Today we have an amazing guest post from Darci Lopez who like me, lives with pain from Fibromyalgia. Darci is here to share her journey with us and to share her 5 strategies which help her to ease Fibromyalgia pain!
Enough from me, let’s turn it over to Darci!
Darci’s Journey with Fibromyalgia
It all started with one simple question, “What is that pain in my back?” Well, that pain in my back 20 years ago has migrated all over my body and become so intense at times that I can’t get out of bed. Six years after that initial painful twinge at the age of 28, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and my life hasn’t been the same since.
It took six years and multiple doctors, from Orthopedists to pain specialists to Chiropractors, to finally diagnose the issue. During those six years of unexplained pain, I suffered. I suffered not only from the pain of the disease, but from the pain of not knowing what was wrong with me. Doctors thought it was all in my head, as they couldn’t find anything physically wrong. Friends and family didn’t know what to think and were getting worried as they saw my mounting distress. I was missing work and sick much of the time.
I had been working as a social worker, but the stress of the job was making me sicker. I finally quit my 9 to 5, took three months off, and became a Realtor. This, I thought, would allow me the flexibility to make my own schedule and work around my illness. It worked for awhile, until I had children.
When I had my first child, I became a stay-at-home mom. I now have two children, and the demands of raising a family have become so much that I’ve had to get creative on ways to make an income while staying home. I would not be able to work outside the home and raise my family while managing my illness. I’ve since become a transcriptionist, which affords me the flexibility I need. I am able to care for my family, care for myself, and make a small income.
Chronic illness hasn’t only affected my career, but my relationships as well. My husband, thankfully, has always been super supportive and helpful on my bad days. He picks up the slack when I don’t feel well and doesn’t bat an eye on days that I don’t prepare dinner or give the kids their baths. He understands. I keep a small circle of friends that know about my illness and don’t question me if I have to back out of an activity because I’m having a bad day. They understand.
Although the impact of chronic illness on my career and relationships has been profound, I’ve learned how to not only live, but thrive despite it. There are several strategies I’ve discovered on this journey to making my life more livable and more enjoyable. These tips work for me, but I encourage you to experiment and don’t give up until you find the perfect combination of self care that works for your situation.
5 Strategies to Help Ease Fibromyalgia Pain
Listen to Your Body
This has got to be my #1 suggestion for anyone living with chronic illness. You know your body better than anyone. Take charge of it and be your best advocate. Acknowledge when you are experiencing symptoms, make note of them, treat them, care for yourself. I’ve had to learn to recognize my triggers. I can’t tolerate cold water or cold weather, I can’t tolerate stress, and I always have to monitor myself for overexertion. When I don’t listen to my body or I ignore these triggers, I pay for it with a flare up and I’m down for days. It’s just not worth it. Do not ignore your triggers. Keep a log for a month of triggers, symptoms, strategies, and how they worked for you. This will be an invaluable tool for getting in tune with your body and taking control.
Before experiencing the pain of Fibromyalgia, I’d been very athletic. I weight trained and did vigorous aerobic exercise regularly. But with the muscle pain came stiffness and fatigue. I slowly transitioned to walking and yoga as my main forms of exercise. When I first tried yoga it made me physically ill. It was very challenging! But I stuck with it and have been practicing yoga for many years now. Over the years as I’ve gotten older, I’ve transitioned from Hatha Yoga to restorative yoga, which I find very beneficial. It eases all my symptoms, from muscle pain to depression.
Yoga has been shown to boost immunity, improve deep sleep, make you happier, and best of all, ease pain. Exercise is essential to all good health, so find what works best for you. It might be walking or it might be chair yoga. The important thing is to get some movement. There are some great online resources for yoga and exercise videos for all levels, like YouTube, Daily Burn, and Giam. I am currently loving Daily Burn as I can choose the exercise form and difficulty depending on what type of day I’m having.
Insomnia is torture, and it can be hard to sleep when you are sick or in pain. Whatever you need to do to ensure you get some rest, please do it. Adequate sleep is so necessary for your body’s recovery, whether you have a chronic illness or not. Throughout this journey, I’ve discovered some lesser known strategies for getting a better night’s rest. Do you have a blue light filter on your phone and your computer? If you sleep with your cell phone and/or computer in your room at night, you are being submitted to artificial light. This blue light has been documented to disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm, disrupt melatonin levels, and alter the sleep cycle so that you are not obtaining your optimum rest. I use the Twilight app on my phone and it works great. I don’t sleep with my computer in the room, and dimming the lights at least an hour before bedtime prepares me for sleep.
Going to bed earlier is also helpful when trying to get a good night’s sleep. Decide when you want to wake up and count back 8 hours, or however long you want to sleep. This should be your bed time. It’s important to be consistent, so stick to this bedtime for at least a couple of weeks to see how you feel in the mornings and throughout your day. Limiting arousing and stimulating activity and getting to bed at a decent hour, you’ll find that you wake up more refreshed and alert, and I always have less pain when I’ve slept well.
Do More of What Makes You Happy
What gets you excited? What are some of the activities you participated in before becoming ill? Revisit some of those activities. You may not be able to participate fully, like you once did, but that’s okay. The goal is self-fulfillment and finding joy. The effects of happiness on health have been proven to be immensely beneficial. Go for it! Whatever it is.
I find that when I spend time with friends on my good days, I feel refreshed, renewed, and inspired. When I sit behind my sewing machine and create, I am alive and rejuvenated. Writing also brings me immense joy. I love being able to touch people by sharing my story or by asking relevant questions. Do more of what makes you happy.
Essential oils have become an integral part of my self care. Living with Fibromyalgia, I am met with a slew of different symptoms on any given day. Essential oils allow me the flexibility to address what ails me gently and naturally. If you are unfamiliar with essential oils, Chantal has created The Complete ‘How To’ Essential Oil Guide, which is a great resource to help you get acquainted and familiarized with basic essential oil usage. Specifically, I use a combination of lavender and clary sage to help with relaxation and sleep. I reach for my Muscle Aid by Plant Therapy on a regular basis, and keep a few drops of lemongrass and lavender in my diffuser necklace every day. The possibilities are limitless of how you can support your health and manage your chronic illness symptoms through the use of essential oils. The key is experimenting with the oils and, again, listening to your body. If anxiety is one of your symptoms, I’ve developed a recipe for anxiety that will knock your socks off.
Overall, my journey with Fibromyalgia has been a long one, 20 years. How time flies! I’ve learned so much about myself. How I handle adversity, how I persevere, how I grow through each challenge. I’ve also learned a lot about others. Some dismiss my illness as if it’s not real. That’s okay. It’s not about them. Some have shown they really care by being there for me on the good days and on the bad. I will continue to learn and grow, and I encourage you to do the same.