A couple of weeks ago, I lost my head. It happens sometimes.
I call it spaghetti brain and it occurs when I’m in a crash or when I’ve overdone it for too long. I knew I was pushing myself a little too hard because I ended up in a push/crash cycle that typically doesn’t end well. My body continued to give out, and I continued to push until finally my mind followed suit. I had a stressful few weeks and my mental agility dulled until I could hardly say my own name out loud without stumbling over it. It’s difficult to explain, but when these cognitive issues flare up, trying to think and listen and speak makes me feel like a car with the gas and the break petals pressed to the floor at the same time. My thoughts come fast but fragmented; the words pile up on the tip of my tongue, tumble over one another, and then emerge in random order with a lot of stuttering in between. Half of the time the wrong words come out altogether. My brain feels like it’s on fire, and a few times I’ve had to just sit in a dark quiet room to extinguish the mental chaos and regain my sensory composure.
Besides writing and speaking like a fumbling drunk geriatric, my sense of hearing becomes extremely heightened and over-sensitive. It’s as though a sensory filter was removed and now all sound is allowed in at the same level: loud. It’s extremely difficult to hold a conversation if there is any background noise like television, or if other people are speaking nearby. For whatever reason, talking on the phone turns into a strained task, and often the sound against my ear can become jarring. I feel unable to focus on what’s in front of me, and as a result all sounds merge together and all I hear is incomprehensible noise. Sometimes I feel held hostage to some kind of sensory overload, where sights and sounds almost compete against each other and become so overwhelming that my skin starts to crawl. Suddenly I can feel all my clothes touching my skin, and it’s very irritating. That happened at the coffee shop a few days ago; the music playing in the background and the two girls talking next to me and the glare of my computer screen suddenly engulfed my mind and I felt paralyzed. I’m sure it was fun for outsiders to watch me suddenly go a little nuts, throw everything in a bag and run out of there as though I were on fire. But hey, I’m happy if I can be of any entertainment.
I haven’t written much about the cognitive effects from CFS, but I really should have. This last month has been an alarming reminder of just how crippling it can get. It’s a total disruption on your everyday life, and were I working right now I think I’d surely be fired. I remember when these strange symptoms began when I first became sick at age nine. Suddenly the sound of the vacuum became intolerably loud. As in painfully loud. The same went for hair dryers and the radio in the car and even washers and dryers. It’s not a constant state of agitation, but like the other symptoms, when I’ve done too much, it gets ignited and wreaks some major havoc. Sometimes it lasts a few hours, others a few weeks. But usually with time and rest the mental cloud clears and things improve. This week is already a lot better than last, and I think it’s because I’ve had a lot of solitude and allowed myself to really rest. But still, it’s there, mixing up my word order and making it really difficult to speak in complete sentences. Trying to talk to people when these symptoms flare up is like trying to cook in a really dirty kitchen, with dishes piled in sink and sticky gunk on the counters and no clean utensils. Am I making sense? The point is, it’s messy up there. Cluttered. Jammed.
I laugh at the thousands of words I’ve written in the last few weeks and what a literary disaster they’ve turned out to be. I read over my words at night and find myself scratching out entire pages because they’re all over the place, incongruent, and in general just not up to par. I’d be lying if I said all this didn’t scare me a little, especially because writing has always been something I could do despite being sick. To see that nothing is really safe from the CFS monster is unnerving, and it’s been frustrating to feel held back this way. But I haven’t lost hope. I know it will improve as I continue to rest, as it’s improved before, and I wanted to at least let it be known that I’m not dead, I’ve just temporary lost my ability to communicate properly. It’s not like I’m a writer or anything and that kind of thing matters. :/ ANYWAY, In place of writing I learned some Timberland on guitar and made some drawings of Monty. They’re not very good.
At any rate, I expect my head to recover from the spaghetti state soon, and I’ll be back to catch up with the world once I’m more able. I appreciate the patience as I await my brain. In the meantime, you can read more about the science behind spaghetti brain in people with CFS here and here. Catch yall on the flip side.
Health, Happiness, and a Cognitive Catastrophe