Can Brain Fog Hurt Chronic Illness ME CFS Fibromyalgia spoonie post

Can Brain Fog Hurt? // Chronic Illness

Hi guys – happy weekend!  Hope everyone is having a good one so far (even if you’re in the rainy UK, like me).  I’ve been dying to write this post – can brain fog hurt?  This question has been burning a hole in my brain and I wanted to see what everyone else thought.  If you’re not sure what brain fog is, Wiki desribes it here as:

“A clouding of consciousness.  It is a term used in medicine denoting an abnormality in the regulation of the overall level of consciousness that is mild, and less severe than a delirium.  The sufferer experiences a subjective sensation of mental clouding described as feeling ‘foggy’.”

If you’re not a regular reader, I have chronic illnesses – M.E (/CFS) and fibromyalgia.  I was diagnosed in 2013 and the symptoms began long before that, as a less intense level.  So I’m definitely not new to brain fog!  It is something I’ve done battle with for several years now!  When I was unwell but still able to work, I had terrible brain fog.  

Can Brain Fog Hurt Chronic Illness ME CFS Fibromyalgia spoonie post


What Causes Brain Fog?

The ME Clinic explained that it was because my body was putting all its energy into my basic everyday ‘survival’.  Getting up early, getting ready and doing a full day’s work was taking all my energy, leaving nothing to spare for laying down short-term memory.  That left me struggling to remember directions to places I had been going for most of my life; forgetting names; losing what I was saying half way through sentences.  I would struggle with cognitive function – concentrating on tasks, figuring out sums and solutions to problems at work. 

Can Brain Fog Hurt Chronic Illness ME CFS Fibromyalgia spoonie post

It was a huge problem at the time, and only really improved a bit when I became too unwell to work (a tiny silver lining I guess?!)  Once my body was getting the rest it craved, the fog cleared a bit.  I could finally speak for more than a few minutes without completely forgetting what I was talking about!  I no longer tried to cook without switching on the hob (yep, that really happened…).  Whilst I still had brain fog and it was still pretty annoying, it had improved to the point where I became used to it and didn’t give it a lot of thought.  My attention was focused on my fatigue and pain, which were much worse.

My Brain Fog Episode!

I had a bit of an ‘episode’ recently, which is where this whole burning question thing came from!  I was lying in bed with my laptop (much like now!) trying to do a meal plan for the week, whilst adding the food we needed to my online shopping basket.  My husband does most of the cooking, but I like to do the food shopping when I can (thank god for online shopping!)  

I was starting to get a bit muddled going back and forth between the plan and the shopping.  My thinking had gone a bit foggy and unclear, and my head was hurting a little bit.  In reality, I was way too tired and unwell to actually be doing it.  But we hardly had any food in and I was determined it needed doing.  I should have stopped when the warning signs kicked in, but I didn’t want to lose my allocated delivery slot.

All of a sudden, my headache got much more intense, to the point where I had to abandon what I was doing.  My husband came up to see if I was ok, and I could barely string a few words together.  I’m not exaggerating that by that point, I probably couldn’t have answered my own birth date!  I was frantically searching for words and information in my head, feeling like I was swimming through a thick fog.  My vision even felt worse at that point!  It’s so difficult to explain, but I get why they call it brain fog – it really does feel like the inside of your head is filled with mist in place of a brain!!

Can Brain Fog Hurt Chronic Illness ME CFS Fibromyalgia spoonie post

The Point of No Return…

I could tell I’d gone past the point of no return and desperately needed to ‘reset’ by having a nap.  My headache had got almost to the point of a migraine and I felt nauseous.  I also felt a mild sense of panic, as I’d never experienced it quite that severely before.  If I’d been alone, somewhere out of the house, I dread to think what would have happened!  I lay down in the dark and eventually managed to have a short nap.  

By the time I woke up, the brain fog had cleared quite a bit, although I felt absolutely exhausted.  It was the first time I’d really realised that brain fog can actually hurt!  Like, physically.  It is so strange to me that something cognitive, to do with brain function, can actually cause outward pain or discomfort!  But I suppose when I used to have anxiety, that could manifest in chest pain so maybe it’s not that surprising after all.

Your Experiences

What I want to know is – have you experienced brain fog that physically hurt?  Do you have any methods of coping with this?  Let’s share as much information as we can with each other in the comments, or on social media.  I really want to find some helpful coping tips in case it happens to me again!

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11 thoughts on “Can Brain Fog Hurt? // Chronic Illness

  1. Rhiannon says:

    Brain fog can be scary at times. I tend to get the pain side of it before I get to the point of not being able to say a sentence so my body forces me to lay down for a bit. It’s either like a migraine or like there’s a lot of pressure on my head, like a sinus thing but not in the right place if that makes sense. My only coping mechanism is lay down in a dark room with a cold, wet paper towel on my forehead and have something I know really well on DVD going with the screen turned off on my laptop. I only have something playing because when it’s absolute silence my brain tries to think and it’s my only way to completely shut off from thinking. It’s not really a way of fixing it but it stops it from getting worse and if I manage to sleep it reduces it. I don’t know that there is a way, besides resting, of actually stopping it. Though if anyone knows of any I’d definitely try it! Hope you manage to get some rest 🙂

    • Katie Cupcake - Life with ME says:

      It really can! I used to get quite upset when it first started. I’d lose my way driving to the hospital or do really stupid things when trying to cook etc, and used to end up in tears. After a while, I learnt to see the funny side of it! But this episode was pretty scary as it was so much more intense than I’d ever experienced. Interesting to hear you experience the pain too (although sorry to hear that lol!) That’s such a great idea about the DVD – that’s exactly the sort of tip I need!!! I was literally trying to imagine an empty white room to stop my brain attempting to think, as the thinking hurt! I’ll definitely be trying the DVD next time, thank you so much! xx

      • Rhiannon says:

        Glad I could help 🙂 It’s good to find the funny side, though it does take a while, some of the things I’ve done with brain fog you just have to laugh at, making tea without a teabag is the most common I think lol. It always feels odd saying you’re glad someone else has something like this but it is nice to know it’s now just you, if that makes sense 🙂 I find shows like friends work best, ones where I know all the words, or there are a couple of radio shows I listen to sleep that I have on itunes, they’re good for that kind of thing too.

  2. Laura Chamberlain says:

    Yes! Yes! Yes!

    I have two types of post exertional malaise, one triggered by physically overdoing it and one triggered by mentally overdoing it, and the mentally is much worse. As well as triggering the same symptoms as physically over exerting, i have the normal brain fog symptoms but worse than normal, plus a fog in that my brain that does hurt, it actually feels like there’s something on my brain. And I can’t do anything without my brain feeling like it’s straining itself.

    • Katie Cupcake - Life with ME says:

      Ah that’s interesting that you have two types! I think now you say that, I have the same lol. But yeah when I’ve overdone it mentally, it definitely seems more severe. It’s such a hard thing to explain unless someone has experienced it, isn’t it? Hope you’re feeling ok at the moment xxx

  3. Bill Clayton says:

    Certainly when the fog is descending, it’s harder to concentrate on whatever it is you’re doing. The effort of concentration can give me headaches quite quickly. Another element most fit and well people would find hard to understand is that I get pain in my legs if I try to read and need to concentrate hard through the fog to get to the end of a paragraph. Yep, sore legs from reading, don’t we have all the fun !

    • Katie Cupcake - Life with ME says:

      Definitely, once it gets bad I find it almost impossible to focus and concentrate! How strange that you get pain in your legs! I’ve never heard that before. Really interesting how the mind/body connection works! I hope you’re feeling well as can be today xx

  4. Caz says:

    You’ve described brain fog really well and this is a very honest post. When you think about it, like you say, it makes sense on some level that the cognitive and mental elements can manifest outwardly and physically. Certainly interesting to think about in terms of how complex the mind-body connection is!

    Caz x

    • Katie Cupcake - Life with ME says:

      Aww thank you very much – I find it pretty difficult to describe so I’m glad it came across ok 🙂 Yeah it really is interesting how the mind/body connection works – I’d love to know a bit more about how ME works but they still don’t seem to know that much yet! Hope you’re having a good weekend! xxx

  5. Kerry says:

    Such a great explanation! I can certainly relate. I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Type 3 (now known as hEDS) and I certainly suffer from painful Brain Fog flares. I work full time in an intense role where I’m using computers 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. Hot baths with a few drops of Lavender and Peppermint help to me relax in the evenings and all of us spoonies know that sleep is our best friend. My most comical brain fog moment to date – putting the teabag in the kettle instead of filling it with water!
    Kerry x

    • Katie Cupcake - Life with ME says:

      Hey Kerry! Aww thank you very much – I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment! So sorry to hear about your ED – I have a few friends with that and I know it can be really tough going. Wow – well done on managing to work full time, that’s amazing! Ooh I hate the smell of lavender, but peppermint oil in the bath sounds pretty good. Haha that’s a pretty good brain fog moment LOL! Mine is probably attempting to cook a sauce for 20 minutes without realising the hob wasn’t on…!! xx

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