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

May 12 is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day, But I’m 10 Years In.

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This Thursday, May 12th, will be a quiet day for me. It’s Fibromyalgia Awareness Day.  I’ll do what I usually do: strive to thrive, make it through another day, try to find ways to make a living, find balance, take better care of myself, wonder what the rest of the world is doing beyond my computer screen, etc.  Still, this year’s theme is “Your Voice Matters”, so I am writing today because I will likely not remember to do so on Thursday, whether by natural absent-mindedness or fibrofog.

However, there isn’t really much that I have to write about fibromyalgia today beyond the fact that it annoys me that WordPress’ word processor does not recognize the words fibromyalgia and fibrofog. Then again, it doesn’t even recognize the name WordPress, so perhaps I ought not to complain.

Well, I am ten years (by my symptoms) or eight years (by diagnosis) into this illness. Because of fibromyalgia, each day presents unique opportunities for me to learn more about myself, particularly my level of tolerance for the world around me and my position in it.  Even though I have had to make unexpected changes in my life and goals for my life, I am a far better human being because of it.

I cannot stress it enough: my illness has made me more human.

When you are usually on top, it is easy to spend your time looking down on others without ever realizing that you are doing it.  When you always have, you don’t understand the perspectives of those who do not.  When you only know yourself as competent, you cannot fathom the handicaps of others. When overachieving is all you ever do, you can never understand the satisfaction of mediocrity.

Fibromyalgia has taught me about my blind arrogance. It has shoved me off a very high platform and asked me to find my way back up.

I have accepted that challenge.

The challenge is neither to become blind once more nor to fight against fibromyalgia.  The challenge is to love, learn and live, embracing who you are, who others are, and especially who you decide to be.

On may 12th, if you have fibromyalgia or know someone who does, take a moment in your day to pause and appreciate what you have, who you are, and what you can do to make a difference in the lives around you.

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! 😉

Fibromyalgia & the Perfectionist: 3 Steps to Being a Perfectly Imperfect-Perfect You

Image from GIS

Image from GIS

The title is a tongue twister.  I dare you to say it fast 7 times. 

What happens when a perfectionist develops fibromyalgia? Well, I’ve spent the past 8 years learning the answer.

I don’t often speak or write about being a perfectionist. In fact, embracing imperfection, especially when it comes to body image and fibromyalgia, is often at the core of my blog posts, including this one.  The topic, however, has been on my mind over the past month as I transition from being a student to being gainfully employed. 😉

So, what have I learned over the past 8 years? Well, I won’t summarize it in this post.  One day , however, I’ll probably write a book about it…the subject feels that heavy.  For today, I wanted to share with you 3 steps that I’ve taken to being perfect at being imperfectly perfect.

3 Steps to Being a Perfectly Imperfect-Perfect You

  1. Chuck the Planner–Literally. Toss that thing in the trashcan…but do it perfectly.  Instead, invest in notepads and write anything you need to do for the next day/moment/whatever and stick the note somewhere you are likely to see it and, thus, remember, e.g. on your computer, mirror, refrigerator, front door, whatever. Just make sure you find the perfect spot for them.
  2. Downsize Your Goals–Thinking about hiking Mt. Everest tomorrow? Well, how about downsizing that to hiking your local trail today? What I mean is, focus your thoughts on doing what you can right now, in this very minute.  I know that my perfectionism has been both a great help and a massive hindrance to achieving goals.  Of course, I still have goals.  However, I have modified them by breaking them down (mentally) into smaller achievable steps.  Also…I now focus on enjoying the process instead of the product.
  3. Ignore Everyone–Meaning, ignore their opinions.  If there is one thing I know about being a perfectionist is that the opinion of others really mattered to me. I would choose to do something or not based upon how others would respond. Of course, this can be a good thing…but it can also be very detrimental, especially if you are creative–what is it that you haven’t painted, written, played, done etc. because you fear the response of others?   Well, right now, this very second, is the time to say enough is enough and pick up that paintbrush, pen, sheet music, etc. and do what you want to do.

Bonus Tip: Learn to listen to your thoughts, feel your feelings, heed your body, embrace your resilient spirit.  You won’t be perfect at first, and you will be judged (don’t worry…they’re not perfect either). However,  if you keep working on it, you will become a perfectly imperfect-perfect you.

Hey, this life is in this moment. How do you want to spend it?

Looking for more on letting go of perfectionism? Read this.

Until Tomorrow,

D.

Daily Blogging & Writing Fearlessly

On Via Fori Imperiali

On Via Fori Imperiali (May 2015)

I’m almost certain that many writers spend time thinking about how to write more, why they aren’t writing more, when they can write more, if they should write more, if they can write more. I’m no exception.

Lately, I’ve been writing, but not publicly. I have an awful tendency to stop writing because I believe I have nothing of interest/importance to state–usually, that translates into “I feel like crap about myself in the world.”  I recognize that writing about true feelings/thoughts not filtered through psychobabble scares the living daylights out of me.  Seriously.

It is a scary thing just to write “I feel…” and not add something about Freud or CBT or DBT immediately before or after it.  What would it mean to simply state my feelings, my thoughts unfiltered, uninhibited in my own little virtual space?  Who knows. This, however, is the starting point.

It’s a promise to myself. Every morning, I will write something, anything on this little blog of mine. It may interest you. It may bore you to tears.  The point, however, is that I am writing what is honest/authentic/true for me. I hope you’ll continue to give me your support.

Also, I an starting a health journey daily vlog upon my return to the US.  It will run from May 25-August 15, and will be tracking my progress with taking better care of my overall (but mostly physical) health, including diet, exercise, hair, skin, etc. I am really ready to commit to a healthy vegan and natural lifestyle, and I would like to document that process. So, wish me good fortune on that as well.

Sometimes it’s when we are about to experience enormous change that we truly recognize the direction in which we are heading.

Until Tomorrow,

D.

FMS | Challenge Yourself to Do Less: Expect Nothing, Celebrate Everything (Fibromyalgia)

8f304-blackwomansick1Being in pain, bedridden, forgetful, and generally low-spirited can seem to be the name of the game when it comes to having fibromyalgia–It doesn’t have to be.

It’s super-easy to get bogged down in the reasons why having fibromyalgia sucks: you can’t do this, you can’t do that, etc., etc.

Well, how about focusing not on the moment that’s sucking the life out of you, but the possibilities of the next moments?

I’m usually big on being mindful to moment, but let’s be serious: there are some moments that it’s just not worth it. And reflecting on the past can be a double-edged sword. You can begin to mourn who or how or what you used to be, instead of focusing on the positives of the past.

So, it might just be useful to look forward to the unknown future. Allow yourself to dream your possibilities, and then…

let them go.

Yes, let them go.  Whatever you imagine that you can or will do and that you can or will be, let it all go. Why? Because in letting go of having to do or be something, you begin welcoming freedom into your life.

Imagine not having to live up to anyone’s expectations, not even your own. Imagine not having to live in the shadow of your past self or in the pain of your present self. Can you imagine that? I can and do.

Now, when I imagine what I can/will (a.k.a. should be able to) do something, I take several steps back, and tell myself two words: do less.

For example, If I tell myself I can/will do 10 minutes of yoga, then I tell myself I shall do 5 minutes of yoga. If after 5 minutes, I can actually do more, then that’s a bonus.

In other words, challenge yourself to create opportunities for success.

Everyone needs that, especially we who have fibromyalgia.

Take small steps. Expect nothing of yourself. Celebrate everything that you do.

D.

FMS | Make this Year a Body+ Fibromyalgia Year – Love Your Body.

Image from warriormindcoach.com. Click to visit.

Image from warriormindcoach.com. Click to visit.

If you have fibromyalgia (or perhaps any chronic illness really), sometimes it may feel like you are in a constant war with your body.  It doesn’t work the way you want it to.  Perhaps you feel that you can no longer trust your body and that it has betrayed you–I know I felt like this for a really long time.

Over the past year, I’ve worked hard to come to terms with my body and its capabilities.  I’ve come to realise that it’s not about what my body cannot do or can no longer do. It’s about what my body can do, and how I can change my thoughts and actions so that it can do more.

Having fibromyalgia has allowed me to slow my thoughts down to fall into step with my body.

Yes, I move slowly sometimes, and when I do I get the chance to see the world around me more. Yes, I am in pain sometimes, and when I am I get the chance to feel a heightened sense of empathy with those who are suffering around me.

There are many negative ways that you can spend time thinking about your illness. Still, who wants to live like that? 😉

I made a promise to myself that this year would be a body positive fibromyalgia year. Actually, every year from this point forward will be that.

I resolved to learn what are the positive ways that I can think about my illness…and its impact on my body.

So, love your body, embrace your illness, rebuild trust with your body and take one more step on your path to happiness.

D.