All opinions here are my own and do not substitute for medical advice. My intention is to do no harm.
I have been living with chronic pain, specifically fibromyalgia, for 3 ½ years. Fibromyalgia is widespread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue, which researchers say is a malfunction of the central nervous system. There is no cure and many say it progressively gets worse.
Every fibromyalgia patient suffers differently. We suffer from stomach issues (IBS, gluten intolerance), skin problems, neurological disorders (balance, memory problems), frequent insomnia, sensitivity to touch and light and/or shooting pains throughout the body. If random and unexplained pains weren’t enough there’s the mental and emotional toll. Depression and anxiety are common amongst fibromyalgia patients. One of the three FDA approved medications for fibromyalgia, Cymbalta, treats depression along with pain.
Fibromyalgia patients say that pain and weakness are heightened during times of stress, over-activity and if their immune system is compromised. I agree. I can feel burning/shooting pains in my hands, arms and neck when I am in a stressful situation, battling a flu or haven’t allowed myself to rest. This is considered a “flare.”
There isn’t a clear origin to fibromyalgia but a common thread between patients seems to be Type-A personalities (overachievers) and history of a traumatic episode (accident, surgery, death of a loved one). I had both. Before I was diagnosed I worked two jobs in therapeutic settings, was athletic and travelled frequently. Although I was unmarried and had no children I was pretty busy. The day I felt my 1st symptom was the day of my grandfather’s funeral. Two weeks later I had to go to the hospital because I could barely lift my head off my pillow.
Fast forward to 3 ½ years later and now I have been forced to re-adjust my life and work schedule to minimize flares and have a better quality of life.
What could you learn from a person living with chronic pain?
- Don’t take your health for granted. Arianna Huffington explains in her book, Thrive, that our bodies will tell us when we need to slow down. Take care of this gift you have before it FORCES you to.
- There is a lot to be said for juices and smoothies. I chose a more holistic approach to help with my fibromyalgia symptoms. I don’t take narcotic pain meds or fibromyalgia medication. I have tried approved meds but they aren’t in my best interest in the long run. I have experienced the benefits of a healthier diet and a glass of a spinach/apple/ginger smoothie feels like heaven on my insides! I follow fitness bloggers who agree that the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables are unmatched!
- People with chronic pain have to say NO a lot! There are many things we can no longer take care of. We can no longer host holiday events. We can’t carry and lift many things with ease. Which brings me to my next thought….
- We need to learn to ask for help. Thankfully my husband is extremely understanding of my pain. He helps me out without question. I seriously CANNOT open Gatorade bottles anymore and luckily he doesn’t question this. My mom understands as well when I need help – whether big or small. Everyone can benefit from learning how to ask for help from the right people. I have open communication with my bosses as well and they don’t question me when I may need to curl up in a ball between appointments.
- We have to do an inventory of our body/mind EVERY DAY! This is helpful for anyone. Do you know your limitations and if so, what do you do about it? Do you know how to rest or take a break? Do you overdo it when your energy is at its highest? Chronic pain sufferers may be bedridden for weeks if they overdo it. I usually have a flare after a large holiday or vacation. Even during fun occasions I have to pay attention to my inventory.
Although I would give anything to have my health back I know that I am smarter and more aware of my limitations because of fibromyalgia. I have to work daily to have a better quality of life – to try to avoid pain and reserve my energy. Whether a person has a chronic illness or is the beacon of good health, we all benefit from focusing on ourselves a little bit each day.
Please share this with someone who may suffer from chronic pain or is a caretaker for a loved one in pain. Feel free to leave comments below.
If you would like to read more about fibromyalgia please check out the links below.
http://fmcpaware.org – National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association
http://fmaware.org – National Fibromyalgia Association