I feel like I am back in the 9th grade, in chemistry class, proudly proclaiming I have a theory that I want to test. Of course, the theory I am suggesting would best be left to physiology professors to prove or disprove…I am going to argue my point for establishing my theory as fact;
Cognitive dysfunction experienced by fibromyalgia sufferers, often called “Fibrofog” is caused when the sufferer can no longer tolerate the chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is a central nervous system disorder. The central nervous system is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves in the spinal cord.This means we are sensitive to e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. It is not that we are emotionally over-sensitive. We physically feel things to the degree that people without fibromyalgia would not. It is a physiological thing. People with fibromyalgia are sensitive to unpleasant things, medically; this is called “noxious stimuli.” This stimulus can be smells, lights, noise, touch, this is our central nervous system overreacting to what is around us, including the pain we experience.
When we go to the doctor, we are asked to say where we are on the pain scale; 0 = happy face, 10 = sad, crying, agony face. As a person with chronic pain, you have pain, all-the-time, so you never experience the happy face. I know I don’t. The happy face and I are no longer an item. We haven’t seen each other in years! Unless given pain-relieving medication in the hospital, I don’t even get to flirt with the #2 face on the scale. The hospital no longer attempts to bring chronic pain sufferers down the pain scale to a happy face. We are asked at what level is our pain “tolerable.” Well, I’d like to try no pain (get me to that happy face) since I’m here, in a hospital, surrounded by medical professionals. The medical field no longer believes in relieving the pain that a chronic pain patient is in. Maybe they fear we are seeking medications for pleasure? How much fun can one have in a hospital? Those forms I signed that stated I am entitled to be treated for my pain… just what were those for then? I’ve never used the word entitled for myself, but the form that I signed did. So reunite me with the happy face!
Let me introduce you to the stage of numb, every person with chronic pain knows it. We have just come through a ‘flare’ (increased pain, coexisting conditions, and fatigue) or might still be in it! We have been battling hard pain for days, the fatigue is overwhelming, and our ability to manage our ‘flare’ is compromised by the extreme pain, lack of sleep, and inability to find comfort. We eventually surrender to the stage of numb. We become brain-dead; numb. Cognitively we check out. Words may not make sense, tasks are difficult to complete, simple math is complicated, everything is distracting, your memory is gone, and you cannot remember what you are looking for or even doing in the first place. You are experiencing a complete shut down because of a sensory overload, which I believe is the inability to deal any further with chronic pain. This is cognitive dysfunction; fibro fog.
We all know when we are feeling a little ‘foggy.’ Anyone who didn’t get a good night’s sleep knows when their memory is a bit impaired, a little off their norm. There is a tendency to interpret a cognitive impairment with cognitive dysfunction, the two are not the same. Lapses in memory, forgetfulness, not recalling someone’s name; these are examples of an impairment. You are well aware you are not good with memory, tend to forget where you put things and are bad at remembering names. An impairment that you can correct if you wish. Fibro fog is cognitive dysfunction. When you are in a fibro fog, there is nothing you can do to fix it. You may not even remember the depths of the dysfunction you were in.
In conclusion, I have read a few articles about ‘suffering steps’ vs. ‘pain scales’ but have never come across one that I felt would serve the fibromyalgia community objectively. Pain is subjective, of course, but some steps take fibromyalgia sufferers from awareness to the extreme of dissociating with pain. A ‘step’ or ‘pain’ scale for chronic pain sufferers needs to be identified and processed throughout medical offices and hospitals.