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
10 thoughts on “Technical Difficulty Please Stand By”
I have CFS, though it sounds like not as severely as you do, and it’s good to read someone else’s account of it. I don’t have the noise sensitivity, but I definitely get brain mush. Thanks for being open and honest. I hope people without CFS or Fibro will read it and understand the people they love who do have it a little better.
Hi From Belgium! I know what you mean with spaghettibrains! Have fibro also! But hapilly i don’t have as much medicins as you have too!
I told my wife about “spaghetti brain” and she could not stop laughing about this, because she was having a very foggy day yesterday, and asked me the same question three times. This helped her out a lot, thank you!
I have Fibromyalgia and this is what my brain feels like a good portion of the time. Sending happy brain thoughts.
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I have Fibro not CFS but this totally describes my brain when things get bad.
Prayers to you…hope that you are feeling better. .. I read your story as if it were me living it… so detailed and spot on… I did read this out loud to my father since he has a hard time understanding fibromyalgia and I live it everyday. .. thank you for sharing and stay strong or as I say it hang n there my dear… Suzette. ..
I hear ya! Im very sensitive to certain sounds all the time but when Ive overdone it then the whole damn world is too loud. I have a gorgeous 3 year old son and, boy, can he do loud at the best of times when Im in overload I have to ask Daddy to take him out to play so that I can stop the buzzing in my head.
Rest up and I hope you are feeling more with it soon.
I found your post quite intriguing. My brother has fibro and complains about “loud” noises. I have no sympathy for him as he played his electric guitar right throughout my final exams so he waived his rights. The sensations you experience sound very similar to those experienced by people with sensory processing disorder. It’s where you process sensory stimulation differently. It;s quite interesting and alot of people have one sense that is stronger than the others and can be annoying say like a strong sense of smell or sound. I used to be very sensitive to noise but once I read about this it helped desensitise me. I also took up playing the violin which helped.
It happens with me when I have migraine. At times like this even the ants crawling on the wall seem to do so with loud drummers and make me feel so miserable.
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