Brain Fog

I lose words. I’m easily confused. I have a hard time remembering things. The most frustrating thing is when I’m listening to someone talk and I’m not comprehending or retaining what they’re saying as they’re saying it. I’m sure I have this blank look on my face, barely registering what’s being said. It is so frustrating and embarrassing.

At first I thought I was experiencing early dementia, I can be a bit of a hypochondriac. Then I attributed it to the brain fog that seemingly comes with having had Covid. And that may be part of it, who knows.

I was fully aware that Lithium affected my memory and ability to communicate, some drugs can have that effect.

But I didn’t realize that Bipolar itself was a thief of memories.

Apparently, scientists have found a distinct link between bipolar disorder and cognitive issues. During manic episodes when you’re operating at high speeds it’s difficult to hardcode new information into your memory. Research also suggests that it can be harder to access older memories during manic and hypomanic cycles.

It seems common for people to experience cognitive deficits during periods of mania and depression, having problems with attention and memory. Those in the middle of either phase produced more errors of attention compared to others who were not experiencing mania or depression.

There are also links to deficits in regions of the brain like the prefrontal cortices and hippocampus, each of which play a role in memory, motivation, emotion, and romantic interaction (oh great).

Brain fog is characterized by memory lapses, disorganization, groping for words, and difficulty learning new information (I’m finding this one point particularly distressing at work right now). Changes in attention span and focus are also common and something that I’ve really noticed lately.

So, while it’s great to know that I’m not actually in the early stages of dementia, it doesn’t help alleviate the anxiety I’m faced with having to learn something new or have conversations about topics previously discussed. I cannot remember anything. I’ve made an appointment with my doctor for early April to discuss this but until then I struggle with whether to bring it up to people, so they don’t think I’m some inattentive loser that has no interest in what they’re talking about.

I tried looking up some ‘remedies’, cures or witch potions that might help with my memory. Post-it notes. Lots of suggestions for making lists, using post-its, keeping records of everything. Establish routines. Have a special place to keep wallets, keys and phones (I like this one because I can literally lose my phone in my own hands).

When I was diagnosed in 2020, I thought that was it. I knew what I had, that it was a mood disorder and that with medications and therapy I would live a productive, managed life. I had no idea until recently how much this condition literally screws up your brain. As if Bipolar doesn’t steal enough of your life from you, it has to swipe your memories, your ability to learn.

So for now I’ll stock up on all the coolest colours of Post-it notes and neat pens. I’ll make the to-do lists. But today…today I’m angry at my disorder.

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