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Written by Laura, aimed at all those people who’ve ever made a sufferer feel bad, ashamed or guilty for symptoms- like Brain Fog- that they can’t control.

Thanks to this affliction, I’ve been called dozy, stupid and been made to feel like a pathetic excuse for a human being. I’ve had the anger of others directed at me, as if it’s not bad enough feeling my own frustration and despair.

A lot is said about trust and how it is the key ingredient of all relationships. Well, what about when you can’t even trust yourself? It means living life with a perpetual anxiety. The guilt of forgetting a best friend’s birthday. A nagging feeling that you’re forgetting ‘something’ but you don’t know what… OR the sinking feeling you get in your heart when you get a phone-call asking where you are because there’s some place you’re supposed to be- and it hadn’t even crossed your mind to be there.

If you have never experienced this then just imagine for a second as best you can, what it would be like to have to write everything down because you can’t trust yourself to remember it. To have anxiety about whether you’ve paid bills. To have to double check if you’ve locked doors because you can’t remember. To forget what you’re saying in the middle of a sentence, or get your words muddled up. Using bad grammar when English was once your best subject. Forgetting what you did last night, let alone what you learnt in History, which was one of your favourite subjects. Forgetting even sometimes to EAT. Forgetting so many little things so often that you’re scared of what big thing you might forget. An unpaid bill, a birthday, something important… like leaving your handbag by the side of a road because you put it down for a moment and didn’t recall putting it down (something I once did). Or losing a dress you’ve just bought because you put the bag down and forget to pick that up (again, guilty as charged). Or having to ring up your mobile phone AFTER JUST HAVING TAKEN A CALL ON IT AND PLUGGED IT IN TO CHARGE because you can’t remember where you had it last (I just did that before writing this, actually- but hey, at least I have remembered doing it!).

Imagine living this way and experiencing this often… when you are a grade A, intelligent student with a degree. Imagine experiencing this often and having members of your family treat you with contempt for it. Yelling at you, blaming you, calling you names like it’s your damn fault.

I don’t know what’s worst- not being able to rely on my own mind, not being able to trust myself, or being condemned for it by those who are supposed to love me.

My illness is the thing that is ruining things, not me. Do NOT treat me as if I am to blame. I can no sooner help the forgetful nature of my mind than a diabetic could help their malfunctioning pancreas. People wouldn’t dream of saying to a diabetic “You have ruined my day out because you can’t eat that sugary cake with me. Just keep out of my way I don’t want to have to see you.” So why is it okay to say that to me, just because I’ve forgotten to do something?

I don’t enjoy forgetting things that I wanted to do. I don’t even enjoy forgetting things like chores or things someone has asked me to do. The brain is the most powerful and most precious thing that we each have, what if yours wasn’t working properly and people around you blamed YOU and called you names? Don’t you think that would hurt?

So please, if you know someone with brain fog and you’ve never experienced it yourself- realise this: no matter how frustrating or upsetting it is for you because they’ve forgotten your birthday or to come and meet you for lunch- it is much, much worse for the sufferer. They feel guilty and stupid and frustrated already- it doesn’t help to yell at them or call them names. In fact, it only adds to their despair and frustration and if you care about them, why would you knowingly choose to do that? So please, don’t. Even if you’re angry in the heat of the moment, try to take a step back and be patient and understanding.

Take a leaf out of my boyfriend’s book. He was with me during ‘the bag incident’ when I left my bag by the side of a road. (I’d put it down to put on my coat and scarf). We’d almost gotten home when I realised I didn’t have it and recalled leaving it on the floor. I felt stupid and very guilty because it meant we’d have to walk all the way back- in the freezing cold on icy pavements, late at night (it was New Years Eve) when we were both tired. I told him and he just said “Okay, we’ll have to go back”. Not only that, when we got closer and I was tired from the long uphill walk in the cold, he ran the rest of the way while I sat beside a wall, resting. I hadn’t even explained to him about brain fog at this stage. It blew me away how supportive and understanding he was. I’ve never forgotten it. I still think of it now and am amazed how he didn’t react even slightly negatively. He didn’t call me stupid or complain to me about having to walk all the way back uphill. He even started cracking jokes about it the next day! It became a source of mirth between us.

Attitudes like that make all the difference. All it takes is a choice. So how will you choose to respond to your loved one’s brain fog moments? Will you yell at them and call them stupid and make them feel even worse? Or will you choose to be patient and help them through it, help them to laugh at themselves and feel better? I hope like my boyfriend that you’ll choose the latter.