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

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.

1inexplicable

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 & the New You: How to Begin Restructuring Your Life After a Loss of “Self” (Part 1)

hyperrealism,art,swim,swimming,relax,

A decade ago, the word fibromyalgia didn’t exist in my vocabulary.  To be honest, my relationship with illness was that I was never ill in any serious way.  I lived to work and study, which eventually jeopardized relationships.  That way of functioning, however, was what I was taught growing up.  You were suppose to disregard all else in favour of work, whether physical or mental.

I saw my body and my mind as tools to be used relentlessly.  I would work from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. at one job, then jump in my car, drive one hour, and then work from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. I worked every holiday–a habit that I did not break until I moved to Italy. I volunteered to work when someone else didn’t want to, or called out, or whatever.  I made myself overly reliable, and everyone knew they could ask me to step in to help at any time.

Work trumped all else.

So, what happens when a person who self-defines through excessive work (“workaholic”) loses the ability to overwork or even work?  In Rome, we say sono distrutta/o (“I am destroyed”) when something happens that is overwhelming and/or devastating.  I think this expression is apt: you feel a huge part of you has been destroyed.  There is a shattering of the self, a destructive blow to one’s inner worth.

However, the blow doesn’t happen just once.  There are many blows, one for each thing you realize that you can no longer do.  Moreover, the blow aren’t just internal.  You receive external blows that land in the form of judgement, dismissal, and utter disregard…even from the people for whom you once bent over backwards to help when you were well.

That, sometimes, isthe harsh reality of having this illness.  Some people may begin turning their backs on you as they come to realize that you can no longer do what they want/need.  Although such experiences can hurt, they offer you the great opportunity to begin understanding who your real supports are, who you can really trust, and where you actually stand.

Knowing where you stand with yourself and with others, I think, is the one of the most fundamental aspects of beginning to restructure your life after any sense of loss of “self.”   In an earlier post, I wrote about reality checking, i.e. making certain that you understand what is happening in you and around you. Knowing where you stand with yourself and with others is, in essence, reality checking.  One might even call it being mindful to self and environment. Regardless of what you choose to call it, simply do it.

First, take stock of you, what’s going on within you.  Open yourself up to a non-judgmental inner dialogue, and encourage yourself to express all that is challenging you when it comes to your illness and the impact that it has had on your life thus far, or even what fears you may have about the future. Be honest with you.

Second, speak directly with those around you. Open yourself up to non-judgmental external dialogues, and encourage others to express to you how your illness challenges them, what scares them about it now and what they worry about in the future. Of course, make sure you express your thoughts and feelings as well.

Remaining in a non-judgmental stance is vital, in my opinion, to understanding 1) where you are, 2) where you are going, and 3) where you might prefer to go instead. It keeps you here and now, but with a distance that allows for some objectivity about your life.

It’s true that having fibromyalgia can suck the life out of you. However, you do not have to allow fibromyalgia to suck you out of life. Yes, things are different now. Yes, you have no idea how it’s all going to work out.  Yes, you are scared.  All of those things are okay. Your feelings are you feelings and they should be owned you.

Still, having fibromyalgia isn’t the end of the world.  It may be an ending of a chapter of your life as you knew it.  And now you can write a new chapter.

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.

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.

How to be a ghost without really trying… (+ FibroArt Monday)

Photo Credit: Moyan Brenn via CC Flickr

 

Happy Monday! 🙂 (Hope your day& mine is pain-free)

I’ve been thinking a lot about my tendency towards silence.  Actually, let’s back that up, I’ve been thinking a lot about why I am as I am and how to change some core self-beliefs.  Seriously, ask yourself right now, Why am I me?

Some of us tell ourselves that we are too busy to think about such nonsense.  Some of us know that it would be better for us to think about it, but are afraid of what we might learn.  Some of us have asked the question, but have no answers. Some of us chuck ourselves into therapy, but with no intention finding answers, etc., etc.

You get the idea. It’s not an easy question either to consider or answer. Still, this is a question that I believe that we should try to answer throughout our lives.  This brings me back to my original statement about being silent.

Just over a week ago, I moved into the place where I’ll be staying until I leave Rome on the 21st.  My landlord is an amazing science fiction author, who reminds me of a cross between Bukowski and a much slimmer Santa Claus. Yesterday, he said to me, “So, is everything okay with you? I’ve not seen you for the past 10 days.”  Mind you, I’ve been at home.  Still, he was right. He hadn’t seen me.  I had made sure of that.  It wasn’t because I wanted to avoid him, but because disappearinghidingremaining unseen is second nature to me.  I erase my presence, even when actively in the lives of others, which may be related to my object permanence issues.  That, however, started way before the memories I can access.

What I do know is that growing up, my silence and lack of presence was something that was valued in my household. I did not stir the proverbial pot.   When I did try to express myself, I was often shutdown and compared with others who I understood had undesirable qualities.

In other words, I was encouraged not to share my thoughts, express my feelings, interact with the world around me, have friends, and generally be a socially-adapted member of society.  I’m lucky that I decided to become a therapist because I learned many of the interpersonal skills that I ought to have when I was younger.

Yet still, I have yet to unlearn that core household rule, which has become an unsettling self-belief: I must erase my presence.

And why must I erase my presence? The answer is rather simple, because the statement comes from my childhood thought: I should not speak or my family will hate me even more and I will have no home.

So, how do you undo the belief that being “present” in the lives of others means that you will lose whatever place you have?  Well, I have no definitive answer, but I’ll let you in on what I am doing.  😉

What I am doing is actively giving myself permission to:

  • Exist – I have the right to take up space on this planet, even if it means that others may be discomforted by that.
  • Speak – I have the right to speak my personal truth, even if it dispells the myths of others.
  • Love – I have the right to love and be loved just because I exist. My loving or being loved is not synonymous with my forfeiting my identity and goals in life.
  • Dream – I have the right to create goals for myself separate from the desires of others. I can dream as big or as small as I want to about my life.
  • Feel – I have the right to my physical and emotional experiences, even if they counter the needs of other people.  If I think the sun is freaking hot today, then it’s hot. If I am sad, then I am sad. It’s that simple. No one can dictate my feelings to me.
  • Be – I have the right to be whatever I am and whatever I am not.  It is my choice.

I could go on for a bit longer with the list, but there you have it. This is my first step.

Perhaps this may be helpful for someone else, especially if you grew up in a highly narcissistic family environment, or what I might call a house of non-self mirrors.

Take a look at yourself today. Smile at who you are, love who you are, acknowledge you are here and no matter what you have the right to be.

Until next time,

D. 

   

Throwback Thursday | Reblog: Roma, che cosa vuoi?

Statue of Giordano Bruno

Rome is a hard place and I am a hard person.  What I mean by hard is simply that Rome is all stone and little nature.  It is all grit and grime and movement.  I often feel now that I find myself to be same…  That there is no softness, purity, and no patience…  I am eager to build upon the last event and move on from the present one.   I feel as though my life has shown me too much in too short a period of time, and has made me too wise… but not wise enough to avoid this place where I have now found myself.

If you asked me what I want most right now, I would say to be free of all worry… then I would say to remember… then I would say to forget… then I would say nothing… for why should I want?

I despise Rome because it is so much like me – It reflects back to me so much of myself… or at least, who I have been in my many forms.   And it seems that now I am finding myself to be no different from many of my clients, whom I have seen over the years, i.e. wanting the past to go away… wanting to be far away from myself, but finding myself nowhere else but here with me.  I suppose I am human after all.  And so I have placed myself here in Rome, a physical manifestation of all of the parts of me I had come so to resent, but perhaps no so much anymore.  Now, Rome, what do you want?

Nessun Dorma

“Nessun Dorma” (“None shall sleep,” an aria from Puccini’s opera “Turandot.”)