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Adrienne Dellwo

Brain Fog & Driving With Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

By January 13, 2009

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Has brain fog ever struck while you were driving? A lot of people in my Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome forum have stopped driving, believing that it's just not safe for them to be on the road. Some have had accidents, some have had close calls, and others are frightened that their inability to concentrate means it's only a matter of time before something bad happens. Most of the people who've given up driving have chronic fatigue syndrome, but at least one is a fibromite.

I've had occasions when I was unable to drive because of fibrofog, but fortunately only a few. Back when I was a TV news producer, after especially stressful days I'd have to call my husband and have him come pick me up. First my pain would ramp up, then my brain would shut down. A couple of times, I could barely form a sentence or dial the phone. I'm lucky that it hasn't happened since I left my job, more than 18 months ago.

Do you drive? Have you ever had problems? How do you get around? Take the poll, and leave your comments either here or in the forum (under Newsletter & Blog Topics.)

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January 13, 2009 at 3:07 pm
(1) Miriam says:


I do have brain fog, and stopped driving years ago, my brain fog has got considerably worse since my granddads death a few months ago.


January 13, 2009 at 11:05 pm
(2) Paula says:

I have both CFS and fibro. I drive on a limited basis, local driving only. I am no longer able to do long distance driving. Even 45 minutes is too long. I am most comfortable with no longer than a 20 minute drive. Since I am the only driver in my household unless there is another driver with me I have to be super careful about having enough energy and focus to drive back. Some days I simply do not drive as I know I am too fatigued.

January 15, 2009 at 7:57 am
(3) Walter says:

I am considering giving up driving. In the last 6 months I’ve had four incidents which concern me. I’ve lived in my small town for almost 20 years, yet have (a) driven the wrong way on a one-way street (b) waited and waited for a traffic light to turn green only to realize I had pulled all the way over to the side of the road and was sitting behind a parked car (c) backed into a parked vehicle in a parking lot and (d) left the car in neutral when I thought it was parked. After I got out it began to roll backwards. I didn’t notice until someone started yelling. Fortunately, no damage. And I’m only 55!

January 16, 2009 at 3:37 pm
(4) Nancy says:

I have ME and FM and still drive. If I’m overtired, I don’t drive because my eyes start slamming shut. I stay off of local Interstates because the traffic is too fast.

I drive mostly where I know where I’m going. My husband has had a couple of minor strokes so he has similar problems. We try to go together so that between us we can find our way around town. We live in a somewhat large city so it gets difficult to find a new location.

All our doctors and dentists are nearby. I always take slow moving streets thru town rather than the expressways. I don’t care if it takes longer. At least I’ll get there in one piece.

Long distance driving is something I’ll start to do more of but again my husband and I will take turns and we may have to start driving half way, stay in a motel and finish the trip the following day.

So far I’m doing ok and thats with having neuropathy in my right foot. I wear shoes with thin soles so its easier to feel the gas pedal and brake.

But when the day comes that I feel I’m a danger, I’ll stop. My grandson is 12 and very bright, so he’s my navigator. He looks to the right as I’m looking to the left when we have to to across lanes of traffic.

Life is a challenge indeed!

January 16, 2009 at 4:56 pm
(5) Dena says:

I drive but have had occasional times where I suddenly didn’t know where I was or where I was going. After fighting the panic, I just decided to keep driving until something looked familiar (after a prayer or two). After a few minutes I realized where I was & made it home. It does seem to happen after a day of stress or when I am extra sleepy. I am a fibromite. I’ve learned that if I feel ‘fuzzy’, I just need to call for a ride.

January 18, 2009 at 2:32 am
(6) Jackie says:

Much this sounds very familiar. I have not totally given up driving, but I don’t drive if I am feeling fuzzy or tired. I drive around town but I live where it is rural and town has one main street and 2-3 lights. I live near stores etc. My doctor is about a mile away. I am retired so that’s not an issue. If I am having a great day, I may drive 20 minutes to the larger grocery stores. Hubby takes me wherever I want to go otherwise and comes in with me or waits patiently. I am realizing I had fibro probably back in 2001 or 2002. My parents had passed away and it was very stressful. I was driving one day out in the countryside with the radio on and suddeny realized I did not know where I was or where I was headed but like one of you above, I thought I will just stay on this road a little longer and see where it takes me. In a few minutes, I recognized it. But it is scarey. One morning on way to work, I suddenly felt extreme instant fatigue like I had taken a drug; but I wasn’t taking any medication. THAT was scarey… I made it to work safely. And talking! I’d forget my point, words, names, foggy big time. It was embarrassing at work. And when I would write words, they would have letters missing. Even now, when I read somethin, I often see one word and look back and it’s a different but similar word. Rest helps. As does reducing stress. Thank God for my wonderful family who “get it” and care so much. Hang in there, fellow fibromites.

February 16, 2009 at 5:34 pm
(7) Andrea says:

I have been sort of avoiding a diagnosis of FMS for a few years now, even though that is what all the signs and symptoms point too. My pain level is manageable compared to so many other people but the brain fog is starting to worry me. Last week I locked my keys in the car with it running and just today I rear ended somebody. Both times I was with my daughter. I am going to have to seriously reconsider if and when I drive.

December 6, 2010 at 1:41 pm
(8) Dona says:

Drive??? since CFS hit, i’ve been a danger just to live! its NOT fatigue thats the problem, its simply the fact that my brain feels so unwell and it becomes unaware, then aware, then unaware. calling it brainfog is not really describing it well at all!!!

January 31, 2012 at 8:16 pm
(9) Estela says:

I lived in Winnipeg for 5 years and, yes they do not have iattrsentes. However, the traffic in that city is STUPIDLY INSANE! My commute to work everyday was 12 miles, the shortest distance I could work out. I passed through 38 traffic lights and it took me no less than 50 minutes to get to work and 1 hour to get back home in the afternoon. Interstates would take the load off the local streets and make traffice more manageable.

March 31, 2012 at 11:23 am
(10) Patty says:

This is an amazing article. I had no idea that others with CF and Fibro experienced these challenges. I’ve been experiencing brain fog while driving for a few years, but had the scariest of them all a few months ago.

I asked my 84 yro mother to drive me to my pain doctor appt., as I was having IV sedation that day for a procedure. I had only been to his new location once prior to this appt, but didn’t give it a thought, as I was confident I knew where we were going. Long story short, we spent a half an hour driving from one medical bldg. to the next, and at each one I would get out of the car, go into the lobby to see if I recognized where I was supposed to be. I finally called the dr. from my cell phone and they guided us in.

I was horrified! It was a very educational day for my mother and myself! She now understands more of what I go through on a daily basis. As for me, I now Google Map my destination before I leave the house and take a map with me so as not to get lost. I have so many different dr. appts. now, that I have to do this in order to remind myself as to where I’m going.

I have to agree with others that the ‘sleepy factor’ is scary. It can come over me so quickly sometimes that it’s all I can do to get home, get through the door and fall into bed.

Dealing with these illnesses is exhausting. Add up all of the other considerations and it’s a wonder any of us make it through the day!

God Bless each and everyone of you in your challenges, and may you stay safe from harm and find comfort in your achievements, no matter how small!

April 6, 2012 at 5:42 pm
(11) Kinkatia says:

Learning to drive while severely fibrofogged is terrifying. And has led to my anxiety coming back full swing, panic attacks and everything. It’s terrifying, and I don’t want to drive, but I live in a place with no public transit, so I haven’t much of a choice in the matter. . .

I’ve already nearly rear-ended a semi because of it. I just completely blanked. I recall pulling accelerating after a stop light, and then I recall my mother shouting and the semi in front of me with its brake lights on, and I was still accelerating.

Not fun. I have no idea how I’m going to pass the driving exam if I happen to be foggy that day. Considering I have to schedule it eight weeks in advance, there isn’t an option of rescheduling until I’m not foggy. :\

December 14, 2012 at 3:50 pm
(12) Ronnie says:

I have fibro and mostly I do drive, but am VERY cautious. I have had 2 significant episodes of zone-out/ not knowing where I was for several moments. Also, if I drive more than 15 or 20 minutes at a stretch, I know there’s a good chance I won’t be able to grip the wheel anymore or push the peddles sufficiently. If I know it’s a bad day, I will just skip driving. And I almost never attempt driving anywhere farther than 20 minutes away.

February 10, 2013 at 4:48 pm
(13) Jan says:

I have difficulty driving. I do pretty good if I don’t have any distractions. I don’t even turn on the radio. I don’t drive with other people in my vehicle because of the distraction. I definitely don’t drive with my grandchildren. I have an older truck and keep it because car seats for the children don’t work in it and other people always want to take their vehicles when we go together. hee hee

I am lucky that most places I need to drive for are relatively close. I also purchased an inexpensive GPS that I use when going somewhere that is not part of my regular routine.

Also, the truck positions myself where I can see ahead of the car in front of me, so I there are not so many unexpected stops and gos.

December 7, 2013 at 3:20 am
(14) Carolyn Moore says:

I don’t drive anymore and it really bothers me a lot than I don’t. There are times that I still could drive and do just fine but by now I have learned enough about myself and my fibromyalgia to know when my body is not at its’ best and I should not be driving. In fact, there are times that I shouldn’t even be walking sometimes. I tend to get to the point where I get overly exhausted from not getting enough sleep or rest and after three days of this, I end up falling to sleep at the strangest times. I have fallen and hurt myself many times because I was standing or walking doing something and was so exhausted that I literally passed out and went to sleep on my feet. I have spilled my coffee or food all over myself or my bed falling to sleep and even been doing dishes and woke up with my head in the sink with the running water over my head. It is dangerous for me when I get this tired and I try to tell everyone that I need to sleep but somehow everyone still calls me and wakes me up a lot of the time. The other times though I am alert and aware of my surroundings. My car isn’t running right now and I can’t get anyone to help me get it repaired. My family will not let me drive their vehicles. It is so hard on me because I am alone most of the time and I have very few ways to get around to do grocery shopping or get to my doctors appointments. When my Dad died a few months ago I wasn’t even able to visit him very much and it was so depressing. This has actually been one of the hardest things about having this fibromyalgia for me. I used to be so active and was around people all the time and now I am alone almost all of the time. Unless I am able to get myself out of my home, I am pretty much just stuck. My family is not supportive or helpful really and all of my friends went away after about a year of me being sick. I miss driving and I wish I knew how I could get my car repaired!

April 12, 2014 at 8:15 pm
(15) Kelly says:

I have both and I drive, but it’s gotten difficult. I get distracted easily and have become afraid to drive far or to unfamiliar places. I don’t listen to the radio in the car anymore and that helps, and the voice navigation on my phone has turned into a HUGE help when I’m going somewhere new or far. I feel like I can concentrate better on the cars around me when I don’t have to focus on the direction I’m going or try to figure out how to get there and that really helps keep me calm and focused on my speed and better able to keep an eye on the traffic. But I try as much as I can to stay close to home and drive to places I’m familiar with. My confidence is much higher when I’m able to do that. And I do have days where I avoid driving completely if I feel it’s not a good idea. Better safe than sorry.

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