Tips for dealing with Brain Fog Days


A lot of us with thyroid disease and chronic illness get the dreaded Brain Fog days. Where you can’t think as well as you know you should, and you have problems remembering things. Dealing with this mental fog and trying to make sure things that are important are not forgotten, is a constant battle for some of us. If you are one of those people like me who have this hit suddenly and without warning and live in fear of forgetting important things, you are welcome to borrow some of the things I do to combat this.

  1. Sticky Notes. I have sticky notes everywhere. In my purse, in my car, on my desk at home. When someone gives me information I need to remember, I first write it on a sticky note. Writing things down sometimes gives me an edge in remembering. If it’s something I need to remember for a few minutes, then that is sufficient usually to help keep it in my brain long enough to act on it. If not, I go to the next step.
  2. Transcribe what’s on my sticky note onto my notes folder on my computer. I keep a notes file open on my computer that I can add to. Things I need to remember. Schedules of medications if I have new ones temporarily added to the mix, or remembering what I have planned for meals on a certain night, that sort of thing. When I’m done with that info, I go and erase it.
  3. I also keep a file with a copy of all recent labs I’ve had done, my medications and dosages at the time and any new symptoms and when they have started. This helps me keep track of how I am doing physically and mentally and track whether my thyroid levels or other things are going off kilter for me. Sometimes without this I can’t tell that I’m doing worse or a lot better if I don’t keep track of things.
  4. Along with this, I keep a food diary.When I’m having allergic issues, digestive issues, headaches, and the like, I keep track of what I eat and drink, plus notes each day with times when I can of  any problems I have. This helps me keep track of whether or not foods are affecting my health in a negative or positive way. When I have a lot of brain fog days, if I doctor would ask me about this, I am glad to have it documented so I don’t have to try to remember complex things.
  5. My smart phone. I have like most people a Calendar app on my smart phone. All appointments go into that phone. Addresses of people I am meeting, contact information, dates, times, and anything to help me up to and including what a person looks like. This is for days my brain fog is really bad. I recommend downloading or backing up this at least once a week or every other week in case something happens to your phone, so you can keep on track.
  6. Check boxes. Keep a list with check boxes next to all  your medications or routines that you  need to do. Check each task off after they are done so you do not forget important tasks each day.
  7. Extra rest. Give yourself extra times to rest, or take breaks during the day. Your brain is not working as well and is going to tire you out more, making mistakes even easier to do. Give yourself time for a nap, a few minutes doing something restful to give your brain a break.
  8. Forgiveness. When you are having a bad memory day, when things are in a fog, try to forgive yourself if you forget something. You are struggling against something real and even all of your preventative measures to combat it can fall short, so forgive yourself if you can’t do everything on those days and miss things.

Try to keep yourself positive during these times of less than perfect thinking because they will pass. Put in the comments ideas that you use to combat brain fog days.

Follow Britney on twitter @BttrflyBritney or see her on http://www.WarriorButterflies.com

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Stand Up


I was reminded of something today, that taking care of yourself with a chronic illness means reducing your stress, and sometimes you have to temporarily elevate your stress now in order to reduce it in the future. The last few years I’ve been trying to get rid of or reduce contact with toxic people in my personal life. I’ve reduced contact or eliminated contact with people who made my stress levels rise and were helping to knock down my sense of self-worth and ultimately helping to keep me feeling at my worst. What I forgot was that I need to do this periodically at my work as well.

I do work as a retail merchandiser rep. Which means I have a route of retail stores, that I visit every week. I have different projects to do for the store depending on what is going on. Which means I go into a store, take care of that week’s projects and then go on to the next store. Usually I am only there for part of a day, or maybe a full day on a rare occasion. So when someone who works at the store stresses me out, I’ve been ignoring it, finishing up my work and then moving on. Most of the time that serves me fairly well, but one person at one store reminded me that apparently I let people think they could get away with a little too much with me.

Earlier today I go to work in one of my stores.  The majority of people at this store are nice, easy to work with, and know that I’m there to help them get things done they don’t have manpower to get done themselves. There is of course one worker at the store who for some reason has been decidedly nasty to me in her attitude since I took over that store a few months ago. Most of the time I’ve been avoiding her, because her obviously negative and toxic nature is not what I want to be around. I usually deal with the manager or assistant managers to get what I need done. The few times I’ve had to work with her to accomplish a goal, her ultra critical tone, the condescension towards me and her fellow coworkers, her abrasive manner towards me, have gotten on my nerves, but most of the time it’s a few minutes then I can get away from her. Apparently she decided me ignoring her meant that it was ok to be abusive to me. I walked into the store today and got started on the first of my projects for the store.

Within minutes, she comes charging angrily at me up the aisle and starts accusing me of “lying” to her about something the week before. I’m really confused as what she is saying I told her is impossible, the term she’s saying I told her I am not even familiar with it. I’m trying to calm her down, but she just gets louder and louder, and meaner, accusing me of lying, and more. When I try to defend myself calmly she starts yelling that I’m calling her a liar and she won’t have it. She is using body language to try to crowd me, obviously trying to intimidate me as she’s larger than I am. I stay calm while she yells in the middle of the store and then walk away from her. I find her a minute later when she has gone into the back room of the store and is away from customers. I tell her “Listen here. Yelling at me is not professional or acceptable and you are NO LONGER going to speak to me this way. I am not your employee, I am not your whipping boy, I am a retail rep for this store and I do not have to take this sort of verbal abuse from  you any longer. If you try this again, I will report it fully to your boss and your District manager. I’m sure they would love to know how you yelled at a rep in full view of their customers, and that you have been known to belittle, and treat other people poorly when the managers are not able to see you. “She stared at me open mouthed and started to say something, but I held up my hand and pretty much told her I said what I needed to say and was done. I don’t know if anyone has ever stood up to this bully of a person in her entire life, it certainly seemed to catch her off guard that I did.

When I left the store later after finishing my project (she wasn’t going to keep me from getting my part of things done!)I called and spoke to my supervisor. I reported what happened to her. Thank goodness for good bosses! My boss said that I absolutely did not need to be spoken to or yelled at, and that she herself was going to go down to that store in the next day or so to speak directly to that woman’s manager in person and let her know that would not be tolerated. If the manager didn’t act on it, my boss would go to the District manager. It really is gratifying to know that I was able to keep my cool, stand up for myself and my boss backed me up. I hope anyone reading this is lucky enough to work somewhere like that.

I have to say though speaking my piece was very stressful, as I am not normally a confrontational person, when it was over and I’d spoken to my supervisor, I felt better. A huge weight has been lifted from me. I took a chance and stood up for myself and I know that it’s ok for me to stand up for myself. I didn’t need to get mean or yell, just calmly let that person know they no longer had the right to treat me that way. After I was done, I was sitting in my car and at that point I was crying heavily. The stress of the confrontation needed a way to leave me and I allowed it to do so.

After speaking to my supervisor, it looks like she is going to switch that store to another one along my route so I don’t have to deal with that person ever again. I hope that my standing up to her makes her think twice the next time she tries to be verbally abusive to someone else. Just remember, we have to take charge of our health and sometimes we have to remember that it is ok to stand up, even if it’s temporarily very stressful, in order to free ourselves from on going stressful situations.

Follow me on twitter @BttrflyBritney or see our website http://www.warriorbutterflies.com for more good info for the thyroid patient.

Yummy Baking on a Low-Glycemic Index Diet

I found out a few years ago that processed sugars bother me. They make me more fatigued, my skin breaks out more and more allergy issues. I’m not diabetic, but keeping my blood sugars on an even keel is essential to ward off major fatigue, and to keep my weight from going even higher than it already is also. So as an avid baker who loves to bake, what was a girl to do? I decided to start researching and trying out some recipes that are now my go-to’s for special occasions and holidays. Lower sugar and low-glycemic recipes that look and taste wonderful. Here are a few of my favorite recipes:

My most requested are my gluten free, low glycemic index peanut butter cookies.

Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients:
1 cup natural peanut butter (no sugar added)
1 cup stevia or 1/2 cup Truvia Baking mix
1 egg
Optional: 2 cups dark chocolate chips

Directions:
1. preheat oven to 350 degrees F(175 C)
2. Combine peanut butter, Stevia and egg, mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon
3. Scoop out spoonfuls of the dough, roll into balls and place on a cookie sheet.
Optional: flatten the cookies on the sheet and place one dark chocolate chip in the middle of each cookie. Bake for 6-8 minutes, do not overbake, cookies are best when barely brown on the bottom and still soft.

Second most requested are my Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal no bakes, with coconut oil.

Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bakes (w/Coconut Oil)

Ingredients:
1 cup natural Peanut Butter
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 cups dry oats (steel cut or regular not instant)
1/2 cup coconut shredded (unsweetened)
1.25 cups Dark Chocolate chips

Directions

Melt Peanut Butter, coconut oil and honey over medium low heat in saucepan. When melted, take off heat and stir in oats, shredded coconut, chocolate chips and vanilla extract. Pour into 9×13 pan, and put in refrigerator to cool (1-2 hours) When it’s set cut into bars and enjoy. I ended up needing less than 1″x1″ squares cut because these were so incredibly rich. Highest glycemic index on any ingredient is 60, so even decent for low glycemic index or diabetics if you eat small amounts.

Serving Size: Makes one 9″13″ pan, cut to 12 or more servings, very rich! Or you can drop them for individual sized cookies, about 2 dozen.

Finally my third favorite recipe to make for a special occasion, Whole Wheat Flour Chocolate Cake!

King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour Chocolate Cake

Ingredients
2 1/4 cups King Arthur Whole Wheat All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1/2 cup coffee or water
4 large eggs

Tips
The butter in this recipe needs to be very soft. You can soften butter by placing the sticks, still in their wrappers, in a bowl of warm (not hot) water for 10 minutes. If you can leave a dent in the butter with a gentle touch, it’s ready to use.

To warm the milk before adding it, heat it in the microwave for 1 minute. Add the vanilla after the milk is warm, then add all of the liquid to the recipe at once.

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and flour your choice of pan(s): one 9″ x 13″ pan, two 9″ round pans, three 8″ round pans, or the wells of two muffin tins. You can also line the muffin tins with papers, and spray the insides of the papers.

1. Place a strainer over a large mixing bowl. Measure in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa, and sugar. Sift/shake the dry ingredients through the strainer into a mixing bowl, to eliminate any lumps.

2. Add the butter and mix at low speed for 1 minutes. With the mixer running, add the oil and continue mixing until the mixture looks like sand.

3. Combine the vanilla with the milk and coffee or water, and add all at once. Mix for 1 minute at low speed, stop and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, then mix for 30 seconds more.

4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well at medium-high speed between additions.

5. Scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl, and mix for 1 minute more. The batter will be thin.

Serving Size: 13″ x 9′ cake or twenty four cupcakes

Nutritional Info
  • Servings Per Recipe: 24
    Amount Per Serving
  • Calories: 64.3
  • Total Fat: 1.9 g
  • Cholesterol: 40.8 mg
  • Sodium: 169.4 mg
  • Total Carbs: 10.3 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 2.3 g
  • Protein: 3.2 g

I hope you enjoy these recipes. For more recipes that are low glycemic index, low carb, diabetic friendly or even gluten free, visit our website at http://www.warriorbutterflies.com and  click on Recipes.

Because You Had a Bad Day


I’m having one of those bad days that has turned into almost a bad week and maybe a bad month. My brain is functioning in fits and starts and reminds me of an old car that doesn’t have all cylinders running at the same time. You know the kind, you get in and hope that it starts up,  and just maybe, manages to get you to where you are going, BEFORE it completely dies and strands you by the side of the road. Those of us with chronic illness and thyroid disease know about these sorts of days.

It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t have a chronic illness about days and weeks like this. It’s not always something you did or didn’t do that causes it, or at least nothing you can always pinpoint as the cause. If you are lucky it will last a day, or a few hours. For me the last month it’s been intermittent. I’ll be ok for a few hours, then it will feel like a large animal is sitting on me draining my energy and making me feel weak. Then I’ll be down, for an hour, or the rest of the day.

I can go whole months without one of these days, where I can go and do things, as long as I pace myself, almost like a normal healthy person. It’s always in the back of my mind like some sinister villain, lurking, waiting for that chance to take you down, and make it be the worst possible timing. You are going to a wedding? Time to strike you down for a day, just the day you need the energy. Oh, you want to take care of a sick loved one? It will wait for you to go two or three days full speed ahead, and then as soon as you slow down for a second, BOOM, down you go!

The worst parts of this is the brain fog during these days. Things that you KNOW how to do, suddenly you forget. What’s my name? What’s my password, where do I live? Things that you have engraved into your mind are suddenly shrouded in fog. You start to forget basic things, plans, appointments, tasks and more. People get mad because they feel you just aren’t paying attention. What they don’t know is you couldn’t concentrate right then if your life depended on it! It’s not from lack of trying either. The more you try to grasp your mental abilities back, the more it slips thru your fingers. Very frustrating, when you normally are a fairly together type of person. For someone who tends towards Type A, it’s devastating.

When you have a few of these you start doing game plans. Notes go everywhere, on your calendar phone, on your computer, little yellow notes all over your house. Medicines and other things go in specific spots in an attempt to make sure you can remember to take what you need, so you don’t get worse. You enlist other people to help you remember. It’s the worst feeling out there. You have gone from competent person to idiot in minutes. You have no idea when or if it will get better. I’m here to tell you, it will eventually get better again, it just may decide to play with you for awhile before doing so.

Hang in there, I know mine will get better and so will yours!

Check out http://www.WarriorButterflies.com site for great thyroid related info, more blogs, events and recipes.

Or Follow Britney on twitter @BttrflyBritney

Our Friend TED (Thyroid Eye Disease)


What is TED? It stands for Thyroid Eye Disease, also known as Graves’ Eye Disease. It usually happens more frequently to people who have Graves’ disease antibodies, but it can also attack people with Hashitoxicosis, hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Disease. So what is it? It’s defined as an auto-immune disease of the eye socket and muscles surrounding the eye. Simple definition right? Unfortunately for the people who suffer from it, it can go from annoying to excruciating in effects.

In the early stages, it can be an irritation. Starting out feeling like there is something in the eye making it irritated and red. The tear ducts may cause the eyes to be either “wet” or “dry”, either too much tears lubricating the eye or too little, and this can happen near the same time to the same person. The immune system may make the eyelids swell up and start to look like there are really bad bags under the eyes, or major puffiness.Extra spots in the eye or minor vision problems may come and go.

Next it starts to make the eyes look like they are going to pop out, like they are bulging out a little or a lot. Double vision and major blurriness shows up to make seeing difficult. Pressure starts to build making the eyes ache. The upper eyelid can retract, making the eyes look even more bulging out and make the person look startled. People also often become extremely light sensitive.

When it’s at it’s worse, it will push the eye forward due to swelling in the eye muscles. It can make the sufferer unable to properly close their eyes, which makes lubrication of the eye a problem and can have a side effect of producing a corneal ulcer. If a person has severe redness, pain in the eye, diminished ability to see, color vision becoming abnormal, get to an eye doctor who is familiar with Graves’ Eye disease or TED, this needs to be treated asap so it doesn’t cause permanent vision loss. The muscles can also start to scar leading to other issues with vision and how the eyes look to everyone else. This is when surgery to correct this may be brought up.

The inflammation period of TED can last up to 3 years. During this time most eye doctors and eye surgeons will not perform surgery as more inflammation could bring a patient right back to where they were before the surgery, to correct the eyes. Lubricants, eye lid taping at night, steroids and other medical methods are use to alleviate the worst of the issues. There has also been some evidence showing that taking Selenium 200mcg a day can halt or slow down the inflammation and damage of TED to the eyes.

If you have thyroid disease and you suspect that you may have signs of Thyroid Eye Disease (TED), consult an eye doctor or ocular surgeon, who knows how to deal with signs of thyroid eye disease. Even if you do not have signs of this, it is a good idea to get your eyes checked once a year and measured to make sure that your eyes have not changed from  year to year.

Headache-The Unwanted Visitor

I took a week off blogging because I’ve had this headache, for 8 straight days now. In fact I STILL have this headache, but it’s down to bearable levels now. For me bearable levels are a 4 on the pain scale with my 10 being kidney stones/gallstone pain. I’ve been having headaches of various types since well before my Graves’ disease diagnosis. Sometimes I wonder if they were the warning signs from years ago that something was not right with me. When I was in my teens and twenties, I actually had a low level nagging headache for almost every single day for about 18 years. They ran tests, they tried various drugs, I tried dietary changes and not much helped. Things would always come to a head when I got very nauseous and after that the headache would subside. After doing a lot of research I think they were sort of migraines and sort of tension headaches and sort of sinus headaches. If it was three things causing them at once, no wonder I didn’t have a chance with trying one thing at a time.They stopped being constant sometime after I finished my bachelor’s degree at Purdue and about the time I was diagnosed with Graves’ disease. Since then they don’t usually stay more than a day or two at a time.

Now when I have headaches that last longer than a day, I go on the offense. First thing I do is up my water intake, and since I hate the taste of regular water itself, I go for lemon water.  Hydration is important when you have a headache, it helps you flush out any toxins roaming around that may be contributing to the condition. If the headache is accompanied by a stuffy nose, then I add hot herbal tea to the water drinking. I love Traditional Medicinals brand, there is a tea of theirs for everything! I also add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to the tea once a day as well, which seems to help. Next I cut out dairy from my diet to make sure it doesn’t make inflammation worse or cause worse congestion if that’s a contributing cause. These will help if the headache is being caused by inflammation or congestion in the body, like with sinus issues. I also take turmeric twice a day on a regular basis to help calm down inflammation, which usually helps.

The next line of attack, is finding out if my muscles around my head/neck region or back are tense. Tension headaches I believe are another common form my head uses to attack. I got a portable home TENS unit. The TENS is one of the best investments I’ve ever made. I received one from a friend, for free, and now just have to buy the supplies, which are not very expensive. I can put those on my back or base of my neck, and it makes the pain in my muscles fade away temporarily, and sometimes even longer. I also go to see a chiropractor once a month, and go a little more often when I’m having a headache, sometimes an adjustment will help the muscles relax and give me some relief from my headache. Moist heat or an ice pack around my neck and on my head helps at times also. My best luck has been an ice pack on top of my head while I have a heated “sock” filled with rice wrapped around my neck. That brings some relief as well.You name it, I’ve probably tried most recognized headache techniques.

If those don’t work, or don’t get rid of it completely then I go on to the next step.  I start taking long hot baths at least once a day. I pour a cup or so of apple cider vinegar, which seems to relax my muscles, along with Epson salts or some nice relaxing lavender scents in,  then I sit and try to relax for 30 minutes or more. I use some of my grounding exercises at this time. I mentally trying to project the headache pain into the water, to be flushed down the drain when I’m done. Relaxation exercises are very important when you are having pain, even though it is very hard to get yourself to relax when your head hurts.

Sometimes the pain gets so bad it causes my blood pressure to rise to dangerous levels. That happened about day 3 of the headache this time. I ended up having to seek medical treatment as I feared it might continue to rise and cause a stroke. Scary stuff! So my wonderful husband went with me to see if they could help. I hate this option as their version is to drug me full of medicines thru an IV along with fluids. I think the IV fluids probably help the most, and the pain and muscle relaxers they put in there help temporarily. I have to admit this time, they knocked my headache which was up to my pain scale of 9 down to 4 again, so I’ve been able to deal with it much better. Sometimes you just have to go when it gets bad and have the professionals give some temporary help with these.

I have other things I do to help with headaches depending on how they are affecting me. One thing is stretching exercises with my neck. Roll the neck gently from side to side, then up and down and back and forth. Breathing in slowly while you are doing them. I also will stretch out my back by standing in a doorway with my forearms propped on either side and then leaning forward stretching my shoulders and back.

I also take Tylenol when it’s really bad, since  I’m personally allergic to all NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, aka Ibuprofen, aspirin, etc). I prefer though to up my magnesium dose, I go up to 450mg a day when my headaches are bad, I also make sure I take a daily potassium pill if my muscles are achy as well. I even will try some caffeinated tea to see if the caffeine will help in small doses.

All of these things normally knock out any headache I’ve had. So far this one has been super stubborn and has been knocked down but not out. If you have other things you do to help with headaches, please list them in the comments! Thanks!

You can see Britney on Twitter @BttrflyBritney

or at http://www.WarriorButterflies.com to see the thyroid information site she helps run.