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How I Balance My Emotional and Physical Well-Being With Fibromyalgia

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I struggle every day to be compassionate to myself. I know emotional and mental stress increase my physical pain, yet I struggle, sometimes chiding myself for all the things I can’t do.

While I’m good about listening to my physical body, taking care not to overdo so that the pain stays semi-tolerable, I’m less than patient and considerate with my emotional self. It’s sometimes hard being compassionate when I find nearly anything I do ramps up my constant headache. Or by doing what should be an everyday activity, like grocery shopping or running errands, yet it lays me down to recuperate for days after. I can be in the middle of a store, getting shit done, and feeling proud that I’m contributing to my family in a real way, then bam! It’s like I’ve hit a brick wall.

I feel overwhelmed by fatigue, my headache skyrockets, my legs ache all over, and my brain thoughts become jumbled. Not being able to live up to my own standards leaves me with strong feelings of inadequacy…of not feeling that I’m enough.

I’ve learned that pacing myself is a big must do! My body typically can do one “event” per day. So, I can either clean bathrooms or go to pilates, I can either vacuum the house or attend book club. But if I push myself and do two events on one day, I pay for it for several days following. Coming to terms with having to carefully choose my activities each day sounds ridiculous, even to me, yet if I don’t I’ll be laid up and soaking in a hot bathtub several times in one day to reduce the flare.

Because I realize how closely linked emotional well-being is with physical self, I’m trying to be my own best friend. I’m trying to get to a place where I don’t feel like half a person because I’m no longer reliable, unable to keep far too many appointments. There have been too many years now I don’t recognize myself compared to the person I used to be – running my own event coordination business, being actively social, and volunteering my time philanthropically.

It’s tough not being invited to social events any longer with girlfriends I used to hang with. I used to breakdown crying when I’d see photos of girlfriends gathered in celebration on Facebook and realize I wasn’t invited again. Yet I kind of get it…They have probably grown tired of me having to cancel last minute so have given up inviting me altogether. Or the invitations are no longer extended because I haven’t reciprocated.

I’d love to host a gathering, but the fear of not being able to do the prep beforehand, plus host for hours, scares the daylights out of me. What if I become so stressed about hosting that it brings on a migraine and I have to cancel last minute? I feel my face burning with shame just thinking about it. The truth is, with fibromyalgia and constant headaches with migraines, I don’t know from one hour to the next how I’m going to feel so it’s hard committing to or planning anything.

Being in constant pain makes me feel like I’m always in crisis. Always having to hover over myself to make sure I don’t over do it, or that I’m moving my body enough but not too much because that’ll send me spinning out of control towards a flare up and/or a migraine. And being in crisis makes me feel like I must focus first and foremost on my own well being…It feels like a constant fight for survival.

I’m guessing a therapist would tell me to recognize and then accept my boundaries. To accept that my former life is no longer and this is the new me. I have no doubt anyone with chronic pain would argue that getting there is the hard part.

Is it as easy as, instead of focusing on what I can’t do, I focus on what I can? Feel even more grateful for what I have in my life? I have a loving, understanding, and supportive best friend who happens to be my husband of nearly 40 years. And an amazing, smart, adventurous daughter who is my other best friend. And then there’s the awesome puppy therapy. I have two – one is a nearly 16 year old Jack Russell and the other a 6 month old sweet little bundle of energy, who helps keep me moving everyday. I’m incredibly grateful for my entire family, and a few close friends who check in from time to time.

Life is constantly moving and changing, and I’m trying to move and grow with it, taking necessary time to be gentle with my soul. Because I know that my overall well-being begins and ends with me caring for, and being extra kind, to myself.

Follow this journey on Fibro Brave.

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Originally published: April 13, 2017
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