10 Insights I've Gained From Living With Fibromyalgia

Editor's Note

Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

In 2010, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a chronic condition that affects millions of people around the globe. The majority of them are women. As yet, there is no cure.

I had enjoyed a successful career as a natural medicines therapist and teacher, but fibromyalgia forced me to stop working for two years, reassess my life and embrace a new normal. I eventually left my old career behind, and retrained in organic horticulture, teaching part-time in schools until recently.

My illness taught me so much, and I will share some of my most important insights below:

1. Reassessing My Values

Illness forced me to reassess my values. Health is now my number one priority, before career, relationships, finances and all else. I ask myself “Will this be beneficial to my health and wellbeing?” If not, it is not for me.

2. Gratitude

I have kept a gratitude journal for many years, and it has helped me appreciate the good times and the not so good. I am blessed with a warm home, running water, fresh air, food to eat, great family and friends, time in nature, beautiful sunsets and daily miracles. Try keeping a diary of the blessings in your life for one month, and notice any changes in your perception of life.

3. Learning to Be Proactive

A wealth of information is available online for specific health conditions. Joining a support group will invite new friendships from others who understand the challenges of your medical condition. You can then exchange tips on self-help techniques and coping mechanisms.

4. Cultivate a Good Relationship With Your Medical Team

Writing down a list of questions before visits to your doctor or consultant will ensure more positive outcomes. I have copies of all my medical records, including blood tests, X-rays and other investigations. This keeps me informed of my progress, and allows me to remain proactive in any treatment plan.

5. Natural Medicines

Reflexology, massage, acupuncture and herbal medicine have all helped ease my symptoms. As a result, I no longer need pain medication. A number of natural medicines are now available through private health insurance, and some are integrated within the healthcare system. Please consult with your doctor or medical consultant about a possible treatment plan.

6. Creativity

I explored creative writing when I was in considerable physical pain, and it eventually led to a new career as an author and blogger! Writing about the early death of my mother and other major life events helped me enormously. I have also dabbled in art, photography and decoupage. Singing and gardening continue to be important ingredients in my healing regime. Ten minutes pottering in my garden transforms my day!

7. Avoiding Isolation

Chronic illness is life-changing and it is so easy to slip into a major depression. Avoiding isolation is important for good mental health. Please share all your concerns with your doctor, family and friends. Learning to ask for help is key to ongoing recovery.

8. Resting and Pacing

The most important lesson I have learned is to listen to my body and pace myself accordingly. If I do too much, it can lead to a flare-up in my condition.
Do you listen to your body when it tells you to rest? Perhaps you could treat yourself more gently.

9. Exercise

Exercise is considered beneficial for many health conditions. Indeed, the body releases natural chemicals during exercise that are both analgesic and antidepressant. However, it is important to find an exercise routine that suits you. Some vigorous forms of exercise did not agree with my joints; walking, gardening, aqua aerobics, chi gung and yoga have all helped me enormously.

10. Diet and Nutrition

Eating small regular meals and avoiding processed foods helps me keep a better balance. I love to cook and make most of my meals from scratch. I also create a number of extra portions to freeze for days when I am feeling less energetic. I have discovered some foods exacerbate my symptoms including sugar, yeast, caffeine and alcohol. Some supplements have been incredibly therapeutic. Once again, please consult your doctor before taking any supplements.

It is possible to have a joyful and fulfilling life after a life-changing diagnosis. What tips would you share with others?

This story originally appeared on Watching the Daisies.

Getty Image by Ivanko_Brnjakovic

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