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Why Mornings Are Hard as Someone With Fibromyalgia

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The alarm clock hasn’t gone off yet, but I’m now awake, yet refusing to get up. I’m immediately thinking about the amount of effort required of the next few hours. I know exactly what to expect since it’s my routine five days each week, and I dread what’s coming.

It’s 5:30 a.m., and I’m not sad the night’s over since my fibromyalgia pain spots already created too much pain to remain asleep. But as I get out of bed and limp to the bathroom, I assess myself to see which body parts hurt more or less today — every day hurts, but no two hurt in quite the same way.

My showers are more time-consuming now. I move slower, stretch under the spray of the hot water, and stall for time, leaning against the side of the shower, not wanting to shut off the water. I’m just procrastinating, knowing I’m running late. Reluctantly, I eventually shut off the water and then try to make up time by quickly dressing, swallowing my morning meds, and heading out. These 40-ish minutes are simple yet challenging, so I drop into the seat of my truck with relief and head off to work.

My daily commute is well over an hour each way. I constantly fidget, seeking the elusive position that will bring comfort to my hips; or reduce the pain in my right heel; or keep my clothes from bunching up, which is oddly bothersome against my torso. I rely on my side mirrors to reduce the need to look over my shoulders which exacerbates my neck pain. Whenever I’m stopped I bounce my legs to force a tiny bit of movement into them and reduce the length of time they’re stagnant. About half of this drive is in silence, leaving the radio off to generate some amount of de-stressed calmness.

Once I arrive at work, I park, kill the engine and segue into my next stall. Depending on the morning’s traffic, I’ll spend the next five to 15 minutes sitting, under the pretense of sweeping through overnight emails, Facebook posts, tweets, and the weather forecast. But I’m drained by the mere thought of the next part of my morning.

Reluctantly, I finally open the door and slide out of the truck, shuffle around to the passenger’s side, gather my work bag and lunch, and then hobble to the stairwell. While my heels are better than they’ve been in over a year, climbing stairs has now become particularly rough on my right leg and hip. I try to time it to be far enough from anyone else so that I won’t feel pressured to change my pace.

I’m then faced with walking the entire length of the building to get to my office. I either keep my eyes focused a few feet in front of me or look all around, avoiding the line of sight to the opposite end of the hall that tells me how far I still have to walk. Finally, I make the turn, pivot again into my office, and drop into my chair. I’m panting, and it takes a minute for the pain to subside.

After a moment to recover, I power up my laptop and begin my next stall. I’ve made significant changes to my daily nutrition but still allow myself a relaxing cup of coffee with cream. I now need to retrace my steps to the nearby kitchen, and hate the thought.

When the moment feels right, I drag myself out of my chair and fight through protesting hips, balky knee, barking heels, and whatever else is misfiring this morning, and I work my way back to the kitchen, hoping it’s empty; I’m not ready to be pulled into conversation with someone, forced to pretend I’m fine. Often, it’s barren and I move through my tasks with K-cups, napkins, creamers, and then retreat back to my office.

I finally drop into my chair again, knowing I’ve now reached halftime in my morning challenges. I’m over two hours into the morning, and I’m mentally exhausted. I’m allotted an hour or two before my meetings begin, and I can pace myself on prepping for those meetings and occasionally getting up to check in with someone or to go to the bathroom, which is also a way to try to continue working out some physical kinks. It’s a chance to shift from the effort to get started and instead to focus on being productive.

As my meetings start, I then mentally convert the morning’s activities into bite-sized pieces to get me to lunch. That will be a much-appreciated hour to sit in my office, eat my rigidly prepared meal that keeps my digestion in good shape, and to gear up for the afternoon. I’ll be in more of a groove at that point and the respite does a good job of making the afternoon manageable.

I used to bounce out of bed and move quickly and mindlessly in the morning, as if a well-oiled machine. It’s now mentally and physically exhausting. It’s the source of the bittersweet feeling I have when going to sleep for the night: satisfied in those final moments at making it through the day, with no obligations for the next few hours; yet depressed at knowing what lies waiting for me on the other end of the night.

My silver linings are that my mornings begin in solitude, giving me cover for my struggles, and I’m afforded enough time to compose myself before I’m forced to fully engage with coworkers. I’ve also pushed through this daily grind often enough to evolve it into a routine — at least I know the progression to get me into the flow of my day.

For now, I’m just taking each morning one step at a time.

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Originally published: January 11, 2017
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