Wednesday, 5 January 2022

Brain Fog, Fatigue and Frustration

When I was in my 20s, the only time I felt exhausted after doing basic daily chores was if I was ill with flu or similar, or struggling with depression that took all my energy out of me. And as that included looking after 3 children under 6 at one point, one at school, one at nursery and a baby - it was pretty damn tiring. But I was back at the supermarket when baby no 3 was just days old with the other 2 in tow. I just kept going and got on with it.

In 2008, while in my early 30s, I got diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I don't know if it was the added stress of a 4th pregnancy and child, trying to look after 4 kids who were always at different schools whilst I had no car during the day- which involved a timetable and a lot of walking, or the fact my anxiety and depression had never been addressed and my childhood and teenage traumas were catching up with me? Whatever the cause, I was often needing a rest, although I still did early mornings for schools, football early at weekends and all the shopping, meals, housework etc as well as helping Dave with our part time work from home business. 
By my late 30s I was struggling more, Dave was by then working from home most of the time and so cooked some of our dinners, but as various health issues appeared, I often felt run down or with a sore throat etc. So, I conserved my energy in only doing one tiring thing a day, changed my diet, took some homeopathy and supplements and I felt things slowly started improving.
For a while at least! Until in 2015 I just couldn't cope and wasn't able to do any extra work for Dave.  Even sitting on the PC doing simple data entry made me tired and stressed. He told me to stop and rest myself. 2016 was when I found out about the Hemangioblastoma in my cerebellum. 

Especially as the neurosurgeon thought my tumour had been there for years, 

if not decades, it might have explained a lot... 🤔

Those first few months after surgery were interesting... I was tired after walking to the garden at one point. Had to make sure I got everything I needed before I climbed the stairs. I still remember feeling happy I finally could walk my dog in the park alone after 3 months! In total, it's a 15 minute walk.

I have mentioned the fatigue a few times in the immediate years after, as well as the reality and understanding of what neurofatigue or brain fog actually meant to me here.
Roll on 6 years after I first really noticed I had something major going on with my body (I first saw the Dr's in January 2016, it took until April for a diagnosis) And yes, the fatigue is better and not as frequent, but it certainly hasn't gone either

I have managed to do things such as spend a couple of days landscaping the garden, or moving flowerpots and items around while re-potting plants, painting the lounge walls and redecorating for a week. However, each time I do something more major by the time the second day is ending, I am too tired to even think about cooking, or almost eating at some points. I struggle to find even the simplest words for either someone to help me with something such as help move some shelves, or to explain a task such as the dishwasher needs to go on. I often end up all but crying from tiredness and the frustration of being so exhausted from just doing what many could do easily. I need to go to bed at 9pm and just can't move anywhere. Plus I am certainly tired after, often for several days.

Last week I had a head cold, then my husband a flu type illness these last few days, and although he's not asked me too do much, a mix of me still feeling snotty, him fidgeting at night and so I'm waking up, plus having to more chores as he can't do them, and I'm exhausted again. I've fallen asleep in the day several times, gone to bed in the day as I cant think, even more. 

I have had a few days where my head feels like it's made of cotton wool that's simultaneously being pulled tight around the outside. My scar area aching and even the feeling of 'the wooden plank' down my head and neck comes back. Unable to think what I want to say easily, then saying the wrong words when I do. My vision is awful and my reactions slow and dulled. 

To everyone else this is what you feel like when you've got flu, or been on the piss all weekend (or Christmas!) me it's just when I'm tired. Yes I don't feel like this every day, but frequently enough to say I have fatigue.
Not after doing something extremely draining, not after a really big emotional event... just a small daily task or event that has been a bit tougher than average, often one where you think it shouldn't really cause an issue.
Actually, talking about events, it was our sons wedding in November. It all went brilliantly and I enjoyed the day, albeit I was wanting to sit down alone by 6pm as I felt so tired! I could feel I was starting to say things that were a bit weird and didn't want to explain to every last stranger:

"Oh hey, sorry I'm talking odd, I'm not drunk,

 I just had a brain tumour" 

Sometimes it's easier to just let them think I might have had a few! 😬
I had to leave a bit early at just before 11pm as I could feel it was fully getting too much. But the next day... I went out in the car about 10.30 to get some bread. I could barely think. My head felt like mush, it almost felt like my brain was vibrating from the fact it didn't want to be working yet. I felt a bit wobbly and totally not with it. My vision not working properly even with my glasses on. It was just awful, and all from emotional, rather than physical tiredness. I often think that is far worse.

 If my body is tired, a sleep helps. If my brain is tired, not much helps. 

I rested as much as I could that week, tried to get out in nature and all the things that help, but it still lasted about 10 days before I felt I didn't have brain fog and wanted to cry anymore.

One of the things that gets to me most is when others seem to think its a competition in who's the most tired. Like that's a competition I want to win!!😬 People who say they have insomnia often saying they are tired, but (often) can still get on with things. They can work, still do most things people take for granted. I can't seem to explain that when I'm tired, I need to go to bed and physically rest. I can sleep for 9 hours and still feel exhausted and unable to think.
I can't go out again without a rest, nor walk to the pub, or see a friend, or even do a hobby. I can't even paint if tired, I just spill or drop things everywhere and cannot judge distances or see enough to do what I want to do. I ruin the work I have previously done. I can just about write, as long as its the basics of what I am thinking at that point, something I can edit later when I have more brain power. But I still have to deal with the frustration of making writing legible or correcting each word when I type. If you see me cooking and all the objects going flying you would wonder how I don't hurt myself more often!
If I want to go out late in the evening I need to have at least a 45 minute sleep in the afternoon, although it often takes me another 45 minutes to fully wake up again after! Yet people see me that evening and say I look and seem well, not realising that going out was the only thing I could plan for that day. On the few occasions I have not been able to sleep beforehand, I either really struggle talking or coordinating myself that night, or am just far too tired to do anything or go out the next day. Once the neurofatigue has hit, I can't read a book or plan things, or do a task such as organising the food shopping, well not without doing much of it wrong.
Then there have been some times that I have been physically exhausted, such as after painting the house and I am tired, but feel fine the next day after a sleep. I think it's as I actually enjoy doing that, it doesn't overwhelm me and am not finding anything too emotionally tough. I do know its worse when there is too much visual and audio stimulation or I've been talking to people who I dont know well - those I dont feel I can talk to without judgement from. I can sometimes almost feel my brain going sideways inside me at this point. Its hard to predict, what conversations and events will be good for the soul or simply too much for my brain.

This winter, which has been tough in so many ways, I decided to take up doing a lot of crochet. I am on my second Granny Square blanket. 😊 Making a simple square at a time is not taxing and I don't have to remember a pattern or where I was. I simply make lots and sew them together after. As well as being a useful item, its also relaxing and therapeutic. Anyone want a blanket?! 😂 


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