Let’s go back to 2011.
I’m a sophomore in college when one morning I wake up with a different brain. I walked out of my room as I always do to see what my roommates are up to.
This is when I usually say something like “good morning guys, how are you?” You know, the basics…
Instead, nothing came out and I panicked.“What do I do?”
“What do I say.”
“Oh shit, what’s happening.”
The day before, I was walking home from class when I experienced a sharp pain in my chest after a deep breath. Nothing too intense, but what happened in my brain scared the shit out of me.
It felt as if I had to think really hard just to figure out what I was doing, where I was going, and how I was going to get there. I figured this was just dehydration or exhaustion and went home in hopes that it would be gone by morning.
It wasn’t. In fact, it hadn’t changed at all. It felt as if I was locked into this state forever.
My First Couple Months With Brain Fog
I had no clue what was happening. I didn’t know how to explain it to others. So I did what any intelligent college kid would do and didn’t tell anyone.
I told myself:
- I must be drinking too much, I’ll taper back
- I’m probably just sleep-deprived, I’ll sleep it off
- Maybe it’s dehydration, *chugs water
Fast forward a couple of weeks and nothing had changed. In fact, things were getting worse.
- Lack of energy
- Lack of motivation
- Losing my train of thought
- Unable to hold a normal conversation with anyone
- Uncomfortable and awkward
- Confused and unclear
I did everything I could to avoid any human interaction. Due to the fact that vision takes place in the brain, it seemed as if there was literally a subtle fog covering my eyesight as well. I would try to clear my eyes by squinting and rubbing them, but nothing worked.
It was a unique and terrifying experience.
When you have a health issue, you go to the doctor, but this didn’t feel like a regular health issue. What am I going to tell them, I feel foggy? That doesn’t seem productive. So I decided I was going to skip drinking alcohol and focus on sleep. This was great, but it didn’t get rid of the fog. Not at all.
This lasted only about a week or two before I was back to my normal college routine.
Drinking, partying, studying a little bit and not sleeping well. Oh and add to that some Adderall, unhealthy energy drinks, too much coffee, and a toxic diet.
Now, let me not be so dramatic. I would venture to say that compared to most, I wasn’t an unhealthy person. I worked out every day, hard. I ate what I thought was healthy based on bodybuilding.com’s recommendations.
I didn’t go crazy when partying. Nothing out of the college norm.
So, I slipped back into this routine.
I remember feeling like whenever I drank, I cared less about my brain and therefore was able to have more fun. In hindsight, this was essentially me dumbing myself down to match my severely low levels of cognitive function.
In other words, I was temporarily numbing myself, which led to less worry about the state of my brain.
This was one of the first rock bottoms I hit.
I Finally Went to See A Doctor
After trying to explain my symptoms to the doc, this is the response I got.
“It sounds like you may need to get tested for ADHD, here is a specialist.”
I didn’t go. I knew it wasn’t ADHD. I was fed ADHD medicine in 5th grade! I hated every second of it and gave it up after a month or so.
That’s another topic, but damn that pissed me off.
So I went to the next doctor.
* By the way, these were general practitioners that I went to. I won’t sit here and blame them. They did their job. I should have known to find a different kind of doctor. But at the time, I had no clue where to start.
So the next white coat doctor tested me for allergies. This made more sense to me. As I expected, I was allergic to all the usual things. Certain kinds of grass, dander, cedar, pollen, mold, dust mites….I don’t honestly remember, that was a long time ago. But it wasn’t anything too out of the norm.
I took the prescribed allergy medicine for over a month with no signs of improvement. I remember going to Blues on the Green in Austin, TX (where I was born) and thinking I was allergic to the grass.
All my friends were drinking and having a blast and all I could do was stress about how I was feeling extra foggy due to my grass allergy. My thoughts often ran rampant when it came to the fog. I had no place for them to go, so they got creative. This drove me crazy.
I turned to Google
I was starting to get pretty hopeless at this point. My friends gave me shit. My roommates thought I was making it up. Loved ones told me it was in my head. My girlfriend didn’t know what to do so she was fairly passive.
I don’t blame them. It sounds ridiculous when I look back on how I was trying to explain it. It was also muddied with frustration, which made it easier to write it off as a phase I was going through.
I started to realize that I was going to have to take this into my own hands. I searched the internet for answers before but came up empty. I figure I would keep trying.
I searched for things like:
- I feel foggy
- I feel hazy
- I can’t focus
- I can’t think straight
- I’m tired all the time
- My brain is being weird
Google was probably getting a kick out of it. I probably searched for new things every day for weeks before finally finding something that got my attention.
At the bottom of some random page, I read the words “brain fog” for the first time. As I began to read more about this brain fog stuff, it sounded awfully similar to what I was experiencing.
At the top of this article was a ‘contact’ button. *Click!
I found a number for someone local and scheduled an appointment. This was my first sign of hope after about 2 years of falling down the vicious brain fog cycle.
Brain Fog Was Taking Over My Entire Life
I want to let you know how brain fog affected my life in case you too suffer from brain fog. Maybe some of this sounds familiar?
Brain fog wasn’t just a lack of clarity or focus, it was seeping into every crevice of my life.
My confidence and self-esteem and communications skills completely disappeared. As you can imagine, this took huge toll on my social life. I became a home-body and avoided most fun opportunities that presented themselves.
Let me remind you, this is in the “height” of my youth. A time when you say yes to almost everything. A time when I wanted to explore, make friends and create memories.
This brought on depression for the first time in my life. My relationship of 2-3 years began to suffer greatly. I would get frustrated easily and take things out on her. My health was spiraling out of control. The lack of energy and motivation made it almost impossible to workout. It was a downward cycle.
I had little energy or brain capacity for my studies as well. This lowered my grades.
Let me tell you a quick story about giving a presentation.
It was a business class in college. There were four of us in a group, giving one of the biggest presentations I had ever given. I was so nervous about the state of my brain that I basically memorized every single line.
A good presenter gets to know the subject intimately and then lets the information flow naturally while following a loose structure. My brain was so broken at the time that I couldn’t do this, so I resorted to memorization.
Somehow, I made it through the presentation okay. I would try to hold the first word of the next sentence top of mind so I could progress through my lines without going blank. Stuff the brain should be able to do without your being conscious of it.
It’s as if I was manually operating the brain instead of relying on it to do its thing automatically. This required tons of focus and brainpower, which I was short on to begin with.
After the presentation was done, there was a Q&A.
“Oh shit…” I thought nervously.
Relying on my brain to spontaneously extract the correct words to formulate an answer? Yeah right!!
I sat there in silence, supporting my teammate’s answers with head nods and facial expressions as if I was thinking; “Yes, exactly how I would have said it, great job team.”
I felt like a damn imposter. Finally, as any good teacher should do, the professor sent a question in my direction. I actually had a decent answer queued up right away.
I opened my mouth and said a couple of beginning words.
“Great question, so basically….”
Then, my mind went blank.
I completely lost my train of thought.
So that’s exactly what I said to the class as my face went red.
This may not sound like a big deal, but in that moment, when your whole life is college and social reputation, my life stood still.
I thought to myself after class, I can’t do this anymore. How am I going to get through life if I can’t even answer a simple question in a business presentation?
Either I’m healing my brain or I can’t live like this anymore.
What’d You Expect, I’m In College
I went in to see the doctor, a Chinese Medicine practitioner who follows a holistic approach to healing. She explained her experience with brain fog and how it works. I can’t express how happy I was to hear this.
We began treatment, which was mostly consulting at first. Asking questions about my lifestyle, diet and health conditions. She ran a hair test to discover any imbalances and consulted me on what and what not to consume. She gave me this list of 22 rules to live by. I went a few times and followed her instructions pretty strictly.
But then life came back into the picture. Oh yeah, I’m in college and I want to have fun. So I started getting lazy.
I was instructed not to drink alcohol, which didn’t last long. I was instructed to avoid gluten, which flew out the window while eating with friends late at night.
The fog didn’t change a bit. This led to more hopelessness feeling as if I would have to give up everything I love to have a shot at healing myself.
And would I have to give it up forever?!
For the next 6 months or so, I tried my best. I would super healthy and clean for a few days, maybe even a week, but then reverse all progress during a “cheat day.,” finishing a pizza and cookies with my buddy.
While it felt like nothing was working, I began to become more conscious of things. For example, I remember being really healthy for about a week and feeling a little bit better.
Then, after ice cream with my girlfriend, the fog came on immediately. It hit me like a ton of bricks.
“Okay….no more ice cream I guess.”
I would drink a cup of coffee or pre-workout before going to the gym and notice a deeper inability to interact with others.
“Okay…my body must not want caffeine right now.”
I made subconscious notes of all my observations, unknowingly learning more about my body and brain.
Finally, it was time for a change.
30 Days to Clarity
I had hit rock bottom a few times at this point.
After all the signs, I finally decided to listen.
I made a deal with myself.
No gluten or added sugar for 30 days.
I had a few rules for myself.
- Eat organic whole food whenever possible
- Reduce snacking and aim for 2-3 round meals
- Avoid sugar, gluten, alcohol, chemicals, and processed foods
- Get good sleep
- Work out lightly, but consistently
- Journal and track your journey for 30 days
- Detach yourself from an outcome (treat it like an experiment)
By some miracle, I did it.
I was almost perfect.
When day 30 rolled around, I was the clearest I had been in years. The timing was incredible.
I went into my valet job and was able to remember what I was doing. I was sharp and witty in conversations. I was able to think and see clearly. It’s like the fog that had been there for years, blocking my real human experience, dissolved overnight.
It was one of the best days of my life.
Diving in head first
This experience pushed me into being passionate about the brain.
I dove in headfirst, learning everything I could about the brain, how it works and how to keep it healthy and clear.
I started writing on Quora almost every day, answering questions about brain fog.
Before long, I was getting a good amount of feedback. People were reaching out asking me for help.
Using my marketing background, I built a free course called Brain Bright. The only marketing I did for this was writing consistently on Quora and linking to my course.
Over about a year, more than 400 people signed up.
I got nothing but great feedback.
“I’ve never heard someone explain brain fog so well.”
“You should be charging for this!”
“Thank you. I’ve struggled with brain fog for 10 years and have never found anything so helpful.”
I realized I was onto something. There were other people out there like me who needed help.
After focusing on my marketing career for a few years, I realized BrainThrive needed to be built. I knew it would take a lot of work and unpaid time, so I needed to ready for that.
Now that I work for myself, I have created the space needed for this to thrive.
Let me introduce you to BrainThrive.
My mission: create a solution for those who suffer from severe brain fog and help 500 brains transform from foggy to fit.
I realize that health (not to mention brain health) is complicated. I don’t have all the answers, but I know people who do.
The solution: An online community that offers courses, resources and guidance from brain health experts as well as accountability.
But most importantly, we need hope and support.
The fact that I couldn’t find anyone else who had even heard of brain fog years ago compounded my pain and kept me down.
I could only dream of meeting one person who said: “oh yeah, I’ve had brain fog, I know how you feel.”
So I’m creating that for anyone who needs it. A safe container where we can share, support and ultimately heal together.
If you have brain fog, you’re in the right place.
If you want to heal, you’ll need to go all in…