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a person driving a car through a fog with a brain shaped air freshener

My AxSpAnalogy: Steering Through Brain Fog

Brain fog continues to be the AxSpA symptom I struggle the most with. Yes, the pain sucks and I could do without the fatigue but it’s the sporadic cognitive impairments I find most aggravating.

I’ve written about this before, so I’ll spare the details on what I go through and try to put a positive spin on it as to how I manage it.

Fortunately, brain fog happens much less frequently since I found an effective treatment for me. Gone are the days where I am constantly fuzzy-minded (knock on wood). I’ve realized that driving as a pertinent analogy to help me cope, I must approach brain fog the same way I do when I hit a patch of fog on the road.

Have you ever driven through thick fog?

It sucks.

The fog makes you blind behind the wheel, oncoming traffic comes seemingly out of nowhere. So I slow down and take extra precautions and the fog will soon lift to let the speedometer get back to where I’d like to see it.

I do the same with brain fog. I must take my foot off my imaginary gas pedal to navigate through to the other side. Instead of literally pumping my brakes, I do it metaphorically and instead of a pedal I use purposeful breathing to slow myself down.

The more flustered I get, the more my natural reaction is to turn to frustration and try and rapidly hack and whack my way through whatever task is at hand. However, I have learned - often the hard way - that isn’t a helpful coping mechanism.

So, when brain fog kicks in and I struggle to string a sentence together, or I fumble everything across the kitchen trying to make dinner, or I drain half the dish water from the sink down the front of my shirt, I’ve learnt it’s time to pump the proverbial brakes.

I can take a breath and know it’s okay to simplify my vocabulary to get my point across, or perhaps I need to switch to a two-handed grip, so things don’t go flying. The specific solution is situational to the occasion, but the general concept seems to ring true.

For example, the other night cooking dinner I was in a fog. I was trying to chop carrots to put into a salad and every time I went to scoop up the pieces, I would get clumsy and start fumbling them across the kitchen. So, I took a deep breath, grabbed a bigger spoon, and slowed my process down so the carrot pieces could be salad-bound instead of being destined for the linoleum below.

Often, it requires the same kind of added concentration as does driving through fog

Much like the brake lights will see added illumination and the driver’s attention must be fixated to the road more than normal traffic, so too does my breath and my attention to navigate the mental mist.

For me, instead of making sure I am dialed into the brake lights ahead of me and to the white and yellow lines guiding my path, I’m dialling into every small detail of the task in front of me.

For example, if I’m chopping up some vegetables for supper, I will pay attention to every detail of each cut. Get my fingers out of the way of the blade, slice down, remove the cut pieces into the bowl or pan or whatever I’m using. Slowing down and paying attention to every detail will get me through.

Like on the road, I won’t reach my destination as quickly as I intended, but if I slow down and give it extra attention to get through, eventually the fog will lift and it will be smooth sailing again.

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