Everyone does say that laughter is the best medicine. Your medications are just a supplement.
Disclaimer: we are not medical professionals- we cannot give you a diagnosis or medication advice. Please speak to a health professional for this. If you are in crisis please contact one of the hotlines on our page.
Hey there anon, many things could be causing this from dissociation to other neurological problems. I encourage you to get yourself checked out from a professional so you can figure out the exact reason for your memory loss and how you can cope with it. I’m sorry for the short and late reply. I just did research and couldn’t find anything that linked up to one single cause.
Tw: self harm and blood,
I can’t speak for all people who self harm but some people…. well … I self harmed to see blood because it was a soothing and affirming sight for me. It was a sign that I had cut deep enough and “did it right”.
Here’s a quote that i found :
“Glenn and Klonsky said more research was needed to find out why the sight of blood has the significance it does for some people who self-harm. However, they surmised that the sight of one’s own blood could, after an initial rise in heart-rate, lead to a rebound effect characterised by reduced heart-rate and feelings of calmness.”
As the fall quarters/semesters are coming to a close I’d like to wish everyone a safe and happy end to this year. Good luck on finals and essays. Take care of yourselves :)
Things to remember during finals month when you are a chronically ill college student:
- Start early. Start at least a week before your finals week. Plan out small academic tasks to complete (or try to complete) each day. Splitting up your studying/workload will prevent cramming. You do not want to be forced to cram on the same day that your body decides to give you an extra dose of awful. The ideal situation is to get ahead so that if you need to take a day off, you can.
- Now is not the time to ignore your body’s needs. It’s really easy to eat microwavable meals, fast food, and drink nothing but caffeinated beverages to get through the week. It’s also easy to forget to eat and stay hydrated, but your body needs you to. Eat for energy, eat for fuel. Tip: do some food prep the weekend before your final exams! Tuperware, people! That way you have healthy microwave meals. Or, when you take a study break, cook yourself a decent meal (or buy one, whatever)— protein! Nutrients! Eat something healthy and stay hydrated— drink some water between those espresso shots. Avoid foods that will upset your stomach or trigger any kind of GI symptoms or exacerbate GI-related conditions.
- All-nighters are the enemy. Do you get a lot done? Sure. But will you exacerbate your symptoms or bring on a flare? Very possible. So do the benefits of an all-nighter (or three…) outweigh the costs? I don’t think so, if you’re no longer able to function through the rest of your finals week because you started it off with no sleep, especially for those of us that need more rest than the typical, healthy college student. If you spend a large portion of your day studying, turn it off at 10pm. Get in bed, spend an hour doing something mindless, and go to sleep. Your body will thank you for it.
- Give yourself a break! Yes, finals are stressful for everyone, but especially for those of us with malfunctioning immune systems that are already compromised. Taking breaks is imperative. Find a system that works for you: some people study for an hour+ at a time, then break for an hour. I find that studying for 20 minutes and then taking a 10 minute break (for hours on end) works the best for me. Do something stress relieving when you take a break, or at the very least distracting. Watch tv, read a book, take a nap, just relax.
- Get Some Air and Perspective. Seriously. Feeling a sense of impending doom? Complete panic or meltdown mode? Step outside. Get some air. Get some sunlight (if you can). Take some deep breaths. Keep perspective in mind. Your exams might be critically important, but walk yourself through the best and worse case scenario and how you can fix them in the event they happen. Case in point: I failed a class FOUR TIMES. I thought it was the end of my degree and my shot at grad school. Now, I have a 4.0 this semester and am passing the class with an A. No matter what happens, things will be okay, and it will be what it will be.
deathby Social Media. Avoid Facebook. Avoid Twitter. Avoid Tumblr (oops). Use them only on your breaks (this is why the 20/10 or 30/10 works so well). Make statuses full of self-loathing and sarcastic humor about your awful fatigue and finals predicament, but then get off the websites.
- Prepare your space. If you know you will be physically unable to study elsewhere, or you study best in your own space (dorm, apartment, wherever), prepare it accordingly. Do you need to go grocery shopping? Do it before finals. Stock up on the food you want for the week, bathroom space supplies (IBD’ers, you get it). If you have symptoms (migraine sufferers, this if for you) exacerbated by certain smells, sounds, or lights, do what you can to eliminate the triggers. Have a pillow or back support should you need it. Clean your space before finals week. Create the most distraction free, comfortable environment you possibly can. Try out local coffee shops or libraries to figure out where you work best. Tip: if you study best in your school library, but their chairs are painful for you, request a different chair! Most university staff are happy to help you out.
- Medication Preparation— many of us rely on daily medication in order to function. Whether this medication is over the counter or prescription, make sure you have exactly what you need for the week+ of finals and finals prep. What you don’t need is to be in agony because you ran out of pain medication, in a dangerous (read: hospital worthy) flare because you decided to opt out of the Prednisone monster, etc.— you get the idea. Avoid scheduling important health-related appointments that might cause you extra stress during these two weeks, if possible.
- Speaking of medication preparation, if you know you need pain medication in order to get your pain level to a tolerable point that allows you to focus, be mindful of this. Take your medication 30 minutes (or however long it takes to work for you) before you plan on studying. If you rely on other techniques or therapies to offset distracting pain or symptoms, consider when to use them and when to start studying.
- Now is not the time to skip out on pain medication. I hear from so many fellow students who ration their pain medication, who have doubts and fears about relying on such heavy meds (often fear generated by painkiller paranoia), but who can’t function without it. Now is not the time to feed your fears, doubts, or concerns. If you need, benefit from, and take prescribed medication responsibly (under a physician’s orders), there is no reason why you should be in more pain than necessary, especially when you need to be able to focus through the pain or without pain more than usual.
- Have a heating pad/ice packs available. Spending a few hours writing out math problems? Have swollen, painful hands? If yes, have ice packs already frozen and ready for you when you take a break. Same goes for heating pad if you use heat for an ailment.
- Don’t force it. Having a particularly foggy or painful day? If you know that studying is out of the question, put it away. Do not force it; doing so will only leave you frustrated, more fatigued, and further unable to do anything at all. Try working on something different yet still productive, take a power nap, etc., but do not force it. More stress =/= more productivity.
- Breathe. I have never met a college student that wasn’t stressed out during exams, so remember that the rest of your peers are (or should be) feeling similar. Unfortunately, our level of stress rises to an 11 on a scale of 1-10 thanks to the extra added fatigue, fog, and pain…which is why it is especially critical for you to breathe and remind yourself that this too shall pass, finals are not forever, and you will be okay whether you pass or fail. Don’t focus on the big picture, just focus on the task at hand. Meditate if you can. Some words of wisdom: C’s get degrees, this too shall pass.
- Reach out! Seriously, tweet me @chroniccurve with the #spooniestudent hashtag. There are others in the same boat and we like to motivate each other with 3 minute dance party breaks and encourage excessive amounts of caffeine. But really, we’re here for you. Feel free to vent.
- Check out the links at the bottom for more finals-related help
- Avoid spending any amount of time writing a post on how to be successful for finals with chronic illness when you’re supposed to be studying for finals with a chronic illness…
Best of luck! Keep calm, stay strong, and may the odds be ever in your favor,
I get a lot of students asking me for advice on how to change their study habits to fight brain fog*. It’s no easy task and often feels like a lose-lose situation. Pain medication might make you feel sleepy and out of it. Pain itself is distracting and takes up a good portion of your mental effort. Add brain fog to that mix and retaining large quantities of complex information is quite a task.
I’ve shared these tips with an anon ask in the past, but it’s appropriate to include them in my College and Chronic Illness series. Plus, I’ve updated my list. Enjoy!
- Color Coded— Writing the main concepts, theories, formulas, whatever, in a bright color (or multiple colors) helps me recall the content later (especially helpful for those of you who tend to have a photographic memory). Color coding your content with various colored pens works too.
- Highlight, Highlight, Highlight— Even if the entire 12 page section has to be highlighted, do it. This can help you track where you are when you’re reading, while also forcing you to pay attention to exactly what you’re highlighting.
- Write— If you’re a flashcard person, perfect. If not, writing out study content onto sheets of paper (copying notes, concepts, whatever) at least five times can help with retaining information and preventing memory lapses. It’s not particularly easy on the hands, but absolutely worth it if it works for you. If typing the information and then highlighting it after it’s printed, that might be a better alternative if you struggle to write like I do.
- Try Study Groups— if you are in the process of figuring out which study habits work best for you, try getting a group of people together to study. If you don’t have any friends learning the same content, send out a mass email to your class and see who’d like to get together or if study groups have already formed. Great way to meet new people and motivate and help each other get through difficult content.
- Repeat, Vocalize— Repeating terms and study content aloud allows you to hear it, focus on it, and remember it. It’s a great way to study.
- Have someone quiz you— When you get the answer wrong, have the person quizzing you repeat the correct answer to you twice. Then, start from the beginning each time you get wrong. This forces you to go back over all the ones you already got correct (reinforcing them) AND the ones you got wrong. Keep doing this until you get past the one you got wrong. This is hands down the best method I’ve utilized to study and it really works well.
- Acronyms— I think this speaks for itself.
- Method of Loci— Method of what? MOL: a metacognitive technique/mnemonc strategy in learning; based on the idea that you can best remember places that one is familiar with. If one links something worth remembering with a familiar place, the location will act as a clue to help trigger the memory. As LupineLady put it, “you picture a room you know really well, and attach pieces of information to each thing in the room.” You can read more about how to use this technique here.
- Time Management— This is probably the most important tip of all. Instead of cramming four chapter’s worth of information into your brain the two days before the exam, start a week (or more ) in advance and take in information slowly. Then, the two days prior to your exam should be reviewing the entire four chapters and focusing on any content you found particularly difficult to retain.
- 10/20, 20/40— Study 20 minutes, then take a 10 minute brain-break OR study 40 minutes, then take a 20 minute brain-break. Break your study periods up into blocks. This gives you brain a break and you avoid the brain drain of studying without breaks for an hour+. Play around with what time increments work best for you.
- The Feynman Technique — a technique that helps you pinpoint exactly what you are struggling to understand or remember about a specific concept and make your study habit(s) more efficient. Simple and so effective. Here’s a PDF file with instructions for those who don’t want a video (the video is not too long & is better).
- Study Stress Free— Okay, maybe stress-free isn’t realistic, but being in the right frame of mind helps. If you cannot force yourself out of bed, if you’re in agony or you know it isn’t going to happen— don’t force it. That said, plan ahead so you don’t end up without the option of not forcing it…avoid cram sessions unless it works for you.
- Prep Your Study Space— Do you like to study with music? Make a playlist. Do you like a candle lit? Snacks? Prep your environment. If you need to take pain medication in order to be able to study, take meds 30 minutes (or however long they take to work) prior to your set study time. Have some ice packs or your heating pad ready.
- Avoid Social Media Distraction— Get off of facebook, twitter, instagram, Reddit, whatever your weakness is. If you know you lack the self control to put these away, use a program that limits your internet access for a period of time. If you know you won’t be able to study if you have access to the internet, use a program that limits your access (google to find ones that work for Mac and PC).
- Create a Physically Comfortable Work Area— Do you have a comfortable desk chair to sit in? Large space to spread your materials out? Curling up in a corner on the floor? Find/create your ideal study work area. When you are less distracted by physical pain (amplified by uncomfortable seating), you’re more likely to focus and have one less thing keeping you from studying.
- Good Eats— Gum, mints, trail mix, fruit, etc. Healthy snacks are a great way to gain some nutritional value. Do not forget to take breaks to eat actual meals. Use dinner and lunch as a study break. Cook a healthy meal, enjoy it, and give your brain some fuel and a rest.
- Stay Hydrated— this is paramount, especially for those of you inhaling massive amounts of caffeine to combat the fatigue (Starbucks espresso shot & 5 hour energy users, I am speaking to you). Drink a LOT of water while you study and don’t drink yourself into a caffeine crash. FYI: two Monster energy drinks have over FOURTEEN soda can’s worth of caffeine. Think about that and then think about your heart rate before you open up another can.
- Utilize Outside Resources— I use Khan Academy to review (and sometimes learn…) course content. I find the interactive step by step videos to be easier than learning a concept from a textbook. KA is totally free and the concepts are explained correctly and quite simply. You can review a video as many times as you want at your own pace. Definitely something to hold onto whether you’re fighting the fog or not, for everything from stats to American History. If you are struggling with a particular concept, go ask your professor, TA, or find free tutoring on campus (it’s there, you just have to find it). Google the concept or find online interactive tools. Another good one for technical concepts (math, formula/calculation work) is Wolfram Alpha, the Computational Knowledge Engine. Find someone who will walk you through the basics and will work with your foggy brain and…
- Don’t Be Embarrassed! Even people without brain fog go to tutoring and need concepts broken down. So what if we need them broken down a little more? So what if we need to re-learn basics again? So what if we forget basic algebra because our brains function in slow-motion? Who cares? Remember that this education is for YOU. YOU are earning your degree and anyone who looks down upon you for going at your own pace is not someone whose opinions you should take to heart anyway! "It does not matter how slow you go, so long as you do not stop."
These are great tips for students regardless of whether or not one is dealing with brain fog, but for those of us who are struggling to fight the fog, it’s crucial we adapt our study habits to our bodies. I will add to this as I find more study strategies. Feel free to leave your comments, feedback, and/or any suggestions you have for others in the Disqus box!
*Please note that brain fog is not being tired, worn out, or “studied out.” It is cognitive dysfunction as a result of very serious disease(s). Please click & read this follow up to learn how not to use this term and how “fatigue” is defined here on Chronic Curve.
Take a deep breathe honey :) I’m glad you’re reaching out and I’m glad you have a therapist who listens to you and has good advice. If your friend has problems too it’s possible they could be aggravating your anxiety and dread and feelings of guilt and worthlessness. I encourage you to follow your therapist’s advice and try to limit interaction for a week while you work through your fears and your issues by yourself. You don’t have to do this alone though. Consider doing daily email or phone check-ins with your therapist or seeing them more often until things settle down and tide over for a bit :)
The hospital isn’t a punishment and it isn’t because you messed up anything. It’s to give you a chance to calm down and heal and let the crazy run its course. Sometimes… well, often times, we cannot make everyone happy with our decisions, but that doesn’t mean your decisions will hurt others. Be sure to put your well being first as well :)
It sounds like you’re a wonderful caring person who cares deeply about the well-being of others. That’s great and I respect that. There’s a point where the worrying and anxiety takes over though. I want you to make a list of the decisions or at least the important decisions you have to make in the next few days and show this list to your therapist. Together, you can work through the pros and cons of each option and settle on good choices where you hurt the least amount of people. From there, you can make ammends if needed and/or learn to cope with the guilt/fear you feel.
Best wishes :)
I wouldn’t say it’s “common” anon, but you aren’t alone in this. In some forums for bipolar and depression I’ve read people going through rapid changes in lifestyle and beliefs depending on their mood, energy level, and what type of episode they were in.
Depending on what mood you’re in and what your mental state is, your perception and thus thoughts and choices can expand or contract…. so it’s only natural that your beliefs and opinions would change based on these as well.
If it’s causing you so much trouble in your life though I encourage you to seek professional help for this. Again, you aren’t struggling with this by yourself :)
Take a deep breathe anon. I’m so proud of you for sharing you and your friend’s situation with us. It must be so difficult to be around that constant fear of losing her. If the feelings and thoughts are too difficult to cope with on your own, I encourage you to seek some mental health counselling or therapy yourself to learn how to better handle this situation you’re in and navigating through these difficult thoughts and feelings.
It is not your fault if anything happens to her. I hope that nothing bad will come of this but it is ultimately her decision and you should not be held responsible for that. Death, suicidal thoughts, and mental illnesses are so tough to deal with, and they put strains and stress on loved ones and support networks too. Just as she deserves all the support and hopefulness she can get, you deserve this too.
If you want to help her, I encourage you to take suicide prevention workshops, get professional help yourself, let her know you’re here for her, and being kind to yourself :) it’s important you take care of yourself too. And, if you ever need someone to talk to, we’re here <3
Hi there anon, I’m sorry it took so long to get to your question. I’ve been looking around and as I’m no professional I can’t put a finger on what this exactly is but I assure you that you’re not alone in this. Other people feel this way too.
If you don’t recognize your own face in the mirror it could be some form of dissociation and it’s not unheard of for people to harm themselves while in dissociative episodes. Again, I’m no professional though, so I encourage you to go see someone who can help you with these difficult thoughts and feelings.
In the meanwhile, I encourage you to practice breathing exercises, guided meditation on youtube … etc. to calm yourself down. Maybe try working up to performing these activities in front of reflective surfaces or mirrors. Also, take a look at our helpful resources section for self-harm alternatives.
Also try to practice the three D’s :
Delay - set a timer. Promise not to hurt yourself or act upon the urges until the time is up.
Distract - Send an email to someone at befrienders. Write a note to your doctor.
Decide - Decide how you will act on your urges. Before you do so, ask yourself the questions :
"What are the advantages of doing this?"
"What are the disadvantages of doing this?"
"Why do I want to stop?"
"What is my goal?"
Maybe go take a walk around the block to clear your head and get rid of some of this negative energy.
I don’t recommend this last option as much but until you get to see some sort of professional or until you learn to cope with the triggers, consider “mirror fasting” or not looking at yourself in reflections/avoiding your reflection as much as possible to limit your exposure to triggers and stressful situations.
Hope this helps some !
Edit: here’s a link on coping with triggers : http://mentalillnessmouse.tumblr.com/post/30887216673/perfectlyandbeautifully-i-was-feeling
occasionally tell me I should learn to drive and it hurts my feelings because they know the situation, but they will say I should just get over it. I’ve been to a neurologist and she even told me I should just try to drive anyway. I tried several medications, but they only made me more anxious and jittery and one even worsened the tics. I do not feel its safe for me to drive at all, but how can I convince everyone that I’m serious about this?
Here’s a quote of a previous ask/answer on driving anxiety that may help some:
Hi anon, I’m glad you’ve reached out to us :]
I assure you that you’re not alone in this. I’ve just got a learner’s permit so I’m not sure how I am behind the wheel….
I’ve looked around and there are many self-help tips and other resources.
A.) some sites recommend attending therapy or joining a support group to get in touch with others with driving phobia/extreme anxiety behind the wheel.
B.) If you are unable to find someone in your immediate area in a similar situation, consider building supportive connections with people who are willing to sit with you and listen to you.
C.) Consider enrolling in a driving class with teachers that specialize in helping out anxious drivers. A good program will teach you how to take safer and less stressful routes… and will teach you how to deal with situations you may face while on the road.
D.) Take small steps. Maybe just have someone sit beside you in the car while you get the engine started up and just familiarize yourself with the controls. Once you are okay with that, just drive a couple of meters forward, put the car in park, and rest.
It’s best to find places to practice like parking lots early in the morning where there are no other people around. Bring along a friend or family member to sit in the passenger seat so they can take control of the wheel in case that is necessary. It’s great if this companion can help talk you through these steps as well.
The steps you take can be as large or small as you need them to be. Take your time and be kind to yourself.
Have relaxation techniques and coping mechanisms you can practice in the car as well. [i.e.Belly Breathing]
Do any followers have any input or have you been in a similar situation?
Best wishes ~
It sounds like even the thought of driving can trigger you though so what i encourage you to do is to see a therapist or pdoc who will diagnose you or recognize your symptoms. Have them explain your condition to your parents and perhaps write a note for you that you can keep onhand as a reminder to friends that you have a real valid medical reason for not driving, and that it is for you and others’ safety that you do so.
It’s rude and ignorant of your friends and family to believe that you can just “get over” anxiety and panic so easily… but I encourage you to get some therapy too so you can better cope with your anxiety. There are times when people are going to unwittingly bring up driving and I’d rather you be stable enough to handle the situation than you having a panic attack as those can be so painful and draining.
Hope that helped some.
Hi anon, thanks for sending us a question. I’m sorry that i’m not qualified to diagnose you with anxiety though. Although it does sound like you have some sort of social phobia or anxiety going on there. I can’t say for certain.
I strongly encourage you to visit your school’s counselling and psychology center and hand them a printout of this ask or something similar that explains your condition and asks for a referral. The professionals there can help you a lot more than I can with both figuring out what you’re struggling with and how you can get help.
For reference here are some links on anxiety and social phobia from helpguide :
Best wishes ,