In my last post I described some of the symptoms of cognitive dysfunction, a.k.a. brain-fog. The confusion caused by brain-fog can be extremely distressing but it can also lead to predicaments that seem quite funny with hindsight.
My most embarrassing encounter with brain-fog took place in my second year of university. I was sitting in a lecture hall when a good looking guy asked to sit next to me. He was a popular third-year who had plenty of friends on the same course so I was quite taken aback that he would chose to sit with me. As the lecture progressed, the windowless room became ever more stifling and I started to feel increasingly nauseous. Fearing I might pass out, I began to take off my jumper and as I did the guy leaned across and whispered that he really liked my top. I began to say thank you, but seeing the corners of his mouth start to twitch with ill-disguised laughter I looked down to discover that rather than the shirt I’d got out of my wardrobe that morning, I was wearing the nightshirt that I’d slept in. Somehow after my morning shower I’d put my nightclothes back on under my jeans and sweatshirt without having noticed. To add insult to injury, it wasn’t an elegant adult nightshirt but a threadbare Disney hand-me-down I’d had since primary school. I pulled my jumper back on as fast as I could, desperately hoping that none of my hundred or so classmates had had time to notice.
I expected the guy to make a hasty exit from the lecture hall to escape my embarrassment but he thought the whole thing so hilarious he offered to buy me lunch so he could get to know me better. I would have loved to take him up on his offer, but by the end of a full morning’s lectures I was too unwell to stick around and socialise. Offended that I’d rebuffed his offer, he never asked to sit with me again. That week I threw out all my old nightclothes and replaced them with items that could easily pass as daywear, just in case.
Eighteen months later while working part-time, I arrived at the office to find my boss irate. She’d been trying to get hold of me all morning as she needed me to cover at another site and she was livid that I’d not been answering her phone calls. I told her that I hadn’t heard my mobile ring but when I reached into my pocket to check for missed calls I pulled out, not my mobile phone, but the television remote. While my colleagues enjoyed a laugh at my expense, my housemates were less amused about it having completely dismantled the living room while I was out in search of the errant remote.
A few days later, my boss asked me to post an important letter as I’d be passing by a post box on my way home from work. Arriving at the house, I was bemused to find the letter was still in my hand but my mobile and keys were missing. Unable to let myself in without my keys I was forced to stand in the rain for half an hour, waiting for a postman to come and empty the pillar box so I could reclaim my lost items.
Shortly after moving to my current home, I spotted a moustachioed man in a red coat and bowler hat loitering in the lane. I assumed he was a dog walker pausing with his dog, so I was somewhat concerned when an hour later the man was still there. It looked as though he was staring intently at my window and I was alarmed at the prospect that a crazy stalker had been watching me sleep. I turned away to reach for my phone, wondering who I should call if he carried on standing there but when I looked again, the man was gone. I thought he must have seen me reaching for the phone until I noticed a road sign on the spot that he’d been standing. Somehow my misfiring brain had turned the red and white sign into a pale faced man in a scarlet coat, and the symbol for a hump-backed bridge into a handle-bar moustache and bowler hat. The sight of that road sign still makes me smile; I catch myself squinting at it from time to time, trying to catch a glimpse of my moustachioed stalker. The fact I saw nothing odd about a dog-walker sporting a bowler hat shows just how pernicious brain-fog can be.
My favourite brain-fog moment was during a routine medical appointment. The doctor wanted to know how I was managing to eat if I was too ill to make it downstairs to the kitchen. I told him that I kept crackers and water in my room.
‘And do you drink?’ he asked.
‘Well, of course I drink,’ I replied matter-of-factly. I’d just told him I kept bottled water by the bed and no one could live long without drinking something.
‘And how much do you drink?’ he asked, with one eyebrow raised.
‘I aim for a litre and a half a day,’ I replied ‘but I don’t always manage it.’
‘A litre and a half of what?’ he asked in alarm.
‘Well water mostly,’ I shrugged, frustrated at having to repeat myself.
‘And do you take medication?’ he continued, looking visibly relieved.
‘Not prescription medication,’ I told him.
‘So what non-prescription drugs are you taking?’ he asked me sternly.
‘Paracetamol and ibuprofen,’ I answered, somewhat perturbed by his overdramatic reactions.
Several days later, the penny finally dropped and I realised that what I’d thought to be a discussion about fluid intake and over-the-counter painkillers, he’d viewed as an admission of alcohol abuse and illicit drug use. No wonder the poor chap looked worried.