Discover more from Author Amy Tintera
My Brain Betrayed Me
A year of brain fog
Hello! It’s November! I’m definitely a fall person, especially because I live in Los Angeles, which means that I get to have all the pumpkin things and still enjoy 70 degree weather every day. I’m also a baker, and over the years I’ve found some truly great pumpkin recipes – I highly recommend these pumpkin bars, this pumpkin bread, and this pumpkin sheet cake.
No One Falls Down The Stairs In My Books
One of the reasons I haven’t sent out a regular newsletter until now, despite doing this author thing for ten years, is that I didn’t know what to do with this space. A lot of writers provide writing advice, but that’s not really my thing. My writing journey is helpful to no one, because it’s this: When I was about eleven years old, I read a book with an ending that pissed me off (the love interest suddenly fell down a flight of stairs and died), and I said, “that’s some bullshit, I’m going to write my own book and it’ll be way better.”
My “book,” which was about 20-30 handwritten pages, was not better. But I did actually start writing books after that, and I had six novels finished by the time I graduated high school (none of them were better than the book about the guy who couldn’t handle a flight of stairs). I can definitely talk to you about craft, point you to books to read, tell you how I plot, but when people ask me how I do it, how I write, my honest response is something along the lines of, “I don’t know, man, my brain is weird.”
So I probably won’t use this space to give you much writing advice. There are better places for that.1
Instead, I’m going to tell you about my weird brain, and how it betrayed me last year.
It was August 6, 2022. I know that for sure, because I was on a date, and we’d just seen a matinee of Moulin Rouge! The Musical. Afterward, we went to a rooftop bar in Hollywood. I remember looking out at the skyline, thinking this was a very nice day, but I felt weird. And now that I thought about it, I’d felt weird for a while.
I was spacey and out of it all the time. I caught myself staring into space constantly. At movies, people around me would start laughing, and I’d realize I had no idea what they were laughing at. I thought I’d been paying attention? My brain felt like mush, and it was that day in Hollywood when I realized this constant fogginess I’d been experiencing probably wasn’t normal.
There was no trigger for my brain fog. I know what you’re thinking – Covid! – but I hadn’t had Covid yet in August of 2022. And even if I had caught Covid and didn’t realize it (which seems unlikely, given how hard it hit me when I finally did get it), having no other symptoms of long Covid except the brain fog seemed unlikely.2
My doctor couldn’t pinpoint a reason either – my blood work was fine, except for a slight iron deficiency. My iron levels went up with supplements, but the brain fog persisted. I wasn’t particularly tired, ruling out chronic fatigue syndrome. Sleep disorders, anxiety/depression, autoimmune disorders, hormone imbalances – all considered, because brain fog is a tricky beast.
One of the main recommendations for brain fog is exercise and sunshine in the morning, which was immensely frustrating to me, because you know how I start every day? How I’ve started nearly every day for the past ten years? I take my dog on a long walk.
But I added hiking to my exercise routine, because I figured it couldn’t hurt. And it didn’t! I enjoy it! It did not help the brain fog.
Getting B12 injected into my butt from the “health optimization” center next to the grocery store for rich people (Erewhon) also didn’t help. Drinking more water didn’t help. Reading more books didn’t help. Taking breaks from writing didn’t help. Less screen time, writing by hand, writing outside, getting glasses, less coffee, less alcohol, more protein, more fish, more exercise, less exercise, going on vacation, curtains to make the bedroom darker – nothing helped.
At times, the brain fog would get so bad that I’d forget to be worried about it. The panic would sweep back up every once in a while – holy shit, you can’t write, the brain fog is too bad, remember?? – but then it would be gone again, sinking beneath the fog as I stared blankly at nothing.
Eventually, I did hold on to the panic long enough to remember to start acupuncture, and that is the thing that finally helped. The first guy I tried was not great, but the second one had me feeling better within two weeks, with significant improvement in six. I’m not a hundred percent (and I’m still exploring some options with my doctor), but at least I can think clearly some of the time. At least I can pull my brain back to writing most days.
The brain is weird (not just mine), and I have learned to appreciate it just a little bit more now. My brain is weird, man, but it’s finally going to let me do some writing again.
Next time: I read a lot of books this year while trying to beat the fog, so I will recommend some! I reread a bunch of the thrillers that inspired me to write Listen for the Lie, and they all held up, which was delightful.
For now, I may not have writing advice, but I do have this advice for you: Don’t let the people next to Erewhon inject B12 into your butt. It doesn’t work.
I’m not going to fight with anti-vaxxers on the internet, but yes, I did consider that the Covid vaccine could have triggered the brain fog, but the timeline absolutely doesn’t work. I continue to be cheerfully vaccinated against Covid and flu yearly.