There is an episode of The Simpsons where Marge is talking to Homer, and he appears attentive, but in his head, a monkey busily plays some drums.
I always laugh whenever I recall this scene mostly because it reminds me of how difficult it is to concentrate when one has fibromyalgia.
This issue is part of fibro fog which refers to the set of cognitive problems that come with fibromyalgia – problems like memory loss, difficulty concentrating of course, learning new information, and using language, i.e expressing oneself. I’ve previously discussed memory loss problems and thought that concentration woes could use some thrashing out.
The annoying challenges with concentrating are there when I’m crossing the street, trying to have a conversation (even the lightest ones at times), work, study, write, watch a movie, read a book (tea and crumpets! this one annoys me), just about any time when I need any level of concentration.
I feel bad when someone’s talking and I have to ask them to repeat what they said. It’s not because I’m purposely not paying attention – I try so so hard I rack my brains. I find it so upsetting.
Symptoms like difficulty concentrating might seem trivial to non sufferers but they greatly increase the impact that fibromyalgia has on our everyday lives. Seriously.
While at university, I would mentally repeat things said by the lecturer/or those things read in an attempt to make sense of it, because difficulty concentrating means difficult processing information. When it was too much, I cried. Sometimes I still do out of frustration.
I’ve been offered truckloads of possible solutions – not sure if any of these will work for you but you can try them. I’ve heard of meditation, different brands of multi vitamins, ginseng, tonics, and exercise (including brain training ones).
I’ve tried the last four and can’t really say that they’ve helped much (yet) but my strategy now is just to mentally repeat things until I can get it (or some degree of it).
Of course when someone is talking to you, you can’t constantly ask them to repeat themselves but I use repetition when reading books, writing, or watching movies at home. I only cross with the traffic lights now for fear of getting knocked down crossing without them.
I find breaking regularly between tasks helps so my mind can get an ease. Of course it’s better if the thing you’re doing is enjoyable. It doesn’t make it easier to concentrate, but I find it makes me more determined to try harder to focus.
The Way Forward
Now we know researchers have several theories as to why fibromyalgia is accompanied by so many cognitive impairments.
But apparently fairly newish research suggests that pain may be the primary culprit. So if you can manage your pain better that may be a good start. I don’t know for sure but I do find on bad pain days (including migraine days) I am worse off for concentrating.
In some instances where sufferers (like me) rely on painkillers to help pain management this may be tricky though, considering that some medications have side effects that may heighten concentration issues and other cognitive problems.
I will try meditation (and hope I don’t fall asleep), and also frequent exercise soon. I always say this condition is one where we must make our own way and seek out what works for us until a cure is found.
Good luck concentrating and gentle hugs 🙂