When I think about Lyme brain, or brain fog, I envision a clear beautiful sky hindered by stagnant, dark grey clouds that block the sun and literally don’t move, not even for the wind. They just get heavier and heavier as the rain accumulates but doesn’t fall. Imagine if NY was like that all the time? That would suck. Imagine if your mind was like that all the time?
Brain fog encompasses a handful of unpleasant neurological manifestations of Lyme disease — such as difficulty concentrating, memory loss or the inability to store and recall information, inability to process information, difficulties with visual, spatial and mathematical skills, and inability to problem solve.. the list goes on.
When I first experienced these symptoms in the Fall of 2009, I was in my first semester of college studying to be a Physician Assistant. Everyone knows college can be difficult, especially the science courses, but I went from an honor roll student with a strength in science to a failing student who couldn’t recall enough information to pass an exam in any class – despite hours and hours of studying. All these bizarre symptoms in addition to severe migraines that left me bedridden, vomiting and debating whether I should call an ambulance half the time, led me to a neurologist who ultimately diagnosed me with my late stage neurological Lyme.
I’d love to say the brain fog cleared after the diagnosis, but it actually got worse. I dropped out of college and moved back home for the next 9 months to focus on my health. As I trialed antibiotics and herxed horribly, my neurological symptoms waxed and waned and I only became more and more frustrated with myself. I would get lost on my 5 mile drive home from the hostess job that I had for 3 years already, I would lock myself out of my car or my house countless times and I would miss appointments and important dates because I just couldn’t remember. All the while my irritability was at an all time high, and these annoyances that I can now brush off or laugh at, would leave me in tears of anger almost every day. By this point not only have you lost your physical abilities, but you feel like you’re losing your mind, and you’re losing yourself. I used to think I could never come back from that.
My saving grace when Lyme brain was at it’s worst was IV antibiotics. Two summers of IV antibiotics landed me in the hospital and later without a gallbladder, but I improved so much so that I could go back to college to study nursing. Healing from Lyme disease always seems to be a give and take kind of process.
I’m a highly functioning sick person, but I can’t say that brain fog doesn’t plague me day to day. I’m forgetful, I can’t concentrate, I’m easily distracted, and I usually have to read a sentence a few times before I can process it (especially if there’s noise around me). I’m sure you can think of a handful of diagnoses to give me other than Lyme disease, or maybe you think well you’re just busy and stressed – that’s why its called the great imitator. I really don’t know what I would do without Siri jotting down all of my reminders and appointments for me, or without having my daily cup of mushroom coffee. What do you do to help beat brain fog?