When diagnosed with Fibromyalgia last year, I didn’t know much about the sickness itself but I had a clue about what « chronic illness » meant. As far as I could remember, it meant that no insurance would actually pay for my medical fees and that I probably wouldn’t be able to play outside with my friends whenever I wanted. That was twenty years ago and throughout the years, I have learned that in order to cope with an illness that is not going anywhere anytime soon, is to :
- Learn to know myself better – As well as my limitations of course
- Try and not blame myself when I can’t do something
- Take it one thing at a time
I never said that years of practice made me perfect but I consider these as rules to live by everyday and in every situation. Fibromyalgia, just like many other chronic illnesses, comes with its batch of surprises and limitations and mostly, it comes with flares. You know ! these days you feel like you have been hit by a bus and probably thrown out off a cliff but you’re still alive; That’s what I am talking about. If there is one thing you definitely have to learn to manage, it is those flares that can kick in anytime, anywhere and regardless of what is needed to be done !
So let me tell you what I learned after a few rounds against these dark forces that cause flares :
1- Learn to see it coming ! Maybe you won’t but at least, understand what might trigger it. Be aware of your own limits before you reach them. For example, when I sleep poorly more than three days in a row, I know I am not getting away with it, so I try to take naps, relax and not ask too much from my body and brain.
2- Narrow down your to-do list as much as possible, even if sometimes it means doing « nothing ». Alarming signals such as extreme fatigue, dizziness, Ioss of balance, migraines… should be taken seriously. This isn’t getting better any time soon so learn to set your priorities right and your well-being/health should definitely be on the top of your list.
3- Make sure that you get something to eat at least three times a day (and as much as would want to, I am not talking about snacks).
When you’re feeling down and irritated, the last thing you want to do is to spend time standing in your kitchen, right ? However, you do not want to feel more miserable because of low blood pressure or hypoglycemia. Your body needs energy and energy comes from food.
4- Drink water. Stay hydrated. This advice needs to be highlighted, underlined AND written in bold. Water is the essence of life and therefore your are as concerned as this plant you watched dying slowly because you always forget to water it !
5- Breathe. As obvious as it may seem, we tend to forget to breathe properly, that is if you ever did it !
you need to learn some tips and tricks to help you regulate your respiration so you oxygenate your brain and body efficiently. There are different methods to help you feel better (Diaphragmatic Breathing, Alternate-Nostril Breathing…). Find the one that suits you best but don’t let it down until you’re sure to consume your quota of oxygen as a human.
6- Take care of yourself and rest. You have probably heard of the last season of Odd Mom Out, if not, you should check it out. Do whatever makes you feel good or at least, keeps your mind out of everything else. Not only your body needs to rest, your brain does too. So if watching a screen aggravates your symptoms, there are always other alternatives. It could be listening to audio books or playing games that do not require too much effort, listening to music… Anything that can help you feel less overwhelmed, is strongly advised.
7- Again, rest. It can be a matter of hours or days but you have to give yourself this extra
rest that it needs. If you force it too much,
your own self is going to get back at you, leaving you no choice but to painfully wait forbluer skies. Remember that it is not because it can happen to you more often than a perfectly healthy person that you don’t have or don’t need to express it anymore. There is no quota, no limit to what a person has to endure so why should you limit the care ? We all are different and our bodies react and perform differently so …
8- Don’t blame yourself. Definitely the most important part. I am personally still struggling with this one but I can tell you for sure that guilt and blame are the best way to accelerate the cycle and therefore make the next flare happen faster. More importantly, I have learned that blame is the worst form of self-abuse and if I can’t learn to respect myself, how am I getting the respect I think I deserve from anyone else ? Remember that there isn’t much you can do to make this awful feeling disappear but you can still be good to yourself and avoid becoming the bully you would never respect. Nothing ever lasts forever. However, the consequences of your decisions toward yourself seem to last longer than anything else.