The “brain fog” is real
COVID Catch-up is a weekly column featuring Lansing Journal journalist Carrie Steinweg’s personal experience with COVID-19 and things she learned from others who shared their experiences. Subscribe today to make sure you don’t miss any COVID Catch-ups. Last week’s column is available here.
By Carrie Steinweg
LANSING, Ill. (April 28, 2021) – When I first started showing signs of COVID at the start of November, the effects seemed to keep piling on — one after another. First fatigue, then an intense headache, then sore throat, and cough, and nausea, and loss of appetite, and dizziness, and mild fever, and tightness in my chest, and difficulty breathing. The list went on and on, including the full list of what the CDC recognizes as symptoms and a whole lot of other ones that it doesn’t, but that are common among COVID patients. A whole new crop popped up after being hospitalized.
Relieved to escape “brain fog” the first time
The one thing I didn’t experience at that time — and was so glad I didn’t — was “brain fog.” It was one thing I was really scared of when I contracted COVID and was so relieved when I wasn’t affected in that way.
My aunt and I were in the hospital with COVID pneumonia at the same time. She spent her 84th birthday in the hospital. I had last seen her the fall before COVID hit. She’s a gorgeous lady inside and out, tall and trim, and appearing and acting a couple decades younger than her birth certificate indicates. She was a very healthy 84-year-old before COVID, not a frail one or obese one or inactive one that might seem more susceptible to being hit hard by the virus.
While in the hospital we were texting one another often to check in and although we were both hospitalized for the same thing, her hospital stay was around four weeks compared to my four days. She then went to a rehabilitation center before heading to stay with her daughter before finally going back home. As she was back home and we continued texting, she said that while her other symptoms were better she was experiencing brain fog and hated it and didn’t feel like herself. I felt so bad for her. I was so also grateful that brain fog was one symptom I was spared from.
In mid-March I went and got vaccinated and it seemed to reactivate all those symptoms that had gotten better. Four hours after I got my shot it was like I had COVID all over again. One new symptom showed up at this time that hadn’t hit me before. It was the dreaded one I had escaped earlier — brain fog.
Slowing down from the fog
It’s six weeks later and I can say it’s gotten better, but I still don’t feel nearly as good as I should. Describing it as a “fog” makes sense because that’s what it feels like. It’s like you’re in a foggy environment where nothing is clear and everything is more difficult and it’s not as easy to do something that should be easy or second-nature.
Initially, it was almost impossible for me to work. I could sit in front of the computer and just not string words and sentences together. Sometimes I would sit and stare at the screen forgetting what I sat down to do. It would take forever for me to get started with a task.
I’d go to pay bills and I’d have to look at the numbers for a few seconds before I could remember how to add them together. I’d look at an object and it would take me a long time to remember the name of it. I couldn’t talk to people on the phone because I just couldn’t keep up with the conversation to take notes. I lacked focus and just couldn’t concentrate on anything. It was downright scary.
Between the extreme fatigue and the brain fog, I literally felt twice my age. It was like I was in my 90s, not my 40s. I was getting an hour or two a day where my mind felt pretty clear and I had to take advantage of it and work as soon as I felt clear-headed and hope it lasted long enough to get most of it done.
It’s just been in the last couple weeks that it has seemed to improve and I feel like I have my brain back. I can work for longer periods, my memory is much better, and I’m not as slow to do things.
I’ve been doing what I can when I can to help myself feel better — getting a little exercise each day, taking some Vitamin D, eating healthy foods, getting the sleep my body needs. It seems to be helping. I’m so looking forward to the day I can say that I feel like my old self — if not my complete pre-COVID self, at least where I was in February/early March where I would say I was 80% back to normal. I can’t say that I feel like it’s right around the corner, but I’m hoping it’s not too far off.
- This week’s COVID Catch-up: The challenge of accepting help (April 22, 2021)
- This week’s COVID Catch-up: Insomnia lingers after COVID (April 15, 2021)
- This week’s COVID Catch-up: The woes of vaccine side effects (April 7, 2021)