“Significant Cognitive Impairment”

This is what a Doctor in my Occupational Health Department wrote when detailing part of my symptoms and why I am not currently for work.  I find it slightly amusing.  I think my wife would argue I had this long before I got sick!

Brain-fog is such a pain sometimes and it affects more of what I do than I realised.  Normal conversations are hard because I forget what we are talking about just moments earlier, I can’t plan journeys to new places or adjust timings, following a recipe is almost impossible, counting change is like sitting an exam and talking on the phone is, well, embarrassing really, I keep zoning out and having to apologise.

Looking back I think I was experiencing some form of brain-fog prior to getting full-blown ME/CFS symptoms.  I recall particularly struggling to remember peoples’ names.  And it wouldn’t just be people I didn’t know that well it was people I’d been friends with for years.  Or famous film, T.V. or sports stars.  People I knew a lot about, who were instantly recognisable to me but I simply could not remember their names.  It was quite concerning and very frustrating.  At the time I put it down to sleep deprivation from shift-work but now I am not so sure.  I wonder if it was the early signs of this illness and I wonder if others have had similar experiences.  I’m sure, in time, as awareness increases and research budgets grow we may find an answer.

I have tried a few tactics to reduce the effects of brain-fog.  I have a wee book which I write down important information.  But I kept losing it.  So I decided to put it in the same place every time wrote something in it.  But I would forget where that place is too leading me to, very slowly, ransack my house until I was reunited with it!

Most of my important information is now on my phone which rarely leaves my sight and I have a wall calendar onto which I write all of my appointments.  This serves me pretty well so far and I would be lost without them.  Where possible I try to keep things as simple as I can.  This blog has helped a lot because I can put down my thoughts as they come to me.  I will usually write a few dozen words in a day before I start to lose track of where I am going.

There is kind of an unwritten rule in the Police that doing paperwork on a nightshift is an exercise in futility because you’ll come back to work the following evening only to find you had written a report filled with utter nonsense!  The same is true for me now, more often than not I re-read what I wrote the previous day or a few hours earlier and it is incomprehensible drivel!  I notice I jump around a lot; it is very hard to concentrate though – similar to being drunk in a lot of ways.

Brain-fog can have its moments of levity too, especially when I mix up my words.  Recently I was getting dressed, I couldn’t find my jeans so I asked my wife if she had seen my pair of piddles!  Recently I suffered a flare-up which for some reason I referred to as a back-draft!

I have taken to explain to people I meet that I have memory problems early into a conversation which takes the pressure off me.  I find the more relaxed I am the less my brain-fog is a factor, or perhaps I am less conscious of it.  In a lot of ways brain-fog is difficult to pin down and so addressing it is challenging – you never quite know what to expect or how it will affect you next.

In the meantime please don’t be offended if I forget what we were talking about or I lose my train of thought.  I will most likely ask you the same question a few times, please be patient with me, and trust me I would love to have remembered what you said!

Author: Jonathan

Hello! My name is Jonathan. I have ME/CFS and have done so for around 2 years. I live in rural Aberdeenshire with my wife and our dog Trudy. I am originally from the Outer Hebrides where most of my family still live. After school I left home to study psychology at The University of St. Andrews and moved to Aberdeen after graduation. In 2004 I joined what was Grampian Police, now Police Scotland, where I have enjoyed a varied career in a number of operational, community and partnership based roles including a 2 year sabbatical working in residential child care. Prior to developing ME/CFS I was a keen cyclist, runner, climber and skier. I love the outdoors, always have since I was a child, and I try to spend as much time outside as I can. I have never blogged before so this is a whole new experience for me. I hope you will enjoy the journey with me!

2 thoughts on ““Significant Cognitive Impairment””

  1. Jonathan I’m so sorry you are feeling so unwell but you have nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about. You have made Ali so incredibly happy which is so lovely for us to see. So sit with that beautiful wife of yours while you wait together for that grass to dry. Take care. Ali, Stuart and Hannah. xx


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