The world is very difficult right now for those of us who have depression and anxiety. If ever there was a time when outside factors are weighing us down, it is now. The pandemic with its fear, idiots in denial, sociopaths who don’t care who they harm, and economic destruction is gearing up for a winter return to the previous levels we saw in spring, if not worse. Politics with our fight for the future of our country. Being stuck at home and having to make everything work for ourselves and those that depend on us even if we feel like we are drowning.
With so many awful things going on at once, it feels impossible to catch our breath.
What we don’t need when the world is demanding so much from us is brain fog. But brain fog is a very common symptom of depression.
For me, it is one of the first things I notice when my depression is taking a turn for the worse.
We can’t change the world and all the things it is throwing at us right now, but we can try to minimize the damage that our perfectly understandable depression is creating in our lives.
Write it down. You think you don’t need to. You do. Just accept it.
Write down what you have to get done today. Write down the two things you are stopping at the store for. Make a sticky note for your dashboard reminding you to stop at the store after work. Or set an alarm. Label the alarm. It sucks to have an unlabeled alarm go off and have no idea what you were reminding yourself of. Or so I’ve heard.
Figure out what you will pay attention to. If you will ignore an alarm on your phone and just turn it off without looking at it, then that method is not for you. If the flapping sticky note in your peripheral vision will drive you so nuts you will rip it off, crumple it up, and throw it away, then that method is not for you. Find a reminder system that you know you will pay attention to and use it.
If there are complicated things you know you have to get done, write down the instructions. Brain fog will make you forget how to do really basic things. Things you have been doing for years. It is better to have written instructions and not need them than to need them and not be able to complete something because you don’t remember how. Not only is the thing not done, but you are beating yourself feeling like a moron.
Having a schedule has always been important, but during the pandemic, it could save your sanity. I know some of you are just living your life like nothing is wrong, but for those of us with a conscience and a decent understanding of basic science, we are severely limiting what we do. We spend a lot of time at home. That time starts to all blend together with no delineation. Living in that kind of blur will just exacerbate brain fog.
When you have depression, not having a solid schedule can cause you to aimlessly drift and lose yourself. The fact that a lot of us are working from home and rarely leaving the house, makes such drift more likely. Time seems to fly by. One day it was June and the next thing you know it was Labor Day. Where the hell did the summer go?
The first step to controlling your depression and with it, your brain fog, is to make a schedule and push yourself to keep it.
I know that when you are in the pits of darkness, just getting out of bed can feel like too much. Decide where you are and what constitutes “getting something done” and schedule that something. If scheduling a morning shower is all you can manage right now, that is okay.
Every few days try to check in with yourself and add to your schedule as you begin to come out of the darkest parts.
I know it may seem hopeless, but most everything in life regresses to the mean. So, if you feel super bad, it will get better and go back toward whatever your average is.
Take it Easy
Accept you will not have your usual output. Whatever that is for you.
If you are a stay-at-home mom who usually cooks family dinner every night, make peace with the fact that your kids won’t die if they have cereal or sandwiches each night during your darkest time. Nobody is going to fault you for ordering pizza. If they do, maybe you need to remove some toxic people from your life.
If you are used to publishing frequently here or on your own blog, accept that you may not be able to keep up your usual pace. If possible, write a few simple generic pieces and save them in your drafts so that you can use them as fillers to make yourself feel better. If you haven’t gotten to that before the brain fog claims you, show yourself some understanding.
Having to slow down to accommodate your mental health is not a failure. It has taken me more than a week to get this piece written because I’m drowning in my own fog. Be compassionate and know that you will return to whatever your normal is after you ride this out.
It is not easy to counteract brain fog, but some effort can help you get through the worst of it. While this might not help you if you are in the thick of it now, if you plan ahead during the times when you are feeling better, it can go a long way toward minimizing the damage brain fog can create.