Why Those of Us With Fibromyalgia Should Embrace Being 'Turtles'

My advice for fibromyalgia is to “Embrace the Turtle.” Or tortoise if you prefer. I like turtles so I am going with them. We won’t win the race by any means. In this hectic, fast-paced society, we have to take a more mellow approach for our own well-being. But, hey, sucks to be those other people, those hares and rabbits, rushing about frantically, I say. They never get any rest and are always stressed. We have forced ourselves to adjust to our illness and that is OK. Maybe it wasn’t what we planned, wanted, desired or had ambition for. I get that. But live in the moment. The past is where it should be, the past.

It is OK to rest. We need to take breaks. To take power naps. And understand there should be no guilt in this. We have fatigue and it is part of managing our day. It can give us the much needed energy to get through the rest of the day or go to a planned event. Planned rest or napping actually helps in getting to some event or social activity.

We have to pace. We don’t pace and we suffer for it. I of course learned this the hard way, more than once because that is how I roll. I feel like I need to push myself when I feel good, which results in me feeling quite bad and needing recovery time, sometimes for days… then repeat. If we pace our activities we avoid this cycle altogether. And that, is much more pleasant on the body.

We are not what we do. We have more value than what we do for a living. It can be a difficult process to give up a career and go down to part-time or to not work at all, but sometimes it is the very best thing we can do for our health. And it is our well-being that counts the most. We are so very much more than a job. And slowly we realize this after we have adjusted.

It is OK to focus on self-care. It is not self indulgent to focus on yourself. To do things that give you pleasure. To do meditation and other things that help with your well-being. To spend time socializing. All things are pieces of the puzzle. Chronic pain is stressful. It is a constant stressor and we need to engage in things to reduce that stress and manage our moods. I would say all factors of self-care are fundamental to our treatment just like anything else. Moderation is key. It is the game plan. Taking a vacation? Moderate your activities but enjoy yourself. Doing housework? Not in one day you’re not. Spread it out through the week. And drop that guilt. You are the turtle, dammit! Embrace that turtle lifestyle! Working part-time and feeling not “productive enough?” You are more than your work. And we moderate our activities. Work is a facet of our lives that needs to be adjusted and accommodated based on our health.

We are too hard on ourselves with brutal standards we feel we need to maintain or think others judge us for — certainly we judge ourselves. We need to know our limits and lower those standards to those limits. They are limits for a reason. We should not be exceeding them. There should be no shame. No guilt. No comparing to a past self, to a perfect healthy self to other people. We are living the chronic illness lifestyle of the turtle. Not the hare or rabbit. As such there is no guilt here. There is what can we do to make an environment that creates the best conditions available and promotes our own wellbeing. And do that.

Embrace the turtle my friends. We will all be happier for it.

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