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.
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