was going to do next; being forgetful makes me feel flighty. But having moments while driving where I honestly cannot remember where I am going, where I am, and how I got there? Brain fog makes me feel frustrated, panicky and confused.

And it’s hard. Transitioning from someone who could remember the weirdest details to someone who now has to think for 30 seconds to remember her 10-year-old dog’s name? When people chalk it up to forgetfulness, it makes it even harder. Forgetfulness comes across as something you can work on; brain fog, just like chronic pain, dizziness, other symptoms, etc., is something you have to cope with and adapt to.

So what can family and friends do?

Please, please be patient and understanding. Chances are we are already ripping ourselves apart for forgetting to get a birthday present for our niece, or not getting the tickets to the movie, or spacing on filling up the cat’s empty water bowl. Also, when we blank out in the middle of the sentence, stay with us and appear engaged. A look of understanding can go a long way in that moment where we feel like complete idiots.

Find a gentle way to remind us. I admit, I’m a bit of a proud person, so I can get a bit defensive when my someone asks how much water I’ve had or if I’ve taken my meds (especially when I’m already frustrated at myself for forgetting). But I need it some days. A designated note-spot by the fridge or on the phone helps for other things. I have a calendar now and write things down in like, eight different places.

Lastly, assure us it’s OK. Being exhausted and not being able to do the physical things you want? It sucks. But, on top of that, forgetting “simple” things, important things like calling your best friend, and just feeling all stuffed up in your mind? That really sucks. So give us a big hug and/or tell us it’s OK when we beat ourselves up about it. We often need to be reminded that we’re not a big ol’ burden even though stuff falls out of our heads sometimes.

Inside an Obsessive Mind: Pie Poetry Edition!

First Christmas that my lad and I
will be apart from kin,
so I brainstorm something special
to keep the season in:

"I shall make some yummy things!
Like all the grown-ups do!
A turkey! Stuffed with stuffing!
And smashed potatoes, too!"

I stopped just short of "Vegetables!" -
hot damn, was that one close.
I may be faux grown-up-ing it
but veggies are still gross.

"PIE!" I yelled at very last
though I knew it since the start.
"Pumpkin and delicious!
And spiced to warm the heart."

So Christmas crept in tiny paces
until its Eve arrived
and I mixed and poured and baked
and soon a pie was pied.

"It's good." I said after a bite,
the fork still in my hand.
"But it's just not right 'enough' I think."
And that's when it began:

"I will make a new one!
To make it how I must!
New custard and new sweetness!
A new and flaky crust!"

'Cept two pies, although good,
might make digestion skewed;
"I could toss the first", I thought,
"but I don't like wasting food."

"Give slices to our neighbors then?"
But that was weird as well -
'Here is half a pie, new friends!
Aren't we friggin' swell?!'

"Accept it, Me!" I told myself.
"It's not a big 'to do'.
Love and friends are all that's right!"
And I know this through and through.

But minds are silly, funny things.
And mine the most of all -
Stuck in little endless thoughts,
looped and imbecile.

So here I am, I'm wide awake,
with options all repeating.
None of which'll fit just right
but none of which are leaving!