Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Holiday From My Holiday

Fireworks Grand Finale
Yesterday was Independence Day, one of my favorite holidays. I spent the day with my family. We had a cookout at my future mother-in-law’s home with lots of good food and wonderful conversation. We had 5 hours of relaxing and socializing outdoors. Afterwards, we drove to see a local fireworks display and then returned home for a few sparklers and small fireworks with the neighbors. Overall, I would say that it was a happy, enjoyable day. I went to bed close to midnight last night with a smile on my face!

This morning, though, I awoke and felt as though a train had run over my entire body--twice! No, I did not run a marathon. In fact, the most physical thing I did all day yesterday was make a dash from the picnic area to the back porch when it started to rain (a distance of only a few feet!). For all intents and purposes, it was a lazy holiday, and I should have awoken refreshed. Instead, I have been forced to stay in bed for the majority of today.

For all of you who suffer from any condition that involves fatigue and chronic pain, you know what I am feeling right now all too well! I am suffering from what I like to call “holiday-from-my-holiday” or “day-off-from-my-day-off” whiplash. This state of necessary recuperation occurs whenever we decide to do too much on our free days. It can manifest in many sneaky ways and usually occurs when we are having a lower symptom day. We decide to have a cleaning/working marathon to catch up from a tough week. Or we have the opportunity to do an activity we haven’t done in years, and we get overzealous. Or like me yesterday, we underestimate the physical, emotional, and mental toll a long (albeit laidback) day can have on us.

When we were healthy we could go with the flow and do whatever we felt like at the moment. If we were energetic, the world was in our hands. We were free to seize the day! Now, though, with a chronic pain and fatigue, we can’t go solely by what our bodies and minds want. Sometimes, our bodies fight us at every turn, and we must push to get the simplest tasks finished. Other times, our bodies lie and make it seem as though we are almost normal again.

Even though I have been dealing with fibromyalgia for half my life, I still fall prey to this trap time and time again. I’m a ball of energy by nature. I love to be moving. I love to be accomplishing things. Hard work makes me feel good. I was raised to work hard and then push even harder. And I’m a perfectionist to a fault at times. I compete with myself constantly, and I always set high goals.

Unfortunately, fibromylgia and this mentality can be an explosive combo. My stubbornness and inner determination have helped me in so many ways over years. At times when I thought for sure I couldn’t go on because my symptoms were so unbearable, my inner strength and focus pushed me through. However, this hardworking perfectionism of mine has also done its share of harm. I have inadvertently confined myself to bed for over a week (several times) simply because I felt pretty normal and thought I’d get a ton finished before my symptoms flared up again. Even now I’m tempted to go into a cleaning/working frenzy EVERY single time I have a better day.

Ultimately, living with such a limiting medical condition is an extreme balancing act. We can’t allow our health to dictate how we live our lives or to define who we are as individuals. Yet, we can’t ignore it and pretend that we can still live the same lives were living before. We should never let it defeat us, but we can’t push so hard against our own bodies that we are defeating our own selves. We must find a happy medium--a place where we are free to be ourselves and to live life to the fullest, while still planning and living through the confines of our symptoms.

We need to be much more adaptable and pliable. If our bodies block one avenue, we must never give up on finding another more richer path. I am not one of those people who will ever throw at you the ‘if-life-gives-you-lemons’ advice. Sometimes, the fact of the matter is life can be pretty unfair and leave us with unripe, un-juicable lemons. We can sit around and grow bitter. But what is the sense in that? Personally, I’d much rather throw away the lemons and live my life the way I feel it should be lived!

Let us grab life by the horns this month and show it who is boss! Instead of complaining about life happening, let us shape it and enjoy it like we never could have before facing this formidable foe. They say that ‘necessity is the mother of invention.” Well, we need to find a life that works better for us. So, let us start inventing it now. How we live our lives is truly in our hands!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Welcome to Fibro and Fancy Free

Hi, everyone, and welcome to my new blog! My name is Amanda, and I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in January 2011.  I’ve had symptoms since I was a teenager and possibly most of my life. I decided to start this blog as a way to share my journey to a freer, healthier life, while offering a place for my fellow fibro suffers to support one another and swap survival tips.

As I contemplated titles for this new blog, Fibro and Fancy Free leaped into my mind. Everyone familiar with fibromyalgia knows that this medical condition can be absolutely excruciating and debilitating. So how could my mind associate ‘fancy free’ with fibromyalgia? I know a lot of ‘f’ words that would more readily describe my daily struggle with own body. Many of them are pretty negative.

Do some of these sound words like your own struggle?

After some careful reflection, though, I realized that I want and NEED to reach a point in my life where my condition no longer defines who I am as an individual. ‘Fancy free’ represents where I want to be. Do I want to live in denial and pretend fibromyalgia is a pleasant walk in the park? No, of course not! Have I convinced myself that it’s not real or only in my head? Oh, it’s real alright! In fact, it reminds me of its presence all of the time. Am I convinced that it is going to just vanish? Absolutely not! Part of me longs for the day I’ll be fibro free, but the rational side of me realizes that with a 2 ½-year flare up and years of symptoms, it may never clear up.

Although I’ve accepted the fact that I may be stuck with fibromyalgia for the rest of my life, I have not given up. I will continue to fight the good fight and strive for a healthier, happier tomorrow. I know the journey won’t be easy. In fact, I’m expecting many bumps in the road and quite a few setbacks. But I hope you will join me so we can travel this difficult road together!