Mental Fog–As In, Lost In It

I’ve been in a mental fog for awhile. I thought I was coming out of it last spring, but it descended again instead and has been thickening. I do take a couple of medications, and those have helped with the sense of depression, but less so on the focus, on being organized, and on not losing time. I seem to lose a lot of time to what feels like nothing. It’s not that I’m sitting around in a daze. It’s more like I’m doing things sort of mindlessly and when I look up again it’s days later and I haven’t seemed to get anything important done.

Part of this has to do with dealing with life changes. Boy of Size headed off for college this year. My folks are in their upper eighties and needing more support and my brother and sister aren’t at all useful on that front. I’ve got a dog who bites (me and my husband, mostly, but mostly me).

I’ve been doing a lot of work with him and seeing a veterinarian behaviorist, and this is helping. That’s good because I just can’t make myself feel right about giving him up. I don’t know that he even could be rehomed, but he’s a member of the family and I just can’t give up on him. The couldn’t cope with the guilt. He’s super lovey most of the time and always has been, but has some fear aggression. So we’ve been trying to get him feeling safe, even when he’s half asleep, which is when he tends to bite. I reach out to pet him and he wakes up and snaps. That’s been changing and he’s been doing more waking up to see what’s going on and then deciding what to do, which, when he does do that, he immediately makes rubbing his belly far more convenient for me.

My daughter is also busy in HS, particularly in competitive marching band, which means she rehearses three to four times a week, has a performance or practice every Saturday, all day Saturday, performances on most Fridays, and I’m responsible for driving, volunteering, bringing food, bringing clothing and forgotten items, and all that goes along with that. My husband does some of this, too, but he’s been significantly ill this fall with a cold that made his asthma get bad and recovery has been slow and worrisome. But he is improving, but he’s been struggling with significant job issues, getting his house chores done, and trying to help me with mine.

And then there’s the usual home chores and such.

My fog seems to be with me not being able to see more than a couple feet ahead of myself at a time and doing just those things. Oh, and as usual, money issues, the teaching job, the state of the world, medical issues and expenses, and the deaths of some friends, being the emotional center of the family–all these play into it.

All this to say that my professional life is in shambles. I’ve not been able to write much, not been participating enough in the professional organizations I belong to, including Bookview Cafe, and basically just trying to make some forward progress on the novel I have under contract. I’m trying to figure out when I went off the rails this last spring, and I’m trying to figure out how the hell to get back on them.

I’ll be attending World Fantasy Con this next week and I’m hoping that just being with other writers and talking will help me get focused and come up with a plan. Or maybe not a plan. Maybe an actual schedule where I get things done. A schedule I can keep that involves house upkeep, dog care, errands, life, teaching, and writing.

On the positive side, I am exercising every day, which I know helps me stay sane. Without it I’d be in trouble. One thing I think I need to do is seriously declutter and get rid of stuff. I think that when it’s here, it closes in on me, or makes me feel like it’s waiting for me to do things I’m not doing, and I get to feeling guilty.

And now, I’m going to go figure out why I can’t seem to get through this scene on this book. I suspect I’m either spending too much time on the scene in the book, or I’m not making it work hard enough and so it needs to do more.

If you’ve read this far, thanks for all your patience. I’m hoping that actually saying this all in a public space will help me get to where I need to go.

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Mental Fog–As In, Lost In It — 18 Comments

  1. Have you had your vitamin B12 levels checked lately?
    I’d been developing brain-fog, getting foggier and foggier in the course of a few years, to the point where I had a talk with my boss to ask him not to assign me the more complicated cases as I couldn’t keep everything organised and remembered, and I couldn’t follow complex reasoning the way I could before.
    Then my primary physician retired, and the new one ordered blood tests to figure out why my feet were feeling strange (I’d asked the old doctor 2 years ago, but without blood-tests they concluded I just had to learn to live with it), and it turned out I was badly deficient in B12, which apparently is something that can happen when growing older: the body stops absorbing it as easily as before.
    I got a series of high-dose injections, and I could feel the brain-fog clearing – in six weeks my concentration and memory and ability to follow complex reasoning were almost back to where they were before.
    I’ve got to take B12 tablets for the rest of my life, but it’s definitely worth it, though several stresses at once (as you are experiencing) can still bring some of the brain-foggyness back.

    The last half year or so the foggyness was growing again, despite the B12, and a recent sleep-test delivered the result that I have sleep apneu (I stop breathing 79 times an hour in my sleep, the doctor said, though I only noticed waking up 5 times a night). Sleep deprivation is notorious for causing brain fog….

    So just the stresses themselves can be enough, but it might be worth it to check for physical reasons as well.

  2. How long will you be in LA? I get home on Saturday morning. I don’t know if a get-together would give you a boost. I expect your friends at the con will do that, and yay if they do!

    Good for you for working with the dog. Pet ownership has trust as a fundamental component, and you are clearly proving that.

    Re the writing project, everyone’s process is different, but right now would it help to just write the “fun bits” and stitch it all together later?

  3. Hang in there. One step in front of the other. I’ve been there and am there too.

    Have you had a full physical complete with blood work. I’m thinking thyroid. But do consider anti-depressants. They aren’t all evil and might help boost you over the worst hill in your life.

    I’m only as far away as email and cell phone. We can cry on each others shoulders.

  4. Sorry you are so foggy, I hope you can find a way to a clearer mind.

    Well done on the work with your dog, you have my admiration and empathy. The previous owners of our German Shepherd boy thought it would be a good idea to teach him not to growl so when we got him anything that worried him resulted in air snaps, which inevitably got skin instead of air on occasion. We’ve been working with him for about eight years now, he will occasionally growl (YAY!)but never air-snaps us or even a few of our friends any more, but I still wouldn’t trust him with people he didn’t know. Good luck with your boy, it sunds like you are making good progress.

    • That’s one thing we figured out very quickly–growls are the only warning, and sometimes we wouldn’t get those. The vet behaviorist said that for whatever reason, Merlin had decided not to trust hands. We now believe he came from a puppy mill, and have connected with other heeler owners whose dogs come from the same place. It’s helped a little. Anyhow, he’s trusting hands more and more. At least ours. WE had no idea why he didn’t trust hands. The VB said it could be something so minor we wouldn’t even have thought of it being an issue. It’s all about his perspective. It’s just nice to see actual improvement. That’s been a relief.

      • Puppy farms (as we call them in the UK, I think puppy mill is more evocative, especially if you think of ‘dark satanic mills’) just stink. Our boy actually came from an ok breeder originally, but his owners were clueless. I suspect from his reaction to children that they had kids who were allowed to treat him like a soft toy and his eventual reactions to that being why he was turned into a rescue.

        I meant to say something about pacing yourself, and rewarding yourself too, as you can’t do all the caring for others you are doing without looking after yourself, but I know it’s extremely hard to do. I have no idea if it would be helpful, but you might try writing down what you do each day as soon after you do it as possible; I was quite shocked when I did this at how much I was doing, it also helped me to consider how to get some being creative back in my life which has worked to an extent. Just a thought which requires no response 🙂

        • Second vote on a small list of what is accomplished in a day. Everything counts, because it is physical and mental energy–plus emotional. I had a small stack of those notes at one point, which reassured me that a ton of stuff was getting done.

          Creative energy, though, needs a certain mental and physical safety net. I wish you enough healing to get back to the storytelling you love!

  5. I hope you’ll just recognize that you have a lot of stress you didn’t create and that can’t be avoided in your life and be gentle with yourself. From my experience, taking care of elderly parents is hard even when you have help from your siblings (my sister is a jewel). I don’t think I realized when I was taking care of my father just what a toll it was taking on me. It took me a couple of years after he passed to get back to myself, and that was despite the fact that everything else in my life was going great at that point.

    Your kids sound like they’re doing great, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pay attention and make sure they have what they need and that takes time and energy. And if your husband is dealing with ill-health and other stresses, there’s only so much either of you can do to pick up the slack.

    So be gentle and don’t put pressure on yourself. Exercise and other things that energize you should be your priority along with the things that have to get done. Play at WFC and hang out with folks and have fun. That should give you some energy.

    • I really appreciate that. I do find myself feeling a pretty constant level of guilt for not doing enough, not getting what needs to be done done, not getting my writing done, and so on. I’m beginning to recognize that I have a pretty constant knot in my stomach and that’s my indicator of feeling guilty, whether I consciously recognize it or not. I did write some words today. I’ve got to be happy about that much.

  6. Deep sympathies on the brain fog, Di. I’ve been there and have a (I hope) healing stage of it right now. I want to pass on a general comment not to worry you, but to consider when talking with your doctor.

    We finally pinpointed my lifelong malaise a few years back. Turned out I had multiple infections that had flown completely under the radar, one spreading to another organ group in a common fashion. None of them affected the regular CBC or CMP in a way that tossed the blood work out of wack beyond the normal range.

    It was not until stress and dealing with a sick house threw my system into chaos that I found an integrative doctor and discovered the culprits both known and unknown–and how long it can take to recover from them. How they leave toxins behind, and if you’re in the 25% of the population that cannot get rid of toxins through the bloodstream? Healing is a very slow road.

    Emotional health can become a huge part of healing, or not healing.

    So if this lingers, you might consider taking all the tests to a local integrative doctor or PA-C for a consult. Some groups even use a project management type tool that tracks when, where, and how things have shown up, and how emotional upheaval can make the situation temporarily worse.

    Wishing you healing, clarity, and a finished manuscript. Hang in there.

  7. My sympathies! and thanks for sharing. I don’t know if it helps to know that many of us go through it, too — and the elderly parents stress I can certainly relate to. Sounds like you are doing a great job tackling all your responsibilities and taking care of yourself, so I will just send along best wishes and a virtual hug.

  8. oh my friend I understand that so well. There are days I questions the validity of my own existence because I reach the end of those days – which I started with BUCKETS full o fthings to do – with literally nothing done – one or two things started but never brought to conclusion – I wanted to write 5000 words but ended up with 500 or less or nothing – I understand that fog. I do. I wish I could give you a hug.

    In the meantime, think about those foxes and what they are talking about. We laughed together about that, you and I, years ago. Maybe there’s some joy left to light your path through the fogged woods and through to the other side.