Living With Fibromyalgia: Learning to Accept Life with Fibromyalgia
When you live with a chronic illness like fibromyalgia, it is inevitable that certain things will change. Change may not always be easy, especially when it feels like it is being forced upon you.
I do not always handle change well, and for several years I had a difficult time accepting the changes fibromyalgia brought to my life.
But I can say that once you begin to look at these changes as a positive thing, if you look at them as a way to enjoy your best life possible, it does become easier to bare.
Simply put, when you have fibromyalgia, you will not be able to do things that most people can do. An important step in learning to live with fibromyalgia is accepting that we have to be more conservative of our energy.
Listen to Your Body
One of the most important tips I can give is to learn to listen to your own body.
No one knows what you are experiencing better than you do, no one knows what you are capable of better than you do, and no one knows when you need to stop and rest better than you do.
This may not always be easy. For years I had repressed and ignored my pain, fatigue, and other symptoms. I was in denial, and I kept hoping it would just go away. Clearly, that didn’t work. It just led to me getting worse to the point I could not ignore it anymore.
Once I got to that point, it was difficult to then transition to listening to my body and understanding what it needed. But the more I try to do this, the easier it becomes to manage and live with fibromyalgia.
Learning to pace yourself can be a genuine challenge. But it is necessary to manage life with fibromyalgia.
Set small, reasonable goals for yourself. Some days you may be able to do a little more, other days you may be able to do a little less, and that is okay.
Pacing yourself means you have to plan for periods of rest, even on good days. It can be tempting to try to get a lot done on your occasional good days. But even if you are feeling okay right now, this does not mean you will not feel the payback from it later.
It is important that you learn your limitations and when your body has had enough and needed rest.
I know you are probably tired of hearing you need to exercise.
You may feel like exercise is impossible, that you’re just in too much pain. I have been there too. But low impact exercise a few times a week has helped me improve my quality of life. To get to that point though, I had to readjust what I viewed as exercise.
Once upon a time, walking was a low impact exercise for me. However, every time I would go for what I considered a short walk I would be in pain for days afterward, to the point that I wouldn’t go for another walk for a week or more. I told my doctor this, and she responded that maybe walking wasn’t low impact enough for me. This opened a whole new line of thought for me.
I have found there are times I can walk, swim, do an hour of pilates, and then there are times when that is not right for me. I have found that it is more important to get moving and have some form of activity, no matter how little, then to push myself too hard and trigger a flare-up.
If you are have not done any form of exercise in a while, you must start small and slow. Consider starting with stretching exercises. Do a few minutes at a time at first and work your way up from there.
Remember, what is right for someone else may not be right for you. What was right for you last month may not be right for you now. What is right for you now, may not be what is right for you a month from now.
Establish a Healthy Sleep Cycle
Sleep is vital to managing fibromyalgia. However, getting the sleep you need when you have fibromyalgia is very difficult. Not only do many of us have insomnia, but fibromyalgia also causes sleep disturbances. This means that even when we are asleep, we do not get good quality sleep.
Having a healthy sleep cycle is the best way to combat these issues and can help to improve fibromyalgia symptoms. It is much easier said than done though.
I can tell you from experience that making yourself go to bed and get up at the same time each day can make a big difference in your sleep health.
Also cutting back on caffeine, having a cut off time for caffeine, and cutting back on daytime napping have all been helpful for me to establish a healthy sleep cycle.
Take Steps to Improve Your Mental Health
Mental health is closely related to fibromyalgia. It is not uncommon to find that a person with fibromyalgia also has depression, anxiety, or some other mental illness. It is also well documented that stress leads to fibromyalgia flare-ups.
Living with a mental health condition, as well as fibromyalgia, can bring its own unique set of challenges. It is important to remember your mental health is just as important as your physical health.
Looking for balance in caring for both conditions may be difficult at times, but in the long run doing so will make living with fibromyalgia easier.
Here are some tips for taking care of both your physical and mental health:
- Practice self-care – Taking your medicine and supplements; drinking water; eating a balanced diet; getting dressed in the morning; taking relaxing baths; talking to a friend; and spending time alone are all possible examples of self-care.
- Learn to let go of guilt.
- Stop comparing yourself to others, or even to your past self.
- Learn acceptance - accept your present circumstances; your illness; and what you can do at this given moment.
- Find relaxation and coping techniques that work for you - this could be reading; writing; art or other creative projects; spending time in nature; or talking to a friend or someone else with a chronic illness.
- Learn to ask for help when you need it.
Find Your Support System
Everyone needs to have a support system, but when you have fibromyalgia, it becomes even more important.
Support comes in many forms and can come from many different sources. Here are some places you may look to for support:
- Co-workers or schoolmates
- Support groups
- Religious groups
- Social Media and online communities
- Doctors and others in the medical field
It may also help to identify what kind of support you need. For example:
- Do you need practical help with your health or with day to day activities?
- Are you looking for advice?
- Do you want emotional support or a listening ear?
Pinpointing what you need at any given moment may help you know who to turn to at that time.
Living with fibromyalgia may not be easy, but many things can make living with this illness a little more comfortable. Learning to listen to your body and giving it what it needs, when it needs it, will set you in the right direction on the path that is living with fibromyalgia.