At least once, you’ve probably experienced a time when you were part of a conversation about a book, or maybe it was a movie, where while you know you had read or seen the material, you could not recall anything you could contribute. You knew you’d read the book, but all you could draw was a blank. You have little to no memory of the time.
This happens to me often, between my concussions in the past and now brainfog from POTS there are whole chunks missing from my memory. Yes, I have seen Iron Man 3. No, I cannot tell you anything about it. Yes, I did read Crime and Punishment; I’m not sure that forgetting that one is much of a loss though. Brainfog can prove to be a tough opponent when it comes to reading, turning something I once loved into a chore.
I knew going in that AP English 12 was a literature course, and that tackling it would be no easy feat. Here are my tricks to making something out of time spent flipping pages:
Have a highlighter and a pencil handy.
When I was first told to write in a book, it went against everything I had ever been told about reading up to that point. However, I will be the first to advocate for taking notes in the margins, and highlighting key phrases or important passages – even just a quote you enjoy. You can also create a code for yourself. If you have an assignment on symbols, highlight all symbols in a certain color, or put a star next to them. When flipping through the book these notes will catch your eye and make everything easier to locate.
Summarize every chapter.
Write a short summary on either the last or page of every chapter. I rarely do more than three sentences, and usually end up using bullet points. Some chapters are meatier than others and require longer notes, but I tend to stick to recording main actions and plot points. Not only is this helpful when you pick up the book to refresh on what has happened before you continue reading, it also can earn you major discussion points when no one can locate where character X had the big fight with character Y, and no more endlessly flipping through pages looking for a quote for an open book essay.
Listen to the book as you read.
For some people, reading out loud helps when it comes to retaining material. But when brainfog is heavy and you have a hard deadline approaching, audiobooks may be your saving grace. If I listen to an audiobook, I am also employing the other two techniques mentioned above. You can get audiobooks from libraries, or download various apps so you can have it right on your phone. My favorite thing about the Audible app is that in the books chapter menu the length of narration is listed, which helps me to set goals and schedule my reading. You can also speed up the narration, so if you find the voice slow and monotonous, you can double the speed (which gives you the added bonus of getting through the book faster). This method isn’t just for books! When annotating poems, I will go on YouTube and search the poem assigned. Sometimes listening can give you a fuller idea of the authors intention, and help you pick up on hidden rhyme schemes or iambic pantameter.
If you’re looking to try Audible, pretty much any big YouTuber has a free trial code; so you have nothing to lose! I’m not being sponsored for this, and the opinions voiced here are all my own.
To all of my spoonies struggling with brainfog, stay strong! And I hope you find this helpful. Do you have any tips for reading retention or dealing with brainfog? Let me know, and maybe I’ll make a part two!