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Bipolar Brain Fog: Seeing Thru the Haze

“When it’s foggy in the pulpit it’s cloudy in the pew.”

– Cavett Rober

I’ve touched upon this topic once before in an “a day in the life” post, but it’s something that bears repeating. Because I might forget.

Over the last year or so, I have been experiencing some semi-serious memory issues and some problems with basic motor skills and coordination. I was able to hide these specific problems from my wife for nearly three months before having to officially let the cat out of the bag.

And I only had to do that because I was stumbling around the house one day my wife and I were both home. It was a particularly bad day for me; I had no sense of perception or balance, and was bumping into furniture and running into walls. After about the third obvious misstep, though (no pun intended) I just looked over at my wife. In return, I was pretty much given the “Okay, let’s hear it” look and so I proceeded to tell her what I had been trying so hard to avoid.

It was almost painless…except for the part that wasn’t. I was embarrassed, and I had been forgetting everything, short-term and long-term. I would get hung up in a conversation and not know how to navigate back into it. How did I even manage to keep this a secret for this long? It didn’t matter how to my wife, only why.

WHY did you keep this a secret for so long?

I guess other than being embarrassed (and a little scared) I’m not sure myself. I knew, though, that when one of those “moments” would occur I would leave the room as quickly as possible and go to the bathroom and cry. I initially started this as a method of returning from the edge. I would hope that staring at myself while flooding the counters with my boxed-up tears would act as a trigger to “come back to”. This rarely worked, if ever.

The first thing was first, though, and that was to get in with the doctor ASAP. I had already wasted enough time and had finally accepted what was going on. To a certain extent, anyway.

I already see a neurologist because of a seizure disorder, so it didn’t take too long to get that appointment scheduled. I had both a CT scan and an MRI before the appointment, so I was looking forward to getting some answers.

Of course, it’s not that simple, is it?

The MRI did show two small areas on my corona radiata, an area between the cortex and brain stem. A second MRI was then ordered, and I started to worry. By this point, I was unsure of why another MRI was necessary after I had demonstrated my inability to do what the neurologist was asking of me, both mentally and physically. The physical test’s results indicated I had no reflexes in either foot/ankle, and my whole left side was significantly weaker than my right. The second part of the physical test required me to walk toe-to-toe down a long hallway – which I failed miserably at.

So, I expected some sort of answer. Things were ruled out, such as mini strokes and multiple sclerosis, but nothing was ruled on. I suppose finding out what it wasn’t should have acted as some sort of relief or buffer, but it didn’t.

It was time to get back to the drawing board.

After more lab work, another MRI on the books, and visits with other doctors, I was given at least a little bit of start. As more things continued to be ruled out, we had to at least be getting a little bit closer to an answer, right?

I have experienced all the symptoms and feelings and moods that come with along with bipolar disorder, so I thought I had the game down. But as always, this was not the case. At this point, I was just hoping to forget I was even sick, bipolar or not.

As for where I stand right now, I personally do believe what’s been going on is (more than likely) related to my illness.

Specifically, it’s referred to as “bipolar brain fog”. I guess it’s real enough. I look at it as another rung on the ladder for me, a ladder where the climb is overwhelming and never-ending.

Bipolar brain fog is described as having the “inability to focus on a task, retrieve simple memories or words, or tune out distractions.”

Fortunately – for me, anyway – I hate sympathy (even just sitting here writing this is making me cringe a little), so that in and of itself just acts as a motivator for me to not be like “why me?” or to seek out attention in any other way. Sympathy of any kind just makes me feel uncomfortable, so instead of showering in those negative waters, I decided to just hang out in Lake Out-of-Sight-Out-of-Mind. Back to avoiding the truth again. It was either that or go crazy, and I just couldn’t afford that.

As I tread forward, though, it truly does feel like it may be my bipolar disorder causing everything. From the initial MRI to now, it appears that there are areas in my brain that have shrunk in size. This seems to be indicative of these issues stemming from bipolar disorder.

Memory issues caused by bipolar disorder can be traced to the seriousness of the extreme highs and lows associated with the illness. The excessive and intense repetition of cycling is major causation of memory issues in someone with bipolar disorder.

Now, to clarify, these are not constant issues. I do deal with them daily, but not 24/7 like many others.

It’s still scary. One study suggests that bipolar disorder may cause progressive brain damage. It can even lead to early-onset dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Now, does that mean that those things are going to happen for sure? No. Does it make sense why I might be scared at times? I’d like to think so.

Bipolar disorder and memory loss are linked to “deficits in regions of the brain,…each of which plays a role in memory as well as movement, learning, reward, motivation, emotion, and romantic interaction.”

My next appointment with the neurologist is later this month so, fingers crossed for another MRI, I guess.

To be in my early 30s and to already be seeing doctors for memory loss concerns is scary. I don’t want to lose anything else I already don’t have.

So, take away anything else. Take whatever you want.

Just don’t take my mind. Don’t take the one thing that’s truly mine.

Leave me my mind.

Over the last year or so, I have been experiencing some semi-serious memory issues and some problems with basic motor skills and coordination. I was able to hide these specific issues from my wife for nearly three months before having to let the cat out of the bag. I was stumbling around and running into walls.

3 Comments

  1. I can’t imagine how TERRIFYING this is for you. I hope you don’t see this is comment as pity or that it makes you uncomfortable – I genuinely care about you and I’m so sorry you’re going through such a scary time. I hope the MRI’s come up with more results about what it IS rather than what ISN’T going wrong. I pray comfort and peace for you in this frightening time and I’m here to talk to if you need a friend to rant at. Sending you big hugs. Keep us all updated! xx

    1. Thank you so much for reaching out. I really appreciate it and no, I don’t look at it as pity or anything like that. And same to you, if you ever need anything I am here

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