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

Fibromyalgia & Being a Social Pariah: Reinventing Yourself After Losing Everything (Part 1)

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Image linked from WordPress.com gallery.

There is nothing more sobering than experiencing significant loss, especially when that loss hits very close to home.  At those times, knowing what to do can be challenging, and finding support may prove difficult.  These are the moments that can have the greatest impact on how you define yourself and your relationships with those around you and the world as a whole.  More importantly, significant loss forces you to realize that you may be, after all, alone in this world.

There are some who will disagree with the following statement: when you experience significant loss, the likelihood of becoming a social pariah increases dramatically.  You don’t have to look very far to see the truth of it. Just look at the rise and fall of celebrities.

The fact is that when you have everything or are seemingly rising to the top of the social strata, you will find yourself surrounded by more people, for good or ill. Conversely, when you lose everything or are seemingly hitting rock bottom, there will be fewer people remaining by your side. It’s a harsh reality, but a truth that each person going through or who has been through significant loss has to face: you might just be very much on your own.

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I decided to write about this because of my observations and personal experiences since becoming ill with fibromyalgia.  As I have written many times, having fibromyalgia means experiencing significant loss, especially of self. However, you gain a great deal alongside that loss. You find out, for example, who your true supports are and what really matters to you in life.

Fibromyalgia forces a mental housecleaning (if you allow it) and life cleaning. It forces you to question the reality that you have chosen to live and then asks you to prove the worth of that reality, i.e. is your reality one that is worth enough for you to fight for it?

While you attempt to answer that question, those around you will have to answer this one: is this person worthwhile to keep in my life? Of course, the question may not be so direct in nature, but that is what it comes down to: your worth = potential benefit in their lives. If you worth is diminished, so is the benefit that they experience.

Whether or not anyone wants to agree, the fact is that, for some people, relationships are based on benefits. There are relatively few relationships that I have observed that function solely on selflessness.  Some people care as long as there is something to benefit from giving that care.  However they define benefit doesn’t matter.  The key thing is whether or not they are still capable of receiving that benefit if they maintain a relationship with you.

I have found that having fibromyalgia or any chronic illness can make you become completely self-focused because you are having to, maybe for the first time, expend a lot of mental energy on understanding how to improve your health and how to survive on a daily basis. During that period, your ability to care for your relationships, work, and other commitments declines.  However long you spend during that period of uncertainty has a direct impact on your relationships, work and other commitments.  Given the recurrent and potentially severe nature of fibromyalgia symptoms, you may will find yourself repeatedly going through this experience.

After some time, you may find yourself friendless, jobless and uncertain of what to do next. Perhaps you are already at that point.

Keep faith and do not despair.

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There is a flip side to losing everything, to hitting rock bottom, and to being utterly uncertain. Beyond choosing to remain where you are, there is the other option: gaining everything, reaching for the sky, and becoming driven. 

All it takes is deciding to see yourself in a new person.

Too often we get bogged down in the identity that we have created or accepted for ourselves.  To truly move forward after losing everything means accepting that you are no longer who you used to be.  It means shedding your old identity.

It doesn’t matter what age you are when fibromyalgia entered your life, you can still reinvent yourself. In fact, I think the older you are, the more important it is to choose to reinvent yourself. No matter how difficult it may seem.

Reinventing yourself is what I call a process-decision. It’s an ongoing experience of deciding and allowing for various internal and external processes to occur to manifest change.  It begins with simply stating to yourself that you are have already changed and are constantly changing.

Of course, there are many practical steps that you can take to begin that process now.

Look out for Part 2

Until then,

D.

Check out my latest Vlog post on dealing with depression and anxiety. 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

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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 | Feeling Stuck? Try These 3 DBT Tips

Image from ThisIsYourConscience.com

Image from ThisIsYourConscience.com

It’s no joke when you wake up to feeling that there is nothing you can do to make your life better. This may be especially so when you have a chronic illness like fibromyalgia.  There are just sometimes when your life seems to be going nowhere and the only thing you have to look forward to is another day of symptom management.  Such moods can pass quickly, i.e. given your temperament and support network.

Still, what if it doesn’t?  What if you continue such negative self-talk and feel unable to break the cycle that you’re in? Well, the outcome surely isn’t going to be of benefit to you, your self-esteem, and achieving your goals.

So, before you get to that point, I wanted to share with you 3 tips from DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) that may get you out your rut.

I’ve discussed DBT in various posts, so I won’t go into full details here. Suffice to say that DBT, developed by Marsha Linehan, is a form of therapy that uses the Buddhist practice of mindfulness and incorporates a cognitive behavioral approach to making positive change in your life.

Of course, there is a great deal more that goes into DBT.  The 3 tips below, however, might just be ticket to making this day one that lives you feeling inspired to do more and experience more in your life.

  • Opposite to Emotion Action – Although one of the last suggested techniques to changing your emotional circumstances, Opposite to Emotion is the first technique I turn to when needing to motivate myself.  Opposite to Emotion (from the Emotion Regulation skill set) asks of you to do the contrary action to your present emotion/thoughtsSo, let’s say that your mood is so low and the last thing you want to do is to take care of yourself.  Well, do exactly the opposite, i.e. take care of yourself. In this case, taking a shower, eating well, taking a walk, etc.

 

  • Nonjudgmental Stance – This is one of the last skills that is learned in the first DBT skill set of Mindfulness.  Taking a Nonjudgmental Stance means taking an objective distance from your present circumstances.  It asks of you to 1) observe your experience nonjudgmentally, i.e. without trying to change them, 2) describe your experience nonjudgementally, i.e. without condemnation or praise, 3) participate in your experience nonjudgementally, i.e. allowing yourself to be wholly involved in whatever you are doing.  I use nonjudgmental stance when I find myself in confusion about the actions or inactions I’ve taken in my life.  I aim to get at the heart and mind of my present circumstances, so that I can better understand how to change them.

 

  • Improve the Moment This is one of the four basic skills learned in the Distress Tolerance skill set.  Simply put, do what you can to make the moment better and not worse.  Focus on decreasing levels of stress and, if possible, removing yourself from the environment that may be contributing negatively to your experience.  This is where techniques such as imagery, finding meaning in the moment, utilizing prayer, practicing relaxation skills, taking a one thing at a time approach, taking a literal vacation from the place, seeking or remembering encouragement. 

 

Individually, each one of these 3 tips works wonders.  However, when put all together, I believe that you may experience even a greater shift.  I would add to the tips helping others.  I find that when I take the time to help someone else, it helps me to feel less stuck and more motivated to experience positive change.

 

Until Next Wednesday,

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! 😉

FMS | The Necessity of Positive Self-Value

DSC001732Just a quick thought for today.

Remember that taking care of yourself, recognizing your strengths, working on your weakness, celebrating your small steps (and big ones) are necessary part of maintaining positive self-value.

It’s easy to get caught up in the what you can’t do or the  what you should do, instead of looking at what you have done and what you want to do.

Take a moment before the end of this day to check in with yourself.  Challenge yourself to acknowledging your positives, and then see how those positives can be extended to touch the lives those around you.

Until Tomorrow,

FMS | It’s TIme to Move In WIth Your Inner Child

Image  from "Kids Have No Prejudice" Documentary. Click to watch on YouTube

Image from “Kids Have No Prejudice” Documentary. Click to watch on YouTube

Fibromyalgia can suck the very joy of living out of you.  Seriously.  Sometimes you feel like there Is nothing to enjoy in life. And I  would say that it is an illness that can easily have a comorbid diagnosis of depression, which is only deepened by the somewhat unpredictable nature of the onset of symptoms, especially in the first couple of years when you are just beginning to learn about it.  In other words, fibromyalgia Is no walk in the park.

So, how can you deal with this lack of joy?  Well, I say the answer lies in beginning a conversation with your inner child.  Regardless of whether or not your inner child is healthy or hurting, they deserve to be expressed (especially if they are hurting).  Nurture your inner child.  Ask her or him what she or he would like to do today.  What simple pleasure would make your inner child smile?  Try answering that question, and see where it takes you.

Until Tomorrow,

D.

FMS | Fibromyalgia is Not the Enemy. Your Attitude Is.

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This is what we need to aim for every. single. day.

Beyond medical research, I spend a lot of time reading personal stories of people who have fibromyalgia.  After all, I have the illness, and it feels good to have a sense of belonging. However, there is a problem.

What I’ve noticed is that many of these stories, including some of my own, focus on the (for lack of a better word) negative aspects of the illness.  There is nothing wrong with that. Of course, we all need a place to share our grievances, our challenges, and our pain.  This can help those without fibromyalgia understand a bit more about our experiences with the illness.  Sharing, however, the negative of our illness is not always helpful…to us.

What I mean is: isn’t it about time that we share the positive? Share our successes?  If nothing else, in both my personal and professional lives, I learned that focusing on what works helps us to feel better about ourselves and our circumstances.  (Also, reading about the success of others in overcoming their challenges is helpful to those who are struggling.)

For example, let’s say you’ve been waking up every morning (if you even slept) and have felt so tired that the idea of getting up is too much.  Okay, that’s fine. Now, instead of focusing on feeling so tired, how about focusing on the simple pleasure of I woke up today. Perhaps that may seem a bit morbid.

The reality is, however, that if we can take a moment to focus on what is good/positive/working, then what is bad/negative/broken begins to matter less.

So, to give you a boost, I thought I would share with you my 5 steps to feeling motivated for each fibromyalgia day:

  1. Appreciate. Every morning and for the rest of my day, I take moments to simply express gratitude for the simple things in life, whether internally or externally or both. The sun is shining. I am breathing. The birds are singing, etc.
  2. Celebrate. Even if I am stuck in bed all day long, I celebrate myself and my achievements for the day.  Perhaps the only achievement I can point to is my self-care, i.e. not pushing myself beyond my limit and not beating myself up because I can’t do what others can.
  3. Life-dream. Okay, so it’s a rough day today, but guess what? Tomorrow might just be better, and what do you want to do? I take time to make small and big plans for my future. I keep in mind something that YouTuber CharlyCheer expressed in one of her videos: if you can spend 10 minutes today working on a goal, then you are that much closer to achieving it.  So, dream and dream BIG.
  4. One-step.  I take the foot-in-the-doordoor-in-the-face compliance strategies. What does that mean? I negotiate with myself. I ask myself to do something either so small (foot in the door) that I know I can do it, or I ask myself for something so grand that I know I will reject in favour of something smaller. In essence, I force myself into complying with taking a positive action.  What the video below.
  5. Laugh. I spend a great deal of time laughing.  Sometimes it is because of something I make myself watch (cartoons, comedies, etc.), sometimes it’s a memory of something I did (I can be very clumsy), or sometimes it’s listening to or reading something funny (whimsical music, comic strips, joke books, etc.).  The point is, I force myself to experience a positive emotion. Check out DBT technique  Opposite to Emotion Action.

You know, having fibromyalgia does not have to suck.  It’s true sometimes it does, and when it does…man, well…you get the idea.  Fibromyalgia is just an illness. It’s not the bogeyman, nor the devil or some demon meant to torment you.  It’s nothing to really be sad about, in my opinion.

Yes, your life has changed.  However, focus on how you can compensate for those changes/challenges.  Make having fibromyalgia a positive for you.  When people say, “I’m so sorry you have fibromyalgia” (I hear this a lot), respond with “I’m not! It’s one of the best things that has happened to me and has helped me change my perspectives on life!”

And that’s the truth. Fibromyalgia does teach you many wonderful things about life, especially because it forces you to slow down, to pay attention, and to take care.

Until Tomorrow,

D.

 

Is Your Family Narcissistic? 12 Ways to Know (PsychologyToday.com)

Read: “The Narcissistic Family Tree” by Karyl McBride, Ph.D.

Does your family…

  1. Keep Secrets (Never air your dirty laundry.)
  2. Focus on Image. (What would other people think?)
  3. Give You Negative Messages.  (You’ll never be good enough.)
  4. Lack of Parental Hierarchy.  (You are made to parent, become the emotional support for your parents, etc.)
  5. Lack of Emotional Tune-In. (Parents have told you that they don’t need you or don’t care what happens to you, etc.)
  6. Lack of Effective Communication.  (Triangulation/Gossping, see last post).
  7. Have Unclear Boundaries. (Personal space invaded. Perhaps even identity stolen, literally and figuratively.)
  8. Have One Parent Narcissistic, the Other Orbiting. (Leaving children with no other source of support)
  9. Discourage Siblings From Being Close. (Does it feel like your siblings are in a constant competition with you or between themselves?)
  10. Negate/Displace Feelings. (What feelings? Who has them? Why are they necessary? J/k…but this is what it’s like).
  11. Give You “Not Good Enough” Messages. (Whether spoken or unspoken, you learned that there was/is/will be a way to match the ideal that your parent already is.)
  12. Thrive on Dysfunction—Obvious or Covert. (Was emotional, physical, sexual abuse a regular part of your life…but no one seemed to know it…even your own siblings?)