On Brain Fog, Chronic Stress, and The Future

It’s 11:00PM and I’m laying in bed next to a snoring (adorably) Jon, feeling my heart beat in different places on my body in seemingly different rhythms all at once. My hand is pulsing slowly, my chest thumping hard and fast, while my legs seem to throb relentlessly at an unsteady pace.

Things have been weird lately. I live everyday in this relentless fog that seems to cover everything like a blanket and leaves the world with this odd and uncomfortable dream-like feeling. It started with my memory, blurry vision, occasional bouts of confusion. Now, I have days where I can’t seem to focus enough to do simple math. It’s actually rather terrifying.

After a few weeks of complaining my mom suggested I see the concussion specialist I saw for my 6/7 concussions in high school. She told me that it could be an accumulation of previous head injuries finally taking their toll on my body, or quite simply it could be brain fog.

I’m a firm believer in the latter.

If you haven’t ever experienced brain fog, let me just tell you it’s torturous. You wake up every morning groggy and semi-confused about where you are and if your dream has ended. You pull yourself out of bed and slump to the kitchen where you’ll most-likely try to put water in the cat’s food bowl before you realize that something isn’t right and try to direct yourself to the cupboard for an actual cup. If you work, like me (that’s also new), you try to concentrate while you drive yourself to work on what feels like auto-pilot. At work you’re extra tired even though your shift just started, and you sometimes forget things you’re supposed to say to the customers that you service. About two hours into your shift you begin wondering how you’ll be able to drive yourself home, as out of it as you feel. When you get in your car after your shift you automatically get anxious. You feel like you’re asleep behind the wheel even though you’re awake, wide awake even. When you get home you forget to put the car in park before you get out, and then you get mad at yourself for forgetting.

I find myself most days wishing on loose eye lashes and 11:11s for a clearer perspective.

It’s difficult.

It’s especially difficult when you feel like no one takes your symptoms seriously.

And let’s be honest, over half the time they really aren’t taken seriously…

It stresses me out. A lot of stuff has been stressing me out. At the end of May we had to put down one of our puppers, which was incredibly difficult and very sudden. She went from walking to not being able to stand in a matter of two days. When we took her to the vet they told us she was paralyzed from the waist down and that it was spreading but they didn’t know why or what was causing it. So… there’s that. I started a new job that is very social and active compared to how sedentary and isolated I spent my time in previous months. So, that’s been a big change. Mentally and physically I’m still not used to it. I started cognitive rehab for my brain fog/ post-concussion syndrome (whatever) and it is really frustrating. I basically go in once a week and pay $50 for a clean-cut woman with manicured nails in scrubs to tell me I’m doing too much and need to do less every day. Well, I work and go to summer school and have other responsibilities soooooo. I can’t put my life on hold that easily (unfortunately).

Stress takes such a toll on my body. It’s ridiculous how stressed I feel physically when I’m mentally wigging out. This week my personal favorite has been chest pains. Are they cardiac or psychosomatic? The world may never know. I’m sore everywhere every day. Last night I got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and wondered to myself if I had somehow broken my foot in my sleep because it was so incredibly painful to walk on. My stomach officially hates me and has decided that it’ll do as it pleases regardless of how much healthy bacteria I feed it (yogurt is love, yogurt is life), which just makes me nauseas and acidy all day and night. And to top it off, I have nightmares every single night (yikes). I have them so often that they’ve stopped freaking me out and I’ve started to become amused by them. 

The night before last I had a vivid dream where I ate rocks and then got violently sick while hanging out with John Boyega (that storm trooper from the last Star Wars movie that goes rogue). Every night it gets weirder. Last night I dreamt that I was actually dreaming an alternate universe where Jon would rather deal with the unfortunate side effects of male birth control (why don’t you exist) than be with me, and was trying to wake myself up in the dream. Which makes no sense whichever way you look at it; birth control doesn’t stop you from being attracted to people, and we had literally just had an important conversation about self-confidence and body image right before bed. Like come on brain. Chill.

Most days I just try to shake off what I’m feeling and turn it into a bad joke, which ends up being pretty unhealthy. Like, “well I’m not dead yet so I guess this is okay.” It’s not funny. I do this at work especially. Sometimes I’ll start to feel a little woozy and I’ll notice my heart rate rising to 130-140 bpm, and I’ll just internally laugh at myself. Like, “lol my stupid heart and weak body.” And it’s not helpful to think those things at all. But, for right now it’s almost an auto-response. And, because my mind is so foggy, I can’t really pinpoint when I started doing it or how. I can’t focus on stopping myself from thinking these things, because my focus in the moment is just getting through the symptoms and dodging awkward conversations about having to leave work early or needing a longer break.

I’m trying to see the bigger picture here.

I’m trying to focus on years from now when I’ll feel happier, healthier, more concentrated. But, it’s difficult to have that mindset when this fog feels so permanent and having a heart with a mind of its own feels so threatening.

For now I’m holding onto my determination to graduate college next Spring. My plan is to adopt a puppy and start my life with a fur-friend (maybe even service doggo) that same week.

Im looking forward to that.

And it’s not that far away. I just have to keep hope.

Xoxo,

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How to Start Over | New Beginnings

Whoa, whoa, what’s up guys?!
I hope all of you are doing great and feeling wonderful!

Last night’s full moon has surely taken a good bit out of me and lots of other people I know! It’s so weird how something as simple as the moon can have such a large impact on our bodies and behaviors. My mom and I were in the car yesterday evening and we were both just complaining to each other about our aches and pains, our insomnia, etc. when we both realized that it was the eve of a full moon!

Yikes!

She works in a hospital and swears the emergency room volume goes up ten-fold on nights with full moons. So, good luck to her today!

Anywho, now that the full moon is waning, better times are brewing!

I’m talking about new beginnings! Who doesn’t love those?

If you follow Living with Spunk on Instagram (you should), then you know that yesterday’s story was brief but important! Whatever you’re going through, whether you’re a spoonie with dysautonomia like me or a plain jane who’s had a bad day, it is going to get so much better! Yesterday, for the first time in five months, I drove by myself multiple times! Whoa! Mega whoa! I was definitely patting myself on the back by the time I got home; celebrate the little victories! The last time I drove by myself (before this), I had a full-blown anxiety attack. It wasn’t fun by any means and it really put me off driving alone again. I was cleared to start driving again in March, but after going so long without driving I sort of just continued to avoid it. When I finally did get behind the wheel again it was terrifying! All of a sudden I was in control of this huge, heavy vehicle when some days I barely feel in control of myself! But hey, baby steps. Everything is about progress, and I’m sure as hell progressing!

I’ve come such a long way just within the last month, and I plan to go even farther.

Later today I have a job interview and I’m driving myself to it.

Nerves are high, and emotions are higher (lol PCOS). But, I am so ready to move on from being a couch potato! I have binge-watched more Netflix since I have been home than I am proud of…

I am so ready for my new beginning.

“We cannot start over, but we can begin now, and make a new ending.”

– Zig Ziglar

I had a great friend my first two years of college. We’ll call her Anne.

Anne and I grew close, very close, and I’m not even really sure how. We lived on the same residential hall and had mutual friends. Somehow, we became the best of friends. We thought we were a lot alike, but thinking back on it we were always so different and that’s what made us work. She was studious and well-mannered with long-term goals and morals. I was an anxious mess that skipped classes, raised hell about equality, and carried a very loose set of morals. She kept me in-line and took care of me when I needed someone, and I helped her relax and live a little when she wanted to. Anne and I got into a lot of arguments sophomore year, many that ended in tears. Lies, misunderstandings, and our opposing personalities eventually drove a wedge between us. We kept trying though, or at least I thought that we were. We took a trip together, and on that trip I believed 100% that we would be able to mend whatever bits of our friendship we could. However, it didn’t work out. Just as suddenly as we made friends, we parted ways.

It was a mess, honestly.

There are things I wish I hadn’t said but at the time I was still so hurt about it.

We’ve all been there.

Anne mentioned something towards the end about how during our friendship I exaggerated things to make myself seem a victim. I’m sure that at the time she was angry and maybe she meant it, maybe she didn’t. But it’s sort of stuck with me through everything.

When I met her I was, like I said, an anxious mess. I was more like a disaster honestly. I was in an unhealthy relationship, mentally recovering from childhood sexual assault, and trying to figure out the entire independence thing. I went through a phase where I was all about tattoos, piercings, blue hair, and late-nights out with guy friends (ew not like that). I had all of these feelings that I didn’t understand and I’m sure that a lot of that translated into crying in the shower, starting fights that I didn’t need to, and trying to one-up everyone in the “I’ve been through more” game. I’m not necessarily proud of that time in my life. But, it helped me grow as an individual and if I hadn’t gone through it I wouldn’t be the woman I am today; the woman who has decided to not ever be a victim again.

I think when I got sick I lost track of that part of myself. Today, Anne was on my mind and she reminded me that I’m so much stronger than this thing.

So, back to the theme of new beginnings…

This one is mine, and you can have yours too.
We could all use an Anne, right? We could all use a wake-up call.

So, how? How do we start over? How do we make way for new beginnings?

It’s as simple as deciding. A few weeks ago my mom told me that I only felt sick because I chose to. At the time, it broke my heart. I felt like she wasn’t validating my feelings and battle with my health. But, now I realize what she meant.

I can choose happiness.

She sat me down and told me a story about my grandfather, before his death, who had lived a coward a great deal of his life. She told me that when he was diagnosed with cancer he made the decision to begin living what little life he had left, and that he regretted not making the choice sooner.

Everyone has bad days, some more than others. But, it’s what you make of those days that matters. Struggling is a part of life, and it’s totally okay to not be okay sometimes. It’s okay to feel discouraged, angry, etc. Emotions are a huge part of what makes us human! Feel them!

But, don’t sacrifice your chance to be happy by relishing in the pain, your symptoms, your terrible job, etc. Yes, you might be stuck in a position that you don’t like or want to be in, but you’re just going to be miserable if you don’t adopt an optimistic and positive outlook.

I’m guilty of this, as I’m sure many of you are.

Jon and I got into a bit of a heated discussion at the beginning of this week because l decided to take on a pessimistic attitude about my illness. Jon mentioned that he believes exercise could help condition my heart so that when I have bad days, they aren’t necessarily terrible days. He thinks that exercise can help me heal. But, he got frustrated when I told him that I wasn’t interested in exercise, because… I don’t believe I’m going to get better. I finally admitted, to the both of us, that I don’t necessarily believe my condition is going to improve.

And that’s the problem.

I’ve been sitting around the house, not really trying to find a way to feel better, just sulking since January. That’s my mistake.

There are so many other things I could have done with my time, but I chose not to. I chose to sit and feel sick and feel unfortunate and to make myself a victim to pessimism, negativity, to my illness.

I have no reason to believe I won’t get better. But somehow, I suddenly chose to.

And now, I am choosing not to.

From this moment forward I am choosing happiness. I am choosing optimism. I am choosing smiling instead of crying. I am choosing strength instead of weakness. I am choosing to adopt a better attitude about my illness, my life, and the outcome of it all.

It’s as simple as that.

You just have to choose.

Mind > Matter

If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter!

Thanks for joining me on this awesome journey.

Until next time,