FIBROMYALGIA & BEING A SOCIAL PARIAH: REINVENTING YOURSELF AFTER LOSING EVERYTHING (PART 2)

typing on the computerWhat if you never had fibromyalgia? How would you have lived your life up until this moment? What dreams would you have already fulfilled? Better still, who would you have created yourself to be?

Here’s the deal, regardless of whatever your chronic illness is, there are likely many questions like the ones above that you have asked or are actively asking yourself right this very minute.  It’s human nature to wonder about the possibilities, especially when it comes to your own life (and if you aren’t wondering, please, ask yourself why).  Maintaining our curiosity, that element of wonder, about ourselves and our the world around is key to making any significant change in the way we live.  When we shut ourselves down and shut out the world, we are essentially denying ourselves access to the power that subjective and objective knowledge can bring to furthering our self-understanding.  And increasing self-understanding means increasing our ability to achieve self-mastery.

When we think of self-mastery, we may think of complete control of the self, i.e. control of thought which leads to control of actions, which means better ability to respond (not react) effectively to the world around us.  Simply put, self-mastery, self-understanding, and self-awareness go hand in hand, best summarized by this quote:

Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

14533091400317-e1453308786450If you have fibromyalgia, then you know that one of the first thing you lose is control.  You lose control over your body and your mind.

The physical activities that you used to do with ease now prove difficult. The memory that you once prided yourself on now has sticky notes all over it marked fibro fog.  That’s just the way it is. There’s no shame in it. Having fibromyalgia means 1) losing control over the physical vehicle that transports who you are (body), and 2) losing control over the mental vehicle that relays your who you are to the world around you and to yourself (mind).  Of course, the severity of the loss depends of the severity of your fibromyalgia…and your engagement in self-care.

You’re Not Broken, Just Different

Anyone who knows me well knows that I do not believe in regret. Truly, I don’t. I believe in lessons learned.  I think regretting your life, in any shape or form, does not help you to move forward from wherever you are, especially when you have a chronic illness. The fact is the past is in the past. Yesterday is already the past. And today will be the past quite soon. So, here are the only questions that you need to ask yourself today:

What step(s) will I take to move my life forward today?

What step(s) have I taken to move my life forward today?

They are really simple questions with big implications. They imply choice.

You did not have a choice in having fibromyalgia. You do have a choice in whether or not you will allow it to control your life. Although you may feel broken, unwanted, used up, without purpose, or simply helpless, you are not.

You are not broken. You are different. 

The person you knew yourself to be is in the past, along with yesterday and all the days before that.  The high points and the low points of that person is gone. Keep her or him in your memory with fondness, but do not dwell.  Like how you may think fondly upon your teenage self or child self, think so upon who you were. But get excited about who you are and who you are crafting yourself to be.

Remember how when you were a teenager or a child, you couldn’t wait to see what type of adult you would be? Perhaps you became that adult, perhaps not. Either way, it’s time now to tap into the curiosity, to apply today that wonder that you had about the unknown you. It’s time to tell yourself that there is nothing to fear in being someone you don’t know or cannot yet imagine.

This is the first step in reinventing yourself: getting to know the new you. 

How do you do this? Ask yourself the first question I proposed above (What step(s) will I take to move my life forward today?), then take the quote above as inspiration: watch your thoughts. Listen for an answer. What does your new self want to do? Be curious about that self. Work to understand that self.  Be kind to that self.

Look out for Part 3: The Naysayers & Other Emotional Vampires

Read Part 1:  Reinventing Yourself After Losing Everything

Motivation…Oh, Where Did It Go?

Image found on GIS

Image found on GIS

I’m stuck…sort of. It’s the end of August in Rome and I’ve been living through Attack of the Mosquitoes and Sweat World.  The fan I had for two days died. It’s not its fault. It was pretty old.  Still, I need a new one.

My manuscript remains unfinished and I toy with a few stories in my mind. At the same time, I think about getting older and failing to meet external expectations.  I wonder about my internal expectations.  What do I expect of myself?  How do I define that?

It’s hard remaining in that in-between state, that cocoon, like waiting to be born again, except it has nothing to do with Jesus. I’m there, I’ve been there for some time now, and I know I’m getting close to the end of that stage…but it’s terrifying.  It’s terrifying knowing that it’s impossible to go back, or stay where you are, or do anything else other than move forward.

Still, terror can maintain stasis, paralyzing the motivation to either fail or succeed–yes, you can be motivated to fail.  The more we try to push terror away, the more intense it seems to become.

So, I’ve decided to embrace my terror. All aspects of it. The terror of success and of failure that is embodied within.

I’ll have a talk with the twin parts of myself: talent and self-sabotage. I’ll let them know that it’s okay to be terrified.

I’ll let them know…

It’s okay to fail as long as I (we) continue aiming to succeed. 

Until Wednesday,

D.

 

3 Tips to Getting Unstuck from that Rut

 

Image from MadameNoire.com. Click to read their article, "The 'Itis: Foods that are making you sleepy at work"

Image from MadameNoire.com. Click to read their article, “The ‘Itis: Foods that are making you sleepy at work”

All right. I’ll admit it. Somehow I managed to get myself in a rut. It’s not a pretty situation. Seriously, especially as someone with a background in psychology. I should be able therapize myself out of this…right?  Of course, but it’s not easy.

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First thing first: Identify the sticking point. 

What I mean is, examine the period before recognizing that you are stuck. Try to identify any factors that may have contributed to this experience.  In my case, it’s been this trip back to Rome which has caused a massive disruption to my physical functioning.

Image found on Google Images

Second thing second: Write your desired state of being.

Take a moment to write how you would like to feel in this moment.  More than likely, you’re not enjoying being in this rut. You want to get out, right?? So, write down how you prefer to feel and what you prefer to do.  Explore all possible helpful factors, looking at what has been helpful in the past and things that you have wanted to try. Perhaps you found that going out for a daily walk always helped you to feel more focused and in touch with your life. Perhaps you’ve wanted to try rock climbing, take a cooking class, go on a meditation retreat, etc. Identify what can shift you out of where you are now.

India-yoga-world

Third thing third: Just do it.

Yes, it’s Nike’s slogan, but I think it’s the ultimate weapon in getting out of a rut.  You just have to do it. Identifying where things started to go south, and then exploring ways to shift your emotional states are wonderful in helping you understand that there is a way out.  Still, nothing beats just getting up, getting out and just doing what you have to do.  To materialize what you say you desire, how you say you want to live, and who you say you want to be, you must take positive action.

Found via Google image search.

Found via Google image search.

Positive action is anything that helps rather than hinders, anything that enhances you but does not impinge upon the well-being of others, and anything that moves you closer to your goals.

For me, this is my first positive action: writing this post today.  By writing this post today, I am taking action to make positive change. It’s a small step but an important one because I am keeping a promise to myself and to you, my readers. (By the way, thank you so much for taking the time to read my writing. It means a great to me). 🙂

My second will be to clean my room. It’s my personal belief that your physical state (both self and environment) reflects your internal state. So, if your space is cluttered or disorganized, etc., then so is your mind. So, on that note, it’s time to take stock of my physical state. 😉 It’s amazing what cleaning and clearing your physical state can do to free your mind. Really…try it. 

Now, the above steps are aimed at those who are in the emotional/psychological place to take them.  There are many times that ruts are really depression or beginning of depression. It’s important that you take what you are feeling/experiencing very seriously.  I suggest visiting a counselor/therapist/psychologist to understand whether you are just having a challenging moment or if you have entered into a more severe situation.

Until Next Time,

D.

Fibromyalgia| Life in Chaos? 3 Steps to Creating Routine in Your Life

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Know this Feeling? (Image from GIS)

At this point, if you’ve followed my blog, you’ll know that my life is far from what one might call normal.  Still, it is my reality.  A part of that reality is having to deal with the inconsistency of my chronic illness, i.e., fibromyalgia.  There are some days that I feel great, like I could go run a marathon or two, and there are some days when even the thought of opening an eyelid seems like too much of an effort.

With such fluctuations in one’s daily experience, it can feel hard to create a sense of order to your life.  After all, what’s the point of making plans for the next day you’re never sure how you are actually going to be?

Over the years, I’ve engaged in an internal psychological warfare, trying to force myself to feel better when I don’t, blaming myself for real and imagined shortcomings, and even giving up on myself when I fell short of my expectations.

The path to living peaceably with fibromyalgia is far from smooth. However, over the past year, I’ve been working on letting go of my self-frustrations, allowing myself to feel whatever I feel, and strategizing how to take small steps that move me healthily along my path.

Image from GIS

Learn to Enjoy Life. (Image from GIS)

So, here are 3 steps that I’ve found useful to keeping internal order even when everything else feels like it’s in utter chaos:

  • Do 1 Thing the Same Way Every Day: Choose one helpful thing that you will do every day no matter what. Don’t cut corners.  Why? Because it helps to create a 1)sense of routine, 2) shows you that you can do what say you will, and 3) moves you a further step along your path.  So, what are some possibilities?  Depending on where you are in your journey, it could be as simple as taking care of your personal hygiene or working on a personal project (for me, that would be writing).  It’s up to you.  As long as whatever you choose moves you closer to your life goals, then it is A-OK.

 

  • Make Lists: If there is one thing that bothers me most about having fibromyalgia, it is dealing with brain fog and memory issues.  In the past, when I felt like my mind could not focus or I could not remember something important, I would really come down hard on myself. I took a massive blow to self-esteem because I did know how to accept and strategize around my illness.  Now, I make lists, especially if I know there is something important coming up. I would suggest having a bulletin board in a place where you cannot avoid seeing it, and posting your lists there.  If you’re not into the bulletin board idea, then I would suggest posting it on your refrigerator…after all, you have to eat at some point.

 

  • Write Down What You’ve Done Each Day:  At the end of the day, even if you didn’t move from your bed, write it down.  Write down who you spoke to, if you took your medications, if you made it out of bed, what daily goal you accomplished, and any and everything else. Write it down.  I do not mean that you should journal–although journaling is not a bad idea. I mean that you should take notes on what you do or don’t do each day.  It will help you to understand your personal patterns.  If you do this long enough, you can see how your symptoms might be impacting how much of what you can do in a day.  It doesn’t hurt, so try it.

 

I cannot promise you that following these steps will change everything in your life.  I do believe, however, that they are the beginning steps that will take you closer to where you would like to be.  Remember the key thing is consistency.

It doesn’t matter what you decide to do–how big or small it is–just be consistent.  Learn to appreciate the small steps you can take, so that when you are able to take larger steps, you understand the magnitude of your accomplishment!

Happy Fibro Friday! 😉

Being Nomadic: 5 Travel Tips to Feeling At Home Anywhere

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I hate travelling.  Okay, I dislike the process of getting to where I need to go. If I could teleport from one place to another, then travelling would be at the top of my Things I Love to Do list. Currently, it’s #1 on my Things I Have to Do list.

Still, arriving to my next destination is one of my greatest pleasures. Seeing a new place, experiencing a different culture, and through it exploring myself–this is my joy in travelling.

And luckily, my parents provided me with my first lessons in seeking a world beyond my own…and being comfortable no matter what.

The PELES Approach

Pele (s): noun,  a small fortified tower for residence or for use during an attack, common in the border counties of England and Scotland in the 16th century.

Here are 5 tips to fortifying yourself while travelling, avoiding homesickness, embracing new realities, and becoming a better nomad:

  • Prepare – Before you purchase that ticket to wherever, research your destination. Watch videos, talk to people who have been there before, read books, and buy a map or use Google Maps to actually see the place where you would like to be.  If the local language is something different from your own, then take an in-person or online course, or check out your local library or bookstore for books/CDs.
  • Explore – What are your expectations of this new destination? Do you have any stereotypes about the culture and its people? What would you do if things don’t go as expected? Trust me, this is one of the most important things you can do. We don’t always realise it, but our fantasies and biases about a place and its people can make or break our travel experience.  You cannot imagine thenumber of times I’ve heard people say “This isn’t what I expected.”
    • Find out what you expect, and then chuck those expectations off to the side…and recognise that you won’t really know until you get there.
  • (Be) Light – Emotionally. Travelling meansadditional stress. Travelling to a new place…well, let’s just say it’s the straw that can break the camel’s back. Over the years, I’veencountered many people who decided to “travel to get away from it all.”  Here’s the deal: you are who you are no matter where you are. Your problems don’t just disappear the moment you step on a plan. Heck, I’d say your problems can become overwhelmingly clear instead. Are you ready for that?
    • Before you go on any trip, I suggest resolving as much as you can, in essence, tie up loose strings.  Try not to carry excess baggage..they will only bring you down.
    • Do pack something that has been helpful for you in managing stress, e.g., stress ball, music, boading balls, etc.
  • Exclude – Anything unnecessary, whether thing or person.  There is nothingquite like travelling with a couple of suitcases, a carry-on, and a purse and arriving at your destination only to find out that there is a problem with transportation, e.g. no taxis available and public transportation strike–It can happen.
    • Do your best to pack lightly because chances are you will be 1) tired when you arrive, and 2) purchase things to take back home.
    • In terms of people, be aware that there may be some people who may be against your travel or have some (unwarranted) worries about the people or the culture. Work on turning the volume down on your ears or, better still, avoid them.
  • (Be) Sensible – In every possible way. There are many people who suspend reality when they go travelling. They do things that they would never do if they were at home. It’s the manifestation of that popular What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas slogan that creeps me outevery time I hear it.  I suggest the following:
    • Plan to arrive in the morning or by early afternoon if possible.
    • Arrange your accommodations beforehand and know how you will get around once you’re there.
    • Take the advice of other travellers who have been and any public notifications, e.g. in Rome, there are tons of signs about taking authorized white taxis with the city emblem.
    • Return to your accommodations by the late evening/early night (if possible) for the first night. Trust me, I’ve yet to find a city where anything good happens after 11PM.
    • Know how to connect with your family and friends once your there and maintain contact. Make a plan with family members for a specific time you will be in contact every day or however often you decide.

I called this the PELES Approach because I believe that being a nomad means carrying a fortified “home” with you, one that provides a solid method of inner and outer retreat should your new environment turn against you (whether literally or figuratively).

Until Next Time,

D.

Fibromyalgia: Let’s Not Beat Ourselves Up!

DUI of negative thoughts

I woke this morning tired.  Mind you, I had only fallen asleep four hours before.  It’s a hazy morning, humid but tolerable with an intermittent breeze. I’m annoyed. Why? Because I’m tired, because it’s humid, because my mood took a slight dip while I wasn’t paying attention.  My first thought: I suck.

It’s not an uncommon thought for many, even if worded differently.  It’s the thought that rises when you believe that there is something you could do but haven’t, or that you have done but shouldn’t, etc.  In this moment, I suck because I’m tired and feeling lazy due to the humidity.   I suck  because my joints and muscles ache and I would prefer not to move.

Of course, the reality is that I do not suck.  Actually, I’m quite a lovely person, who tries her best at all times.  I just happen to have this type of response every now and again when it comes to dealing with my fibromyalgia.  It’s also a consequence of being perfectionistic.

So, how will I get myself out of this funk?  And how can you?  Well, I’m giving myself the proverbial reality check.  There are somethings that are within my control and beyond my control, including my body, my environment and the weather. What’s the point of beating myself up? There is none.

Putting myself down is a slippery slope that leads only to lowered self-esteem—and I’m not about that life.  The life that I’m about is one that lifts and heals the spirit, the body, and the mind.  I’m working on transforming that I suck statement into something more self-empowering, but first I have to confront with what’s really going on, take stock of my reality, and take action to improve my day.  I hope you will too! 🙂

In the meanwhile, check out this great personal article by analyst and professor Jane Boylton, Psy.D., M.F.T., “How Reality Checking Can Save Your Life & Your Dreams: You Can Easily Avoid One Sure Way to Suffer”  (PsychologyToday)

 

Until Tomorrow,

D.

Fibromyalgia & The Loudness of Absence: 3 Steps to Be More Present In Your Life

don_t-be-a-slave-to-writer_s-blockI think one of the scariest aspects of having fibromyalgia is the loss of control over the one thing that, if nothing else, you “should” have total control: your body.

It’s as though the bargain that you struck with your body once you left childhood suddenly becomes null and void. It’s like you left the car dealership and get home realizing you’ve been sold a lemon.  All right, maybe it’s not like that, but you get the idea. Something feels very unfair about all of this–and it’s true.

Fibromyalgia, like any illness, doesn’t do fair.  It doesn’t know how to play nice, and it’s quite selfish.  That’s the way it is.  Still, you have to live with it.  No matter how much it takes away from you. In fact, it can (and will) take so much away from you that you no longer know/understand who you are.

Fibromyalgia assumes and consumes your identity until you no longer exist.  I know. I’ve lived through it. I became absent in my life and from myself.  I allowed fibromyalgia to define me. Not. Any. More.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the misery of this illness: its randomness, its painfulness, its isolation, its depression.  The desire to withdraw from self and society can feel overwhelming, and I know many (including myself) who have retreated, in one way or another, from the world. Let’s stop that.  Let’s take back what is rightfully ours, Let’s reclaim our bodies and our minds!

It’s only a matter of taking it one step at a time.  So, today I’m sharing with you the 3 steps that I have taken and still take to be more present in my life.

  1. Remain Opento yourself and to possibilities that life has to offer.  Fibromyalgia changes you.  Be open to that change, rather than fear it.  There is a lot that having fibromyalgia will teach you about what it means to be alive.
  2.  Challenge Yourself Daily – Think fibromyalgia has made you into a sniveling, whiny, hell-hole of a person?  All right, well, that was yesterday.  Who do you want to be today?  Challenge yourself to be a better version who you were. Tomorrow is a whole other day, so focus on today, the here and now.
  3. Make Contact – No matter what, reach out to someone every day.  Call or meet a friend, check in with family, chat on an online support group or a social media network.  Reach out. Staying isolated with your illness is a sure path to further problems, psychologically and thus physically.  If you can, get outside and take a walk…even if it is for a few steps.  Taste the air outside, see the world around you, celebrate that life is happening and you’re a part of it.

I cannot promise you that taking only these 3 steps will change your life. They are, however, a good way to start doing so.  Remember there is a difference between the verbs to have and to be.

You have fibromyalgia. You are not fibromyalgia.

Let neither yourself nor anyone else define you by it.

Try every day, taking one step at a time along your path.

Until Tomorrow,

D.