A brain with a the following floating around it; speech bubble, note cards, and a sheet of paper with a drawings on it

More Than Just a Little Brain Fog

I’ve written about my experiences with brain fog multiple times. You know, the fuzzy feeling, the memory loss, and the brain fatigue? Brain fog is that annoying third wheel companion of our friend, rheumatoid arthritis.

My brain fog is tied to my disease activity. When my symptoms flare, you best know that my head is swimming very soon afterward. If my condition is in check, then I remain sharp-witted.

Increased bouts of brain fog

I am in my tenth year with my RA and I’m pretty content with my management of it. Generally speaking, my RA is in control. But, there is something that I started noticing a couple of years ago. I began having trouble remembering things that I read.

More on this topic

Now, a couple of years ago, I was teaching and sleeping the rest of the time. My disease management was okay, but I would experience bouts of brain fog here and there. I thought this new brain fog element was just a little part of the whole thing. I didn’t think much of it except that I felt like I was getting dumber by the day. But, I thought it was just a side effect of all the medications I was taking.

Recognizing what was happening

This semester, I returned to school. I am pre-vet and I am in an animal research-based major. To say I read a lot is an understatement. I just finished my semester with mixed results. On one end I did fantastically, but on the other end, I didn’t do so great.

This is my first semester at school with RA and I knew there would be a transition. I only took a handful of classes so I could dip my toes into the academic world and make sure I considered my RA properly within my study techniques and time management.

To be honest, I was pleased as punch (never quite understood that phrase...punch can’t be happy, can it?). I was pleasantly surprised about how well I did. But, at the end of the semester, I had to consider why my grade in my bio class was so  “low”. I realized it was the reading aspect that got to me.

I couldn’t retain a word of what I read in the textbook!

Trouble retaining what I read

Before, I used to take really FANTASTIC notes, and then review them every day. I could remember everything. I even had a pseudo-photogenic mind. I say “pseudo” because I still had to read and understand the content, but I could recall the info just like I saw it in my notes and textbooks.

Now, the information comes up like a fuzzy photo. I can still see where that info is, but can’t recall the details.

The information didn't stick

Before, I used flashcards and reviewed terms, anatomy, and physiological processes every night. This worked like a charm. Now, I do the same thing, but the information doesn’t stick. It’s not that I remember it when I’m studying and then it flies out the window during testing. Every time I review my notes or use my flashcards, it's like I’m seeing them for the first time.

3 study techniques to combat brain fog

So, there are two options: I find a way to fix this brain fog or I work around it. The problem with brain fog is there is no real “fix” because there is no clear “cause”. And, who knows, maybe this memory issue is a side effect of all the medications I am on and it is permanent. I better find a work-around. Obviously, there is one because many people have RA and are quite successful in their lives and jobs.

I brainstormed a few new study techniques that might help.

1. I explain everything to an invisible person (or, Affie, my dog). If I can explain something that means I understand it.

2. Create paper flashcards. This semester I used virtual flashcards. I am a kinesthetic learner and I will benefit from the tactile feel of the cardstock.

3. Homemade process worksheets. I can make a worksheet/drawing but without the names and fill in the blanks. Hopefully, a few times and the material will sink in.

Next semester, I will implement these new strategies and hopefully, I see a difference in my memory.

What are some techniques that you use to remember things?

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