Fibromyalgia…’s a pain! – 10 things I do better now.

September is Fibromyalgia Awareness raising month in the UK.  I want to share with you the 10 things I do better now that I have fibro!  If you don’t know what fibromyalgia is, it’s an illness categorized by constant pain in muscles, joints, nerves as well as overwhelming fatigue at the slightest activity.  I have had fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (M.E.) for around 9 years.  I’ve run the gamut of emotions in that time, but now I make it my intention to focus on the positive every day (and some days that can be so difficult, but we know, don’t we, that we have to ride the storm of bad days in the knowledge that the following day will be better for sure!).   In this spirit of positivity, here’s a chart tabling what I can no longer do and what I do in its place. I’d be interested in your feedback!  I hope it’s helpful.

What I can no longer do: Here’s what I do instead:
1.      Swim I take a few moments to visualize swimming and immersing myself in the peace that it can still bring me in my imagination.  I wrote a lovely post about just this: Inner-stillness-the-joyful-soul-dance
2.      Go for long walks Go for short walks! We go to our local park in the evening and walk along the tree-shaded riverbank for a few minutes.  It’s so relaxing. We stop and chat to other dog walkers; we take in gulps of the freshest of air; we peer through the trees to catch sight of the deer.  We delight in nature for the short time that we are out in it.  Start small and build up a little more each time.  I sit out in the garden for a few minutes each day too to bathe my bones with rays of healing sunshine.
3.      Hold down a full-time job Request a job-share or go part-time, although firstly take a really hard look at your finances to see if you can afford to cut your working hours.  If you can, be so grateful that you can and make the right choice for your health.  There are plenty of opportunities for volunteering to help others, and I have found that when we are engrossed in helping others, we forget about our pain for a while.
4.      Heavy housework I was unable to do any housework at the beginning of my illness (not so much of a hardship!).  Now I am able to do light housework such as 10 mins of dusting or tidying up.  Hubby does the heavy work like vacuuming and emptying bins.  If you live alone, ask for help from your neighbours or friends.  Employ a cleaner once a week if you can.  This is also good company for you, especially if you are mostly housebound like me.  If you really miss housework (!), you could always spend a few quiet moments visualizing how wonderful it was.  Lol!
5.      Concentrate in the afternoons I do any writing in the mornings because I know this is the time I am most alert.  For others, it may be the afternoons.  Do any paperwork or anything when you need to concentrate (such as make telephone calls) at the optimum time for you and REST at your worst times.
6.      Go shopping I really don’t miss shopping.  The shopping mall, that cathedral to commercialism.  It all seems so unpleasant now.  I buy clothes online, making sure I check the size guides before purchasing.  If you need to make a return, in the UK it’s so easy now to have packages uplifted from home or from local stores.
7.      Holidays/Travelling I can’t do airports (too much stress, light, noise, people, extremes of temperature; just too much of everything, sensory overload); I can’t travel in the car more than an hour at a time and when I arrive at our destination, I’m exhausted and have to sleep!  So we tend to go away for day trips to the beach, to seaside towns or to a Farmer’s Market, and I always write nice reviews for any places we have visited as an act of kindness.  You can make future memories in the small things.  You remember the weather, the time for you and your partner to talk, the nice food and good service you had for lunch, the photographs you took and so on. I’ve visited many places in my earlier life; nowadays I enjoy watching television programmes about travel to beautiful places.  The brain doesn’t distinguish between imagining doing something and actually doing something, did you know that?  Fascinating.
8.      Knitting I used to love knitting, but it belongs to the past and to the perfectionist personality that I was (and which still lurks in waiting in the background!).  There was a lot of ego involved in knitting, that sense of “Oh look what I’ve created.  Aren’t I clever!” I was looking for praise from other people and that was all tied up in my lack of self-esteem.  Now I know I no longer need others’ approval.  I can appreciate my niece’s knitting achievements for example ToryaWintersDesigns, but don’t feel the need to take up the needles again.
9.      Socialising I can no longer drink alcohol, but you know, I don’t miss it.  I realised that I relied on alcohol to relax me and I thought I couldn’t have a ‘good night out’ without it.  Not a bit of it!  I can now go out for a short meal in the evening, although I find it very tiring and have to sleep a lot the following day.  But it’s wonderful to feel connected again with family and friends.  If you can’t get out, why not invite people to your home, which is what we did for the past 8 years.  By doing this, I was able to sit and relax on a comfortable chair at home while everyone else organised the meal around me!  People are so happy to come and spend time with you, they don’t mind if you ask them to heat up some food or make tea. If you’ve explained your condition, they’re happy to help.
10.   Driving I used to love to drive.  The freedom that it gives you.  I rely on other people to drive me now, although we have recently bought an automatic car which I can drive for a few minutes at a time, but it does cause pain in my arms and I daren’t go out at all in the afternoons when concentration is poor.  I just wouldn’t put others at risk.  The thing about driving is, it encapsulates the big thing about having a chronic illness:  having to rely on other people.  My goodness, how I fought this for years, so determined was I to stand on my own two feet.  But it’s such a relief when you finally say, “Yes, would you help me with this…”  You can still do many things for yourself, but everyone needs a little help with something in their lives. Your pride stands in the way; let it go and you will be happier.


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