Since my original injury in September 2009, I’ve had ridiculous issues with sleep, or should I say the lack thereof. I’ve tried multiple prescription sleep medications to no avail. Even strong pain medications make me feel absolutely horrible overall but don’t always break through the pain cycle enough to help me to sleep.
I am asked sometimes about the pain level and how I manage to function with it. To give you an idea, look at the McGill Pain Index, which details various types of injuries and the associated pain levels. The pain from CRPS (also known as RSD or causalgia), is rated slightly higher than the amputation of a digit. That’s right, the pain is WORSE than that you’d feel if you cut off a finger or a toe. Needless to say, sleep is elusive more often than not.
Clearly our bodies need sleep to heal and to renew. Lack of sleep hinders that renewal process, causing even greater pain, and a vicious cycle begins. Even worse, pain can awaken you once you have actually fallen asleep, resulting in non-restorative sleep. Altogether, the twin symptoms of lack of sleep and chronic pain can then result in loss of cognitive function.
I wish that I could say that I’ve learned coping mechanisms to help me deal with these problems, but the reality in my case is that “the best defense is a good offense.” How so?
- I don’t schedule early morning appointments if at all possible.
- I warn family and friends that I may at any time find it necessary to cancel plans.
- I keep my NOOK Color loaded with plenty of light reading to try to distract me during times when the pain is at its worst.
- I schedule medications that are most likely to cause drowsiness in the evenings.
- I don’t even attempt to drive when I am sleep deprived (which is pretty much all of the time). Driving while sleepy can be as dangerous as driving under the influence.
- I have surrounded myself with a support network that genuinely attempts to understand and accept the limitations of my injury and disease.
Most importantly, I’ve learned that I myself must accept the cognitive loss that comes with the pain and lack of sleep. As frustrating as it often is, beating myself up over it accomplishes no good. Instead, I strive to be thankful when the good days come and accepting when the day doesn’t go so well.
How do you cope with loss of sleep, especially when it is caused by pain?
About the Author:
Shari is the wife of a career Air Force man and mama to a beautiful teen daughter. After spending twenty years in the corporate world, both in the legal/financial fields as well as more recently in online media specializing in women’s interests, Shari’s professional life took an unexpected turn when an injury paralyzed her left leg, resulting in Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.
Not content to merely accept such a diagnosis and determined that something positive would come from the negative, Shari launched Rain into Rainbows, which serves both as an outlet for Shari’s thoughts and emotions regarding her life-changing injury and chronic illness, as well as a resource for other women with similar experiences. Her hope is that by sharing her story with others, she might begin to turn the page into the next chapter of her life as well.
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When I started my website I forewarned my parents that I’d like them to write a little something about how they have felt having an adult child with fibromyalgia. I think hearing different perspectives are good for everyone. Below are some of my mom’s thoughts. Soon I will have my dad’s thoughts as well.
Like all parents, we are so very, very proud of Felicia. We love her dearly. Yes, she’s the apple of our eyes – and The Helpful Hubby is the best son-in-law any parents could have. Well enough of the good stuff – now for the unexpected. Felicia has handled fibromyalgia better than I thought was humanly possible. Maybe receiving the diagnosis when a busy student at a large university is the time to get the crummy news. She couldn’t stop, she didn’t have too much time to reflect, and those papers and exams were always calling for attention. (I’m sure not a minute was wasted.)
Felicia’s diagnosis took about a year. She had not kept us “up to speed” about the number of different doctors but in an efficient fashion, we got the explanation, “don’t worry, don’t come up, there’s no cure.” Anger and fear weren’t really my feelings, more: sadness for my “baby,” “Ick, how can I help Felicia, maybe it’ll go away if it’s sort of a chemical imbalance.”
Mainly I wondered about her ability to conquer her courses and what, if any, adjustments the university would/could make. I wondered if she would get so bad that she would be confined to a bed. Then Felicia brought home a fairly technical book. I read most of it. She’s been bringing home reading material ever since. I’m not quite so ignorant about fibromyalgia now.
We still really want to help Felicia but, that is hard to do, especially with her living out of state. Always my first instinct is to wrap my arms around her and just hug tightly for a really long time—maybe hours. Well, with fibro, that’s not a warm, cozy feeling for her to say the least. I can’t say, “It’ll get better,” because it may get worse before it gets better. I want to bake goodies, but know I’ll be chastised because she’s trying to eat nutritiously. Since I live far away, I can’t run over and do the laundry or dusting. She’d probably love it if I’d fly out for seasonal gardening though. I’d like to baby her in many ways, but that doesn’t make her fibromyalgia get better, it doesn’t help Felicia deal with life better, it just makes Mom feel better.
Felicia, my husband, and I talk frequently. Felicia and her father have a very special, loving relationship. Mostly I whisper little prayers throughout the day. We try to support both her and The Helpful Hubby in any way we can from a long distance.
Generally when I see or talk with Felicia, the first thing I do is figure out if it is a good or bad day. When I can visit her, usually her general posture or eyes tell me, but sometimes it’s the braces, compresses, or verbal warning of, “don’t touch me.”
I hated during my pregnancy when everyone else thought it was the only topic to talk about. So, if Felicia wants to talk about fibromyalgia, I’ll talk, but I don’t make it the core of every conversation. Felicia is so much more than this condition. She is a vibrant, interesting, creative, intelligent, compassionate, and humorous woman who happens to be dealing with a lot of pain.
The major way I see her coping with fibromyalgia is through determination. If she says she is going to do something, it will be done. It will be on time and correct, and with bells and whistles, when appropriate. She has been the family organizer since age 4.
She tries to stay positive. It drives her crazy when people don’t even try to be pleasant when dealing with the public. Felicia is not one of those obnoxious cheery people. She wakes grumpy, gets headaches, has fibromyalgia; but she looks for ways to make things better, she doesn’t dwell on the spilt milk in life, and somewhere she has learned to make lemonade from the lemons life gives her.
Felicia monitors her activities. She is a really good planner. She will space steps out so that everything isn’t left until the last minute. Although she deals well with crisis, she hates being put in that position due to others poorly made plans.
Felicia uses tools that help make household chores easier. One, not-so-obvious “tool,” is being organized. She claims that everything in her house as its own “home.” She can tell someone exactly where to find almost any item in her house. This is helpful for others when they are trying to help her – no need to search around for items or feel badly asking where something is.
She researches fibromyalgia, reads books and articles, searches on-line, and learns continually. She is active in local groups, and of course she started her website and tweets. She really believes in a place for positive examples of people living with fibromyalgia. She hopes to be a banner of information for most, a shared moment for many, and a ray of hope for some. As her mother, I want her to succeed. As a person, I want you to succeed too. May this find you making progress which will lead to your good day.”
About Felicia: “I’d like to think that everything that I do in life is done with passion. To me it’s not worth doing something if you don’t believe whole-heartedly in it! I enjoy photography, flowers, baking, traveling and bicycling and am an active volunteer with my local Arthritis Foundation office. Everyone who knows me also knows my favorite color is purple. I started my Felicia Fibroblog in hopes that I would be able to create a community where people with fibromyalgia and other medical conditions relate. I planned to share resources I have found to be helpful as well as my own personal tips and tricks. I am lucky enough to know a few other ladies with fibromyalgia and will sometimes share their experiences as well.”
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Nearly one in two people live with an illness, and most chronic illnesses are invisible. Conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome to diabetes rarely have visual side effects that people can see. It creates a challenge for those who live with invisible daily chronic pain, symptoms, and side effects.
For example, though I look fine on the outside, I have lived with rheumatoid arthritis for 18 years. It has been degenerative, despite the best of medical treatments. Recent tests have revealed that I have shoulders that are so disintegrated it’s amazing they still work, knees full of pieces of bone and old blood clots, and osteoporosis.
I have started seeing a new rheumatologist who I hope will more aggressively treat my disease and slow down its progression. I am 42. I told my physician, “My son is 8. I need at least 10 more good years. What can I do to make this happen?”
Despite the detours, I have had the opportunity to build a nonprofit organization of nearly 15 years, to serve those who live with chronic illness, through a Christian foundation of faith. Although I believe God still heals today, He rarely does it according to our schedule. In the meantime, there is a strong need for friendship and support.
Between my family and ministry, I have ample reason to get up out of bed each day and not allow my illness to define me.
I have never given in and allowed it to consume me.
But because I do not enter marathons, audition for reality TV show contests on deserted islands, or sign up for karate class, some people assume I have.
“You’ve just given in to your illness,” I have heard from both strangers and friends. “You need to fight it more.” This is often followed by their specific advice on what I need to do to “fight it.”
What defines “giving in” to your illness? There are a variety of ways that people who do not have an illness define the actions of those who are ill.
1. We are not using the alternative treatment of product that they sell that will make it all go away.
My husband was recently berated by a friend’s wife, “We are so mad at you guys!”
“Why?” he asked.
“Because you won’t try the water!” she replied.
Honestly, I’ve done my research and if I am going to go with a marketing scheme that promotes health benefits for just $200+ a month, it will be the chocolate one. I mean, who doesn’t like chocolate?
2. We are seeking health assistance from doctors or medical specialists.
A friend on recently posted on a social network that he cured himself of a disease by ignoring the “mumbo jumbo of doctors” and asking his dad for advice. He claims he “never gave in.” In his eyes, because I am seeing a rheumatologist with “MD” behind his name, I have chosen to give in. No one cares that my rheumatologist happens to have his own clinic about specialized medicine, and that has written books on the alternative treatments he uses with patients, in addition to Western medicine.
3. We are pacing ourselves.
Chronic illness uses up a great deal of energy and only the one who lives within the body knows what they can and cannot do on particular days. Sometimes we have to give it our best guess and make a choice, not positive if an event will cause us to be tired for twelve hours or four days. When we choose to not attend an outing we’d planned on because we are in deep pain, we frequently hear, “Oh, you are just giving in to your illness. You are letting it control you.” No, we had to make a choice and we did. Healthy people will understand this when they reach about age 80.
4. We are not where someone wants us to be spiritually.
We all grieve, we question, and we sometimes get depressed, regardless of our faith. But if these emotions are noticed by others they are quick to offer the spiritual version of “Don’t worry, be happy.” We are told that we are allowing the sin in our lives to get the better of us and it’s causing our illness. We are not praying consistently, or hard enough, or in the right way. One man recently told me that I needed to try a particular alternative treatment (that he happened to sell) and if I did not, then it was obvious I was just giving in to my illness and really did not want to get well … and that God knew that!
5. We are not doing physical activities that we are expected to do.
If you watch well known magazines written specifically for those with certain illnesses, even they are guilty of featuring people who have the disease but are still able to do extreme physical activities. A person with rheumatoid arthritis may run a 25-mile marathon and are quoted saying, “I chose to never give up.” I have chosen to never give up either, but I am blessed to get my feet into extra-wide diabetic shoes and walk around the grocery store. My own limitations, or those of one who uses a wheelchair each day, is not something that is a measurement of determination or stubbornness about our disease.
Each person who live with a chronic illness knows the daily difficulties in finding a balance between living his life in the fullest way possible, and managing his disease effectively at the same time. There will be many times that our choices do not make sense to people around us. When we hold back from a new treatment or a fun outing, we will be told we are “giving in” and letting our illness define us. And when we take a chance and stretch ourselves, we will be told we are not thinking things through or considering the consequences or risks involved in our choice.
If you live with a chronic illness, only you are capable of making the wisest choice possible based on many factors. If you love someone with an illness, be cautious in sharing your opinion about his or her decisions. If you are genuinely concerned, instead of offering advice, ask questions, such as, “I know you must have given a lot of thought to your decision to (fill in your blank here.) What was it that persuaded you?”
About the Author: Lisa Copen is the author of “Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend”, founder of National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week and Rest Ministries. She is a sought-after speaker who brings joy, humor, and hope, to those who live with chronic illness, from her own 18-year journey with rheumatoid arthritis. This article was formerly featured at the Huffington Post where you can read 40 comments.
Popularity: 11% [?]
The headlines read “Oliver Stone Hails Michael Douglas’ Brave Cancer Fight” and “Brave Brett Michaels wins Celebrity Apprentice.” Even as Belgian action movie actor Jean-Claude Van Damme recovers [this week] from his recent heart attack, I’m sure his friends are saying he is being brave about even the admission of this attack, which came just one day after his 50th birthday while filming a kickboxing movie.
Are those who suffer from stage-four cancer, such as actor Michael Douglas, brave? Are those of us who live with the chaos of chronic illness, such as musician Brett Michaels, who is one of 23 million insulin-dependent diabetics, brave? Are these individuals more courageous than actors Patrick Swayze or Farrah Fawcett, who lost their battles to cancer last year?
Does our society create grand expectations that exemplify bravery and courage as the only acceptable response to an illness crisis? Celebrities coping with health crises are just like the rest of us. They get up each morning and put one foot in front of the other, whether that means an unpleasant medical treatment or going to the grocery store–but these actions are typically photographed and labeled as signs of “bravery.”
I am sympathetic to the friends of celebrities who appear as a guest on a television shows such as The View and are asked to reveal how their celebrity friend with illness is “really doing.” There is no appropriate answer. If someone is truly a friend, as Danny Devito is to Michael Douglas, he is not going to say, “He feels terrible and isn’t looking too hot either.” Instead he will comment on how brave his friend is. It’s a considerate response to an awkward question, and it does contain a hint of truth.
Is there an alternative to being brave?
While there are tools online such as an illness symptom checker, there are few ways to understand how one is coping emotionally with a disease. If those of us with illnesses were to sit in bed and sob uncontrollably, how long would it take until our friends stopped calling us brave and said we were a basket case? Can a good cry be a sign of bravery, too? Who among us is not brave while fighting a disease that threatens to take away our quality of life or life itself?
What exactly is bravery?
The definition of the word “brave” includes possessing or displaying courage, being able to face and deal with danger or fear without flinching, and making a fine appearance.
I believe anyone has dealt with the fears of a health crisis certainly has moments of bravery. But let us not forget that emotions are fragile at times; allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and let some emotions through is not only acceptable but a healthy coping tool. Tears do not signify a lack of bravery.
When our loved ones see us look the doctor in the eye and ask, “How long do I have to live?” they are seeing us “make a fine appearance” as the definition of bravery possesses. They may not see the tears that fall uncontrollably in the lonely moments at 3 AM. Brett Michaels’ Rock of Love show may have been a successful indulgence, but when he was fighting for his life, it was his daughter’s fear of growing up without him that “gave me this unsinkable strength,” he declared on Oprah on May 19, 2010. “It gave me this amazing courage to want to survive.”
How does one show bravery in the midst of illness?
In 2009 I spent eight days in the hospital when I contracted the flesh-eating bacteria in an ankle wound that quickly spread up my leg. To be honest, I felt brave at times. I did not shed a single tear. My husband brought my then-five-year-old son to the hospital to play with the electric bed and eat mac-and-cheese from the hospital cafeteria. I gritted my teeth every couple of hours when another medical professional would visit my room with the intent of causing some kind of pain.
So, within the context of the definition of bravery, I made a fine appearance. I don’t know if I possessed courage, but I tried to display it. When faced with danger (like the daily debriding of the wound) I did my best not to flinch. But what choice did I have? The needles, IVs, MRIs, and pain medication disbursement were not in my control. I tried to be brave, but most of the time I was just choosing to “act” brave, despite my fear of the procedures and pain, frustration of the circumstances, and even panic over the possibility of losing a limb or even my life.
Can faking bravery can be enough to get us through?
In conclusion, let us remember that bravery can be a choice. Even if we do not feel courage, we can still seek to display it, we can attempt to face danger without flinching, and we can make a fine appearance. At the same time, let us not forget that we are human beings who were designed to feel fear, need affirmation and loving support, and shed tears. For myself, this is intertwined with my faith in God and knowing when to surrender to the emotions and when to surrender them over. Finding the right balance between putting on a brave front, and being true to our own emotions is, I believe, one of the best coping tools we can discover for the journey of chronic illness.
Bravery comes in many forms, not all of them gallant or daunting tasks. Michael Douglas’ films list is likely not important to him at the moment. Despite side effects of treatment for stage-four cancer, he recently walked his daughter to school, reveling in the moment that he was able to do so and wanting to treasure the simple moments. His bravery came in venturing out into the public eye, where his appearance and strength could be observed and discussed. Each of us must decide our own definition of bravery, and for those of us who know how much we suffer in silence, it may be as simple as making a fine appearance and then being our true selves around those we love and trust the most.
About the Author: Lisa Copen is the founder of National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week and Rest Ministries, the largest Christian organization that specifically serves the chronically ill. This article was formerly featured at the Huffington Post and received 245 comments before comments were closed. See some of the interesting discussion at the Huff Post.
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“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” -Proverbs 12:18
Yesterday I had a great conversation with a health and fitness coach with whom I recently started working. Not only did she give me some great ideas to work toward my personal goals, but I also found myself leaving the conversation with a lot more hope than I’ve felt in a long time. It’s interesting I should be so hopeful because I’m really having a tough time physically right now. And we also spent a fair amount of time discussing my past history of chronic illness, a topic that usually drains me and makes me sad.
Instead, she was able to focus on the accomplishments I’ve made in the past two years toward a healthier me.
I later realized my coach did a simple yet powerful thing: she used her words to bring healing–healing to my spirit and even to my body. After we spoke I was more inspired to remain on the path of a healthy lifestyle, and I was so energized by hope that I went ahead and started my new exercise program that I’ve been putting off for months because I didn’t feel well enough to try. Which, in turn, inspired me to eat healthy and work out again today. And maybe I’m imagining things, but my current flaring health symptoms seem to be better too.
Recently I’ve had a lot of reckless words spoken into my life and my health situation. Well-meaning family members, friends, and doctors have said things that to some degree, robbed me of hope, faith, and joy. It’s been a fierce battle in my heart to fight off the constant barrage of negativity their words created. What a contrast with my experience yesterday!
This is a great lesson for all of us. Before we share that “helpful” idea or something “the Lord laid on our heart” that our loved one “needs” to hear, let’s ask ourselves if we are planting seeds of hope and healing or if we are truly piercing them with the sword of our reckless words.
“Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3)
About the Author: Deanna Nichols is a woman of faith searching for purpose in the midst of a lifetime of physical illness and pain. She has been diagnosed with narcolepsy with cataplexy, polycystic ovarian disease, Hashimoto’s thyroid disease, and many others. Her chronic illnesses make it impossible for her to work or even drive, so she is mostly home-bound. She is on the Board of Directors for her family’s commercial lawn maintenance business, is an avid reader and book reviewer, and uses social networking to encourage people with chronic illness, educate those without illness, as well as to share what she’s learned regarding natural health. She lives in Northeast Florida with her husband of 12 years and their 5 furry children. Read Deanna’s blog A Fragile Faith.
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Does Michaele Salahi’s admission of living with MS help or hinder awareness about invisible illness or multiple sclerosis?
I am thrilled to announce that I recently had this blog post, “Does Michaele Salahi’s admission of living with MS help or hinder awareness about invisible illness or multiple sclerosis?” ran over at the Huffington Post. Please be sure to visit and leave a comment to help us increase awareness of invisible illness issues.
Invisible Illness Week Founder
- NOT WELL: Salahi reveals MS diagnosis (politico.com)
- Lisa Copen: Does “Housewife” Michaele Salahi’s Confession of MS Help or Hinder Illness Awareness Issues? (huffingtonpost.com)
- Michaele Salahi Has Multiple Sclerosis (thehollywoodgossip.com)
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Most of us with a debilitating chronic illness, if asked, would admit that as we traveled along the journey of life, we never saw this train called “Limitations” coming and if we had, we certainly would moved heaven and earth to get out of the way. As children we dreamed of what our lives would hold and who we would be, encouraged by those who loved us to dream big and wide. But what do you do when the life you have so carefully been creating and carving out begins to fall apart around you because of your illness?
What happens when you are no longer able to hold down a job five days a week, so you go to four, then three, and then even two becomes too much.
I was there four years ago and it was the scariest and loneliest time of my life. After twelve years of being sick, I could no longer manage many of the simplest tasks of daily living, which included holding down a steady job. Eventually, my disease, which was undiagnosed at the time, progressed to the point that I was unable to hold my arms above my head for five seconds at a time or walk more than a few hundred feet.
However, mounting medical bills and household bills still had to be paid. After pushing my body to it’s limits—I finally conceded that I had no choice but to recreate my lifestyle and find a way to work from home.
While some may see this as a luxury, for many with chronic illness it is the only way we can survive. What and how recreating your lifestyle looks like will be dependent on many factors:
- Your current field of work: Is it suitable for a work-at-home environment?
- Your relationship with your employer: Are they flexible?
- The way your home is set up: Do you have room to work from home?
- Your financial situation: Do you have funds set back to start up a small business if needed?
- Access to equipment: Do you have a dependable computer/laptop, printer, phone, etc.?
- Your abilities: What are your talents, gifts, and skills that you could use to start a small business from home that would work with your physical limitations?
Once you have carefully taken all these factors into consideration, you can begin putting a plan into place that works for you and your family. As you recreate your lifestyle, the challenges you live with on a daily basis won’t go away—but they will become more bearable. When your body is wracked with pain, you can work in your pajamas propped up in a cushiony bed. Instead of sitting at a desk in an office chair all day, you can create a “desk” space around a sofa that is more comfortable with a laptop and a laptop stand.
I started transitioning into this change in 2005, and made the permanent lifestyle change in 2007 when I opened my business, Hilton Head Nannies. Having a chronic illness and living with daily challenges, pain, and limitations certainly isn’t the life I signed up for when I dreamed about my future as a child long ago. However, I am a firm believer that there is a purpose in every serious/chronic illness and a story to be told as God’s plan unfolds. I am still learning to embrace God’s plan for my life. Each day as I turn to Him and ask for His help in recreating my lifestyle, I am finding joy, peace, and hope that break through the disease and pain and make me dream like a child again.
God bless you as you pray about what He has in store for you! Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
Jennie Krogulski resides in beautiful Bluffton SC, just off the coast of Hilton Head Island. She lives with Dermatomyositis, Fibromyalgia, Toxoplasmosis, Hypothyroidism, and an iron absorption disorder. Jennie owns Hilton Head Nannies, a national placement agency, and most recently started a social services agency—Lowcountry Family Connections. Jennie delights in spending time with family & friends, and being “Jen Jen” to the many children in her life.
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What else can you see?
Because you can’t see past it.
I should probably not complain that I’m living with an invisible illness. As much as I hate it, I also help perpetuate the term invisible. I don’t usually let people see past the smile because they’ll see the real me and I hate appearing weak. I also don’t want them to see what I deal with. It’s a double edged sword. It’s an invisible illness because you can look absolutely perfect while hiding a great deal of pain and it’s also invisible because we don’t want people to judge us. We get enough of that from doctors, we are afraid we’ll also get it from everyone else.
What you don’t see is the pain that starts the minute I open my eyes. I know what is going to happen the minute I put my feet on the ground. It’s a pain that makes me want to revert to crawling instead of walking. I limp toward the kitchen to make my coffee or tea, whatever my mood is that morning. Mornings are usually pain-filled so I can tell you the mood isn’t real perky. This pain continues throughout the day in varying degrees. The nights are the worst. I spend a lot of time in the bath. After that it’s in bed.
This all started after a nasty car accident in 2008. I was at a full stop and a truck hit me going approximately 25-30 miles an hour. Now, I’m not the type to whine so I was more annoyed than anything else. When the man came up to me and asked me if I was okay, I said I didn’t know. That was the truth. As I sat there it felt like an electric current was running through my body. I shrugged it off because I had things to do. I went through the rest of the year wondering what was happening to me? My back hurt, my body hurt and my memory was fading. Finally, after a year I finally had to stop working at my usual frantic pace and find out what damage was done. I never realized it would be life changing.
One of the biggest adjustments I had to make, and I’m still making, is knowing my limitations. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’ve never liked limitations. It doesn’t matter if it’s mental challenges, food or speed limits. You notice that physical limitations was not on that list. Nope, it wouldn’t be. I’ve always gone at mach one with my hair on fire and having to learn the cardinal rule of chronic illness has been difficult for me. If you push you will pay. When I have a good day, which isn’t often, I tend to make the most of it. I know, not good. You’d think I’d be getting the hang of it by now, but I haven’t. I still hate what my body has done to me.
I found my voice in blogging which is weird because I’m not real open with people. I’ve always been outgoing but very few ever got to see the “real” me. I am friendly, approachable and empathetic but not in reverse. Then I started to blog and was able to communicate on a truly different and surprising level. It wasn’t scary to have people be able to see into my soul and that has helped me open up in so many areas of my life. I tend to isolate myself because of the pain and with that isolation I’ve left many friends and family by the wayside. I’ve been able to communicate about the pain and depression. Again many things surprise me. I’ve also learned about people that suck the life out of your soul and cut them out. I have too many other things to deal with so they just had to go!
The other adjustment I’ve had to make is in the area of control. I’ve always like to control the environment around me. That’s a huge part of my personality. I’ve always felt that if I can control things then I won’t get any nasty surprises. Well, I didn’t say that it worked I just said I liked to operate that way! I’ve had to accept that I won’t know what I’m dealing with regarding my body on a day to day basis. That means I can plan but plans may change. I’ve had to let go and that isn’t easy for me. So many things haven’t been easy and I’ve had a hard time dealing with that. Fibromyalgia, and any chronic illness for that matter, wreaks havoc. I don’t care whether it’s physical, emotional or financial. It trips a domino in your life that starts with chaos and mayhem in your physical body and continues on until it messes you up emotionally. Then it loves to cause real damage when your financial life you had goes out the window. I know it’s something I have to learn to accept but it’s that darn little word called control. I don’t have it and it makes me crazy.
So it’s 3 a.m. and it’s another night of robbed sleep. I will try to close my eyes but I don’t have high hopes. I’ve taken the muscle relaxers and pain medication but my muscles are still not paying attention to the fact that they’re supposed to calm down. I’ll end this post and turn off the lights and hope beyond hope for a few hours of sleep.
Rosemary Lee lives with fibromyalgia and she tries to find humor in everyday life. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. She says, “I am an analytical dreamer. Oxymoron? I think not.” Visit her blog, Seeking Equilibrium.
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By: Carolyn Matheson, Master Certified Coach
Last Saturday a special friend was having a party and I really wanted to be fit enough to attend. To be able to enjoy good food and company and be able to laugh my head off.
I have lost count of the number of times I have said yes to friends and needed to cancel at the last minute. I recognize today that I have very limited energy and I must use it wisely. I rested the week before and was relieved to feel good the day of the party.
I have become very talented at putting concealing make up so I don’t look unwell. That of course has its downsides but on this day it was important for me to just feel ‘normal’. I had a wonderful time and treasured every minute I spent at the party.
As I look back over the last six years I can see that my life has followed the path it has meant to follow. I have a rare neurological condition for which there is no cure. Any medication I take just alleviates symptoms; today I don’t think of having this illness for a lifetime one day they may find a cure. I spend a week in hospital every 12 weeks but I don’t think about that until the day arrives. I do try and take each day as it comes.
It is taking time for me to heal, not just dealing with a physical illness, it is the emotional toll that is taking the time to acknowledge and work through in my own way. I have had to get used to a whole new way of living.
When I got sick I felt all my power had been stripped away from me. There are times when I have felt very lost. Doctors continue to provide me with all the medical care I need. I couldn’t ask for better doctors than I have right now.
What I found I needed was to make huge adjustments to all parts of my life. Has it been hard? Yes of course it has. I have struggled with my headspace; struggled to make changes. I have found it difficult to cope with everyday life.
I have had to make some different choices. They are just different. I am not grateful I got sick but I am now grateful for the different opportunities that have opened up in my life. My illness no longer controls me.
It is true that my illness has stripped me bare of everything I know today. I can now look back and truthfully say I have come through with so much more. I am still Carolyn but my whole approach to life is now different. I have integrated what I have learnt on the way as a coach with the emotional high and lows of a chronic illness.
Carolyn a Master Certified Coach and founder of People Work Best Ltd, has worked for 30 years with executives and their teams across the world. She now combines her extensive coaching experiences with writing about her own insights in how to deal with a long term and very disabling illness. It is her mission to empower one patient at a time to take charge of their health. As well as offering one to one coaching, Carolyn is also a professional speaker. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter @capcoach; blog www.carolynsmatheson.com
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Embarking on a journey can be both frightening and exciting. When the journey is about health — your own health — you may feel that the frightening far outweighs the exciting.
If you’re someone who’s chronically ill, consider your current status:
- Are you where you want to be?
- Do you feel satisfied with your level of wellness?
Few would answer “yes” to that question. Understanding the health journey process goes a long way toward removing the “frightening factor,” and that’s where the following illustration helps.
When I describe what I call the Rebuilding Wellness concept at speaking engagements, I tell it this way. Think about fixing up a home. Maybe it appears rundown; the eves sag, the paint has peeled, and the once-green lawn has gone beige. Nothing that some operating sprinklers and a new coat of paint can’t fix.
But, if you put some thought into it before the elbow grease, a home that has visible problems might have others, too. It could have problems that aren’t visible, bigger ones beneath the warped siding. What if the roof leaks or the plumbing is bad. Even worse, what if the foundation has cracks – serious cracks. Would slapping on a coat of exterior paint suffice as the ultimate remedy then?
Our health issues are the same way. By the time symptoms appear on the surface, the problems that caused them have already run amok elsewhere. Chronic illness takes time to manifest. It stands to reason that the application of solutions will be no quick fix.
So, where to begin? Consider the type of “cracks” that are affecting your foundation: nutritional deficiencies, extreme stress, toxin exposure (internal and external), infections, injuries, and/or hormonal/thyroid dysfunction. Take a look at what you think affects you most. Begin an action plan to remedy these problems and fortify your “home.”
Susan Ingebretson is a writer, speaker and the director of program development for the Fibromyalgia Research and Education Center at California State University, Fullerton. Her book, FibroWHYalgia, (2010) details her own journey from illness to wellness. You can read more at her website, Rebuilding Wellness. Ingebretson’s writing has appeared in the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) online and print magazine, FibromyalgiaAWARE. Susan is also featured in the NFA’s Public Service Announcement, “The Science Behind Fibromyalgia.”
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