The term ‘brain fog’ has been—pardon the pun—on everyone’s mind lately, no thanks to COVID. Although not an official medical condition, enough patients have reported similar symptoms to warrant research, like this one by Chinese researchers which seems to show persistent impairment in sustained attention in patients that have otherwise recovered from COVID.
So what is brain fog? Popular health website Healthline describes it as:
A type of cognitive dysfunction involving memory problems, lack of mental clarity, poor concentration, and the inability to focus.
Aside from a possible lingering effect of COVID, there can be many other causes to brain fog, including stress, lack of sleep, hormonal changes, and chronic fatigue disorder.
I now have a term for something that has been affecting my life for the past two years.
Even before I got COVID a couple of weeks ago (which only made it worse), I’ve been having all the aforementioned problems: I can’t seem to concentrate or focus on anything unless I force myself to do so to the point of exhaustion; and I tend to forget what I’m saying mid-sentence, especially if someone interrupts my train of thought. This from someone who’s only in her early 30s lol.
I think initially, a lot of it had to do with stress and burnout: the pandemic back then seemed never ending, the husband was stuck in the Philippines, I had to deal with family issues which brought out internalized trauma, and I was in a job with little to no progression in terms of stability and growth. It was also very isolating — I was the only employee left in the Malaysia office, my husband could only offer me emotional support through a screen, and I had no one to talk to, basically. It felt like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, but as someone who grew up doing almost everything on my own, this inability to take things on made me feel like a failure.
Fast forward to 2022 and things have been looking up the past couple of months. Husband finally got here to Malaysia, and I landed a new job that’s pretty challenging but with lots of room for growth. Fam shit is the same, with some added challenges thrown in, but I’m trying to work through it. And hey, 2/3 is still a pretty good deal, right?
I’m still feeling stressed and burned out, and now I have feelings of inadequacy thrown into the mix. Maybe it’s because I’ve been stagnant for so long, my brain now seems incapable of focusing or thinking properly. It’s like a never-ending sea of mental blocks that require monumental efforts to jump over—and it leaves me exhausted, even though I feel like I didn’t do much. Which is frustrating, because it never used to be like this and I can’t comprehend why I can’t just work through this shit.
Even blogging has lost its sparkle. I post less these days. I used to be super excited to pen down my thoughts, but for the last two years, it has been an uphill struggle to find the same joy in writing for myself — because I allocate so much of what mental capacity I have for work, I’m left with nothing at the end of the day.
I also find myself ‘calculating’ and filtering things subconsciously. Back then, I used to post whatever I felt like, because this is my personal space online, where I could truly be myself. These days, I tend to go, “Would people actually find this useful? Do they really want to read about my random thoughts? Why does this sound like an angst-filled teenage diary? Should I really post this? Would I offend anyone? People don’t find you funny or engaging, stop embarrassing yourself”. I know these are unhealthy thoughts that are a manifestation of my emotional struggles, but I can’t stop myself from having them.
Maybe what I really need with my blog right now is to go back to how it was before. Just posting my thoughts without inhibition, without feeling like I need to filter what I say, without overthinking about whether what I’m putting out is productive/useful or whether this or that content adds value to other people’s lives. Maybe that’s what I need to find pleasure again in writing. And maybe that would help with the brain fog too; act as an outlet for catharsis.
You know what the irony is? My blog traffic has actually doubled in the last year or so, because people find some reviews and guides helpful (I guess? lol). Which is great, and I’m happy that those posts are useful. I know people don’t want to read about “whiny shit”, coz everyone has their own problems, and they’re only turning to articles/blogs online to solve a problem/entertain.
But if this is what it takes to get my mojo back and help my process of healing, I guess you’ll all just have to put up with my emo sht for awhile.