Evening followers and friends,
I hope you have had a good day. Friday is almost here! I was incredibly glad to come home today after initially going many miles in the wrong direction on the wrong train and then getting wet in the rain!
Following on from last weeks blog post introducing me and my fibromyalgia, I promised to get the nitty gritty of how I thrive with The F Word. All opinions and thoughts in these posts are my own and as you will know, I choose to keep this blog a positive space, full of proactive advice of how fibromyalgia can be addressed naturopathically. However, I also feel that sharing the reality of living with a chronic illness is important in raising awareness.
That being said, I do still want to keep the blog as positive as possible, so instead of just moaning about my fibromyalgia, I thought it would be useful to talk about what has changed so that it doesn’t completely ruin my life. At work today we had the most inspiring woman come and speak to us about leadership, and she spoke about viewing obstacles as opportunities. While this is incredibly helpful to me in my role at work it sprung to mind that this is exactly the way I approach my fibromyalgia, and I am going to use this framework to describe to you how my life has changed with fibromyalgia, and how I feel it has actually changed for the better. Every cloud has a silver lining and all that jazz.
I thought I would start with focusing on how it has affected my home life, with those people who are nearest and dearest to me. I can’t list everything but I thought it would be useful to share what are probably the most common problems with fibromyalgia, and without action could become the most distressing.
I am blessed enough to have been married for 11.5 years to Matthew. Each day I give thanks for the man that asked me to marry him one rainy June evening in Guildford. We have amazing twin girls Edith and Emily, aged almost 7 (we are reminded every day). We live in Greater London and have done for 13 years. Both Matthew and I originate from Portsmouth (South Coast of the UK for those overseas readers), and so ALL of our closest family members are still there, so we have no family nearby.
Obstacle #1 – We have learnt the hard way that all work and no recovery is really not healthy for anybody and we had the balance all wrong. We were constantly working opposite shifts, leaving each other alone to parent and do all of the things that being an adult encompasses. We were often chasing rainbows and always looking for what was next and looking for more, instead of embracing the moment and being content with what we already had. This was incredibly draining for both of us and on refection probably expedited the onset of my fibromyalgia, but I think a lot of families are like this. The rapid onset of my fibromyalgia left me in incredible pain, hardly able to stay awake yet not be able to sleep (not sure how that works), and very distressed.
The opportunity – Something had to give, and once I considered going back to work, it first meant a change in working hours for us both. There was no way we could go back to the ways things were without either destroying me or putting pressure on our family relationships. While this is coming at a financial sacrifice, I firmly believe that money does not buy you happiness, but balance in life does. We have both been lucky enough to have had our offers of how we can offer our best to our employers accepted, which means that although we are both work more ‘days’ per week we are now working less hours per day. We are now able to divide up the house and family responsibilities more manageably, and have more time together as a family each day. There is now no day that will go by where I will not see my husband or children because of work (before I would often go at least a couple of days without seeing them). We are less tired when we are together which ultimately means that the time we do spend together is of better quality and everyone is in a better mood. Our mental health has improved immensely. The girls know what to expect from their day and kids love routine. For my fibromyalgia this means that on the whole my symptoms are much more manageable too.
I have also discovered the art of mindfulness and gratitude because of fibromyalgia. I am now seeing clearer than ever and am honestly the most content I have ever been in my life despite being in constant pain and feeling almost always tired. By giving thanks for what I already have, I naturally want less. By wanting less, I no longer feel that horrible feeling of discontent, that I am not good enough. I no longer feel like I am failing as a mother, or a wife, and as a result my mood is lifted and a good mood gives me momentum to continue with the good habits that are best for my fibromyalgia.
Obstacle #2 – Long gone are the days where we could stay up late together and watch our favourite TV programmes or a film. I need to stay away from screens and blue light for a good 90 minutes before I sleep.
The opportunity – Due to the change in what I can or can’t manage, even simple things like watching TV, we have been able to reacquaint ourselves with old passions. We are now reading more and actually spend more time talking. We listen to more of our favourite podcasts together, and are discovering new ones to listen to. We are actually getting to bed a decent hour and sleeping better as a result which directly impacts our moods the next day. Just because you can no longer do one thing doesnt mean you can’t have fun in other ways.
Obstacle #3 – We now need to be more mindful of what we do together, and as a family on our ‘rest’ days, in order for me to stay well and to maintain the strength in our family unit that we have worked so hard to achieve. At present long day trips out are a struggle for me and often it isn’t until the day that I know whether or not I am capable of going out on that long anticipated trip. This can lead to frustration and disappointment for everyone.
The opportunity – We no longer tell the girls when we are ‘thinking’ about doing things. This isn’t because we don’t want them to get excited, but because we don’t want them to be disappointed. Matt and I will often talk about what we could do at the weekend but this is dependant on how we are all feeling on the day, and we decide when the time comes. What is great about this is that the girls now feel less entitled to do things outside of the home for fun and more thankful. If we wake up and everyone is having a good feeling about the day we suddenly spring a surprise on them and their excitement is infectious. It also feels a little more spontaneous which adds to the excitement factor. Matt and I now have a better understanding and respect for each other and that despite plans, sometimes one or both parties may simply not feel like doing what we have planned. This has also led to placing less pressure on each other to ‘perform’ as such, which leads to a better relationship. I would also say we now know each other better than ever.
Obstacle #4 – Household chores are more draining for me now, so I pretty much have to schedule them into my day instead squeezing them in when I have time. Sometimes, rest has to be prioritised over the hoovering and this can lead to a messy house, which then makes my brain feel cluttered.
The opportunity – With our new working hours I have been able to allocate a time of my day (god that sounds boring) where I can stay on top of the chores around the house. This is done in balance with rest time and taking time to do the things I enjoy. Routine is incredibly helpful in managing fibromyalgia, and I know that the time of the day I allocate is just enough to get all the little jobs done without rushing. As a result, particularly over this last week, the house is tidier and cleaner, but without the feeling that it has been hard work. I spend less time looking for things and more time with my family. I no longer stress about the house being messy because it simply isn’t that bad. I also don’t have to worry about when things are going to get done because I know they will get done, when the time is right.
It is possible to still lead a happy and fulfilling life with fibromyalgia, and I would say that the first place that changes have to be made is in the home. The home should be the place you feel safest, and most content, so it makes sense to get this right before you move onto anything else. If you safe space is a place where you can manage your fibromyalgia well, then you can begin to build the other areas of life around this, knowing that you can always come into this space when the going gets tough.
Please come and say hello to my on social media 🙂 and let my know what opportunities fibromyalgia has presented to you.
This post along with many more inspirational posts than mine can be found at The Fibro Blogger Directory