Ria Chopra caught COVID but what caught her by surprise was the gravity of brain fog she experienced. Here’s her COVID experience
During my second week with COVID, I found myself searching the refrigerator for detergent. I have absolutely no way to explain why, and how, my brain thought that the detergent would be amongst all the fruit and milk, but there I was, absolutely convinced that the fridge was the correct place to look. After a considerable amount of time, I had a ‘waking up’ of sorts, realized the stupidity of my actions and sheepishly walked to where the detergent was kept, logically, in the bathroom cupboard.
The detergent incident was simply one of the many ways I realised that my brain wasn’t functioning properly during COVID. In the beginning, I blamed the lapses in mental function on the considerable stress I was under- COVID had hit my family hard, and we were still reeling from the shocks. My mother had just been hospitalized due to a dip in oxygen, my father (who had thankfully tested negative) had gone to take care of her, leaving my sister and me at home, taking care of our grandfather. It is normal, after all, for people under constant strain to forget some things, right?
When things kept going downhill, though, my sister and I realised that something was very wrong. We would lose track of conversations while we were having them – imagine being in the middle of a sentence and forgetting how you began! We would order food and forget we’d done that, we’d put things on the stove and forget to turn the gas on. It is funny in hindsight, but we were just two young people in our early twenties, trying to cope with a situation the likes of which we’d never experienced before. We’d done our research, though, and knew that what we were experiencing was brain fog – a COVID symptom that, anecdotally, was affecting younger people a lot more than adults. There is not much you can do when you have it, you simply have to wait for your brain to get back to normal.
We put in place some safety measures so that our partially-working brains did not sabotage our own recovery, or that of our grandfather who was under our care. We wrote down our medication schedules on whiteboards and put up charts all over our house, to get consistent reminders to take our meds. We also documented our blood tests and reports digitally to keep track of them, tried to sleep more and restricted our internet usage beyond the necessary to avoid information overload. The anxiety was terrifying, though. As someone whose work, hobbies and other pursuits depend on my brain working the best it can, I was consistently worried about how long it would take for my cognitive abilities to go back to ‘normal’. It took a few days to become reasonably functional again, and a few more after that to go back to my usual form. I searched for resources and help online, and was recommended creative activities like drawing, reading, doing crosswords and sudoku etc., which really helped stretch my little grey cells a bit, and made recovery fun too. Calming, repetitive physical activity was also advised, and was available in abundance, like cleaning, doing the dishes, running errands etc.
My entire family has now fully recovered – it has been over a month since we had COVID, and most of our symptoms have abated, other than some lingering weakness. I still haven’t got my sense of smell back, but having experienced life with diminished cognitive capability, I frankly consider smell to be a dispensable ability for now. I am just glad that my family is well, my brain is working, and we have no permanent repercussions.
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The views expressed in this article should not be considered as a substitute for a physician’s advice. Please consult your treating physician for more details.