• Paul Coulter

Brain Fog in the Spring Sun

It is almost two years since I had COVID the first time. Back then, it was something of a novelty. No one else I knew had been through it. I was told of my positive test by a nurse over the phone and she seemed quite anxious about my prospects. That was before vaccines or variants. The virus hit me with the only proper flu-like illness I remember having in adulthood. A week in bed with fever and cough, aches and anosmia (loss of smell and taste).


This week I've had the virus a second time. How do I know? A faint line beside the 'T' on my lateral flow test (who knew what those were two years back?) Thankfully it has been less severe than round 1, presumably due to a combination of some immunity and a less severe variant. No fever and no anosmia. It has still been unpleasant, though. Two days pretty much in bed and a few more with sinus headache, tingly back and, above all BRAIN FOG.


This symptom of the virus is the one I hear people talking about most often these days. It is the sense that one's thoughts are clouded and slowed. Like you have to wade through treacle to access memories and you simply can't think clearly enough to process complex tasks. For me, this feeling isn't entirely novel. A good many years ago now, I suffered for about 10 years from an extremely rare neurological disorder that gave me long periods of severe brain fog episodically. Perhaps I'll share more about that some day. Having a lesser degree of brain fog this week was an unwelcome reminder of just how tough those days were.


I'm hoping my brain fog will lift. It seems that it does eventually for most COVID patients. But the experience might be one of those useful reminders of the challenges some people face on a permanent basis. Those who experience chronic fatigue or who have had brain injuries or are experiencing the early stages of dementia, perhaps. I suppose that's true of the whole pandemic experience too in a way. Some people have been locked in or isolated or fearful of going out for a very long time due to mental or physical health issues or even social circumstances. When we suffer or face restrictions there is always an opportunity to learn compassion for others.


So, brain fog has been my nemesis of the week (ok, I know that's an oxymoron as a nemesis must be a long-standing enemy, but I'll blame the brain fog for all errors this week!) But if I had to pick a week to have it, this would have been it. Because the sun has been shining. And just as the sun burns off the fog that lies across the land, so I think it helped to dispel some of my brain fog. Sunlight is good for us. On the skin it helps us convert Vitamin D from our food into a usable form. In the eyes it helps our brain release a mood-enhancing hormone. And on the world in general it is the source of all energy, both in our food (plants get energy from the sun and animals from plants) and in our fuels (solar power, obviously, but also locked away in fossil fuels derived from living creatures).


It's not hard to see why people who had forgotten the Creator turned to the sun as an object of worship. In our lived experience it's probably the best candidate for a supreme being that we can see with the naked eye (at least until some astro-physicist tells us that it's only a relatively small star!) We know, of course, that there is more to reality than what we see "under the sun". That is a repeated phrase in the book of Ecclesiastes, where Solomon often describes the futility of life within the confines of the world we see around us. Only when we look beyond the sun to remember our Creator and fear Him does life take on purpose (Ecclesiastes 12:1,13).


The sun reigns supreme over the daytime. Even when it is not seen it is there and without it we would soon die, most likely of cold long before we would run out of food. In these senses the sun is to the physical world what God is to the spiritual world. He is always there, whether we see Him or not. He is always sustaining our lives whether we acknowledge Him or not. He reigns supreme whether we submit to Him or not. If we are to see things as they truly are, we need this spiritual sun to rise in our lives. Wonderfully, as the Lord said through His prophet, "for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall" (Malachi 4:2).


When Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, rised in your life it makes all the difference. One of my favourite authors is Belfast-born C.S. Lewis and perhaps my favourite quotation from his writings is this:


I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it, I see everything else.


When Christ rises in our lives, we not only see Him as the risen Son of God, but we learn to see everything else and everyone else differently, through His eyes. He becomes the Sun around which our lives revolve, the centre of gravity to which all else is drawn and the blazing light that burns off the spiritual brain fog of sin and deceit so that all is seen for what it truly is. This is why we need to gaze long and often on Jesus as He is presented to us in Scripture. It's also why we need to preach Jesus to others. In doing so, we declare like the line quoted by the apostle Paul (Ephesians 5:14):


Awake, O sleeper,

and arise from the dead,

and Christ will shine on you.

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