Learning To Live With Fibromyalgia is part two of a two part series on Fibromyalgia. Click here to read my story of being diagnosed.
Fibromyalgia is a condition in which the body’s central nervous system doesn’t know how to accurately handle pain signals. For whatever reason, pain cells in the body recruit other normal cells to become pain cells. For people who are at the pit of a fibromyalgia episode, even normal touch can feel excruciating.
What do you do? How do you get out of the pit?
Arrest the pain cycle. For a long time, I refused to take medication because I didn’t want to be “hooked on pills” like, well, let’s face it, my mom. But I learned that I couldn’t stop the cycle of pain in my body without taking some medication to help with the symptoms. I needed some help medically to give my body a shot at recovery. So, I ended up taking a non-steroidal central nervous system pain pill.
On top of that, my neurologist prescribed Ambien to help me sleep. Okay, great. Now what. I was so tired… So, I slept! As much as possible, I slept. Fibromyalgia is exacerbated by lack of quality sleep (often because someone is in pain, has apnea, or another condition like restless leg). I gave my body a shot at recovering. Sleep is God’s way of restoring the body. It is so important. For an excellent resource on the importance of sleep, click here.
Then, I made myself walk. Gentle and slow. Fibromyalgia is aggravated by poor diet, stress, but can also be aggravated by too much exercise! (I can no longer work out like the soldier that I used to be. If I get too sore, then it turns into fibro, not fitness.) I didn’t push myself too far. I didn’t expect too much of myself. And I tried to not get disappointed at any relapses. Gradually, I got stronger. My exercise began to include weights again. The elliptical machine was my best friend because I could burn serious calories without high impact on my body! And I never felt better than when I was in a Pilates class – wow.
Food! It’s so important to eat unprocessed, real food! As much as possible, I ate fresh vegetables and fruit. I stayed away from pre-packaged things. For me, the two things I started looking at on labels was Partially Hydrogenated Oil and fake/processed sugar of any kind (sucralose, fructose, aspartame, truvia, stevia, etc…)! It’s all bad. And I LOVED Diet Cokes! Just doing those simple changes really helped me improve my diet and made a huge difference. And water, lots of water!
And I started to treat the conditions, not just the symptoms, of some of my pain. Chiropractors and massage therapy – two of the things I make time for in my life on a regular basis! Other things include acupuncture and therapy for emotional issues. Yes, I had some intense therapy to deal with my anger among other things. And then I pampered myself. You’ve got to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. What do you enjoy? Do that.
Prayer is the most powerful weapon of all. I was never as broken as when I was going through the beginning of the fibro journey. The fear, the uncertainty, the symptoms – it was all way too overwhelming. I was depressed. I would find myself on my bedroom floor just crying out to Jesus. And He was there. He gave me strength. He reassured me through my friends, bible verses, and simple acts of kindness from others. Sunsets and sunrises were special love letters from Him to me. I learned how to trust Him and to let Him lead.
If some of this feels like it might break the bank – focus on sleep, gentle exercise and stretching, food, and prayer. Don’t forget to surround yourself with friends and the church (free sources of therapy).
For me, the journey continues. There are ups and downs along the path.
But if I ever get stressed or my back starts to hurt or I have babies by c-section and fibro rears its ugly head, I know what I have to do is arrest it before it gets out of control! I hope this helps you – those of you who are caught up in a fibromyalgia fog. There are things to do! There is hope! There are resources. It’s not a prison sentence. You can enjoy life. And I will be praying for you.
[Image via Coley Christine Catalano]