Barbara A. Sturrock

@bsturrock4 | contributor
I suffer from a chronic illness and it’s just nice to know you are not alone

What It's Like to Be Happy and Depressed at the Same Time

This piece was written by Kelly Bishop, a Thought Catalog contributor. Being a very happy, optimistic person with depression is a strange combination. When there is talk of someone struggling with depression, most people assume they’re miserable. They can’t laugh, they can’t smile, they can’t enjoy themselves, they don’t feel happiness. Depression can be enveloping. It can take over your life and dictate your mood. It can make you think irrationally and feel unreasonable and make you feel completely and utterly alone in the world. But it’s possible to be a happy person with depression. I’m one of those people. I am a naturally sad person. I can’t help it — it’s just who I am. No matter how much fun I may be having, or how happy I may feel, there is a permanent sadness lingering in the back of my mind. But I’ve learned to live with it. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never feel as blissful as I once did when I was very young. I will always know too much and feel too much and hurt too much. I have a freakishly broad range of emotions and they can be hard to live with at times. But even though I’m a naturally sad person deep down, it doesn’t mean I can’t feel acute happiness and intense optimism. I am in a good mood a lot of the time. Even if I’m not, I’m able to get myself there and at the very least appear to be in one. I don’t like feeling sad and being in a bad mood and I don’t like others to witness me in a bad mood. There is a really fucked up, dark side of me I don’t like people to see. Even as someone who has struggled with depression for as long as I can remember, it still irks me to see someone in a bad mood and be unable to snap out of it. I can obviously relate to someone who has an unknown source dictating their emotions without their control. It’s horribly frustrating and leaves you feeling defeated and broken. Depression is a war within your own mind and it feels as though you are constantly losing. But I still refuse to let my depression control me. I refuse to let it put me in a permanently sorrowful state. I refuse to let it affect the people around me (for the most part). I’m someone who is passionate and loves to laugh and smile and have a good time and I’m not going to ever let depression take that away from me. It’s a very odd combination to live with, that’s for sure. When I have revealed to people that I struggle with depression, spent time in therapy and toyed with the idea of taking antidepressants for quite some time, they’re usually surprised. I don’t mope, I still smile and appear to be genuinely happy almost all the time – and that means I can’t have depression in their eyes. But it’s what’s going on on the inside that really matters. And that is what no one can see. They don’t see how I am when I’m by myself. They don’t see any dark thoughts. How could the idea of suicide ever enter someone’s head who is always so cheery? Well, I’m here to tell you that just because you don’t see that darkness and gloominess on the outside, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist somewhere deep on the inside. Those who can feel the saddest and most fucked up feelings can also experience the most joyful and elated feelings. I appreciate what is around me more, and I can sympathize more with others who are in pain. Pretty much, you don’t have to appear wounded on the outside to actually be wounded on the inside. I’m happy, I’m positive, I’m optimistic and I’m depressed. But I live with it. The world is both a beautiful yet hauntingly dark place. And we have no choice but to accept that, right? This story was brought to you by Thought Catalog and Quote Catalog. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Peyton Izzie

Why I Can't Just 'Get Used to' My Fibromyalgia

It’s been almost three years to the day that my symptoms first started to get the better of me. It wasn’t until then I realized I had been living in pain quite some time, I had actually been living with my illness for a very long time. You see I thought that was normal, to me this was just what life felt like. It wasn’t until that day that the reality of what I was living with started to sink in. And even then, I don’t think I realized quite how bad it could be. It took almost another year after the symptoms first started to really show themselves to get a diagnosis, but before that we’d already started to have a little inkling into what was going on inside. And it was frightening. It was unknown territory. It was unfamiliar, unheard of, something we had no information on. When they confirmed our suspicions – fibromyalgia – things changed. It sounds dramatic but life as we knew it had to change, and so it was time to make some adjustments. Three years later, and I can see it in my family and friends faces – they don’t ask, they don’t say it, but sometimes on the bad days I can see them thinking “Aren’t you used to this yet?” “Hasn’t that stopped now?” And the answer is no. I’m not used to it. It hasn’t stopped. It won’t stop, and every day brings me something new to contend with, some new symptom, or situation or emotion. Each of these things makes a situation feel unique or brand new, and then it’s like I’m right back to the start again. This is my life now – because fibromyalgia doesn’t stop. I can’t “get used” to my condition when every day the symptoms change – how do you get used to something when every day a different part of your body hurts? How do you adjust to that when you’re in pain in parts of your body that you didn’t think could feel pain? Pain isn’t this agony you see on TV, it’s not just the screaming and the writhing and the moaning on the floor. It’s never feeling comfortable. It’s having to find clothes that don’t hurt when you wear them. It’s not knowing whether you will be able to hug your loved ones without wincing in pain. It’s this constant nagging, gnawing ache and there’s nothing you can do about it. I can’t “get used” to it when I’m so exhausted from the fatigue that I can barely wrap my head around what it means to be ill. How do you come to terms with something when you’re so tired that the words don’t make sense? When it takes all the energy you have just to make it through what each day has in store for you, how do you preserve any energy to focus on adapting? Fatigue isn’t just like being tired – I won’t feel better after a good afternoon nap, a good night’s sleep won’t cure this, nor will a Starbucks jolt fix me. Fatigue is when even your little finger feels exhausted, when you can’t talk to someone because all that comes out would be word soup, and when lifting your head is pretty much all the strength you have left. Fatigue is the demon that lures you to bed yet offers you no relief in the sleep you find waiting for you. I can’t “get used” to being ill on the days when my body feels like it’s racing towards death, and the depression devil in my brain is up there, encouraging it to cross the finish line. How do you keep going when all you want to do is quit, and the voices in your head are urging you to give in? How do you stay positive when depression is in your head burning positivity to the ground? My depression is not just sadness, it is not moodiness, nor is it attention seeking. At the best of times it is self-doubt, disquiet, distraction, unanswerable questions and endless worries. And at the worst, it is nothing short of mental torment. Emotional highs and lows, panics and paranoias. Stresses, fears, tears and woes. It is everything that has ever gone wrong for me, it is every failure and every mistake, everything I should have done but didn’t, everything I should have done better, and every vision of the person I wish I could be. It is everything I have to lose, and everything I fear I will never gain. And it is all of these things at once. I can’t “get used” to any of the numerous symptoms that affect my daily life, for the pure fact that they are numerous. They change from one day to the next, meaning that life for me is a constant walk into the unknown. How can you adequately prepare yourself for the situation when you never know which part of your body will spasm, tremor, seize, or go numb at any given time? How can you make any semblance of a plan when you don’t know whether you’ll be too weak to stand up in the morning? The list of symptoms of fibromyalgia is an ever-growing list, and at times it seems as though I’ve experienced almost every single one of them personally. The only thing I can do is take each day as it comes, listen to my body (as well as my doctors!) and do what my body asks of me – it really does know best. I’ve learned to live the best way I can, to get the best quality of life that I can. I’ve learned to put on a brave face, and not show the extent of my symptoms, but believe me, just because I don’t show them doesn’t mean they’re not there. I may never get used to it… but I’ve certainly learned how to live with it.

Erin Migdol

25 'Embarrassing' Side Effects of Brain Fog We Don't Talk About

As if the physical challenges of chronic illness weren’t difficult enough, many chronic warriors also experience brain fog as a side effect — difficulty remembering things like names, tasks, directions and words, as well as an overall “foggy” feeling, like your brain has lost its way a little bit. And what’s even tougher is that other people might notice that you’re not thinking quite as clearly as you used to, which can lead you to feel a bit embarrassed occasionally. Of course, it’s completely OK if you don’t get embarrassed by your brain fog slip-ups — you may even find it a bit funny sometimes, and that’s OK. Don’t let us change you!But if you do feel embarrassed sometimes about your forgetfulness due to brain fog, you are most definitely not alone. Yet, these embarrassments aren’t talked about openly very often. Hearing other people’s struggles with brain fog can help reassure you that you’re not the only one going through this, so we asked our Mighty readers to share an “embarrassing” side effect or challenge of brain fog they experience that we don’t talk about. We never have to feel embarrassed about our brain fog, but for some of us it does happen now and again, so hopefully we can all support each other in this chronic illness challenge. Here’s what our community told us: “Knowing that you used to have an excellent memory and now you’re drowning in lists and reminder notifications on your phone just to remember simple things. I guess it wouldn’t be so bad if this was just how I’d always been, but it’s knowing I used to be sharp that sucks. Managing to remember something these days feels like a big deal. It’s one thing to have my body betray me at 28; it’s another to have my my mind do so as well. To say it’s frustrating is an understatement.” — Amanda A. “Slurring or tripping over my words, not a great look when I work in marketing.” — Alexia M. “Losing things. I never used to lose anything. Now I bet I lose things 20 times a day.” — Cynthia C. “ If someone asks me to look something up online for them, I open the browser and have to ask them again as I forgot. I have to write everything down, unless I forget to write it down.” — Cliodhna C. “ Suddenly realizing that you have seriously offended someone because you didn’t answer their question. Not because I didn’t want to. I was barely working out you had asked a question but now it’s too late to fix.” — Erin P. “Other people getting angry or impatient because I haven’t done something I said I would or because it takes me a week to remember to do something.” — Melody S. “Answering phones and booking appointments at work! I mess up my words, space out and forget the proper greeting I’m supposed to use when answering. The other day I answered a call ‘Hey it’s Maegan’ instead of ‘Thanks for calling ___, how can I help you?’ My short-term memory is shot, too. My boss will tell me to do something and within minutes I’ve already forgotten what she had said and I have to ask again and I can tell it’s annoying to them, I just can’t help it sometimes!” — Maegan D. “My kids tell me, ‘You already asked me that,’ and I answer them, ‘If I ask it is because I do not remember, so if I ask you 1,000 times, please answer me 1,000 times more.’ Very patient, my kids.” — Mely J. “Feeling like my head is empty, like I have lost the words I was just thinking. Not being able to think rationally/logically because my mind is too foggy.” — Daniel B. “Almost poisoning my husband with salmonella! I often forget how long I am cooking something. After a few raw chicken incidents, I have been relieved of my cooking duties.” — Lori B. “I forget mid-sentence what I’m saying which can be embarrassing.” — Lianne S. “Thinking I’ve done things but I haven’t — I remember having the thought but lose focus/get distracted/forget to carry out the actual task but I remember going to do it, so I think it’s been done. So many missed calls, unsent emails, etc…people think I’m really lazy or disorganized but I really do try my best!” — Nae W. “I looked at my phone to text someone, and I couldn’t do it. It was more [like] I never knew how to text than forget, and it has scared me [to] no end.” — Andy N. “Not remembering what you were talking about and having to get them to remind you of what you’ve just said.” — Josephine W. “I’m a degree educated person with a good vocabulary but when I can’t remember a simple word it’s not nice. I can laugh it off but it’s a horrible feeling. And losing my train of thought halfway through talking about something is frustrating.” — Bernie L. “Not being able to remember a word — like fork — and having to describe what you’re talking about.” — Mackenzie P. “Losing your sense of direction in places you’ve been a thousand times, and please for your own sake, do not ask me for directions.” — Diana D. “Forgetting plans or something you talked about with someone. Then they get upset because they think you were ignoring them when in reality you literally don’t remember what you guys had talked about, and they don’t believe you when you try to explain.” — Bonnie P. “Being so conditioned that I am going to make a mistake, that I have fear to try. Even just emailing my strata council (apartment building manager), I took a whole day to write the email… I then reviewed it for mistakes a dozen times! Really!… Best thing ever was when my doctor wrote me a note stating that I require written communication only. Verbal communication has even more challenges for my brain fog and I don’t attempt it often. I keep all my communication very limited and keep it simple. This helps me use energy to self-care and rest.” — Kellie D. “I get tongue-tied when speaking and I can literally stand up to do something but sit right back down because I forgot what I was going to do in a split second.” — Elizabeth C. “I tried playing Clue the board game. Totally forgot the rules of the game. When my friends tried explaining it I was so embarrassed all I could do was cry.” — Stacey I. “Mixing up stories people tell me. I’ll go to ask somebody a question about something I thought they told me, only to realize I’m asking the wrong person!” — Amanda V. “The guilt that comes from forgetting/confusion. I got lost picking my son up from school one day. That poor boy was standing outside in the freezing drizzle waiting for his mama to get it together. Seems like the guilt is never-ending.” — Tina G. “ Word replacement… for instance trying to say ‘mailman’ and ‘snowman’ comes out. I once said something horrible in front of the pastor’s wife. I was talking about how my blow dryer was broken but dryer is not the word I said. Use your imagination… I am constantly saying the wrong words; they usually start with the same letters but they are so off.” — Audrey W. “Forgetting where I put something, then being able to actually focus to find it. I could literally be looking at it and not see it because my brain isn’t processing the fact I’m looking at the exact thing I’m looking for. Often this happens literally seconds after putting the item down.” — Terri S. For some tips and tricks for dealing with brain fog, check out our community’s 25 hacks that can make life with brain fog easier and these 14 products people with brain fog swear by. And if laughing about your brain fog helps you cope, you might enjoy these 17 memes.

Elaine Rush

Why Chronic Pain Is Scary

When I write about my life with fibromyalgia, it’s sometimes to connect with others who experience chronic pain, sometimes to raise awareness and sometimes it’s for my own catharsis. This time, it’s about stating the obvious. Or at least what should be obvious, but is sometimes forgotten while we focus on the other, more complex issues that surround chronic illnesses like fibro. Something that I seem to have forgotten about, even though it’s always present. Fear. Being in extreme pain is scary. Told you it was obvious, didn’t I? The thing is, I seem to spend so long focused on the pain and how to reduce it or cope with it that I often  forget it’s so scary, until I find myself in the middle of a panic attack, or notice that I’m subconsciously tensing up. I’ve read a few times before that patients with fibro are kind of stuck in a fight or flight response and it’s like their bodies are braced for the fight even before or after it happens. Permanently. Which is as exhausting and spasm-inducing, as you’d imagine! This is a big reason why it’s important to practice some sort of relaxation. Again, that sounds obvious, but it’s honestly hard to focus on much at all when you’re in agony most of the time. I’ve decided that pretty much every aspect of fibro is a vicious cycle, until we’re spinning around in so many cycles at once that it makes us dizzy! Pretty much the hardest part about being in such pain and so fatigued is the knowledge that we have only the same struggles to look forward to in the following days, weeks, months, and years. As if all of that wasn’t enough already, there’s more. Pain tries to control you. It tries to define you and to take away the things that you love. All scary stuff, along with the fact that it will often succeed in these areas.Thinking about the wide-ranging effects of chronic pain is inevitably scary. Here are just a few examples of how mine affect me: I can no longer work I experience problems with temperature control My hair sometimes falls out I find it hard to concentrate I have never slept properly or felt rested I sometimes say the wrong words and then feel embarrassed There are many more but I think you get my point — it’s not nice and the symptoms are ridiculously wide-ranging and seemingly random! The scariest of all  is missing from my list of examples — pain. Let’s be clear, I’m aware that the pain fibromyalgia brings is both physical and emotional — how could it not be when it hits every part of you and then sticks around for the rest of your life? For the purposes of this piece of writing though, I’m referring to my physical hurting because this is the one that, for me, is present every second of every day. Pain by its very nature varies from one person to another, so chronic pain illnesses are extremely difficult for anyone else to comprehend, even if they also have the same condition. This can be very isolating and can contribute to feelings of loneliness and of being misunderstood and marginalized. This is precisely the reason why I write these pieces, and why I read lots of stuff written by others with the same/similar conditions. There are such high rates of depression and suicide amongst the chronic pain community, that it’s so important to share our experiences and try our best to support each other and make each other feel listened to and understood in a world where we are rarely confident that we’re truly seen and heard. So, for all of my chronic pain friends and anyone else who lives with fibro or a similar illness — I get it. I may not know exactly how it feels to be you, but I can absolutely identify with the fear that comes with your pain.

Community Voices
Laura Snelling

What It's Like to Be a 'Happy' and 'High-Functioning' Depressed Person

Depression for me has always been concealed. I’ve always been what they call “high-functioning.” I’m able to hold down a job, go about my day just like everyone else, and — for the most part — maintain healthy relationships with those around me. Every single person I’ve come across has told me they never would have guessed I was depressed if I hadn’t told them. I have what they call smiling depression. I love the concept of laughter and smiling at people; brightening someone’s day is what my goal is every single day. I don’t like sulking in my own sadness 24/7, and I sure as hell hate bringing other people down because of my depression. I speak about it publicly. But that’s to help end the stigma. When someone asks me how I am that day, I’m never honest. Because in reality, they don’t actually want to hear about how incredibly sad I am on a regular basis. On the outside, people see the happy, bubbly, carefree woman. But in reality, they have no idea. I don’t know if it’s ironic, but within the last three weeks, I have had two different people tell me I look so happy with life. My response to them was a little laugh, and “if only you knew my friend, if only you knew.” Neither of them know of my history with mental illness, and I wasn’t going to bore them with putting down their statement and explaining to them that it’s really the complete opposite. My depression — in reality — is this: It’s pretending like nothing is wrong. It’s not anyone screaming for help; it’s actually the person staying silent. It’s the tears I cry without anyone knowing because I have no other way to express the overwhelming amount of emotions. It’s the plans canceled last minute because I can’t seem to muster up the strength and energy to go do anything. It’s the two days off spent in bed instead of doing something fun because I’m too exhausted from pretending all week. It’s that dark cloud that hangs over my head and never seems to go away. It creeps up on me during the most unexpected times. It lurks and waits for something great to happen, just so it can ruin it and convince me it’s actually something terrible. It’s the fear of happiness because I know that at some point, it’s bound to fade away just like the memories. It’s faded memories and a cloudy mind, unable to recall important things that have occurred in my life. It is numbing and leaves me unable to function on the really bad days. The truth is, I’m not happy with my life… at all. Nothing inside of me wants to continue living a life riddled with anxiety and consumed by depression and trauma. I think about death on a regular basis, yet I’m not technically suicidal. I have those few genuine moments in which my laugh or smile is real. But for the most part, even when I’m smiling or laughing, I’m breaking on the inside. Even when I try to have those moments of happiness and pureness, depression still lingers; reminding me that the sadness is greater. I wish I could just tell people that. I wish I didn’t have to pretend. In all honesty, it’s the most exhausting thing I have ever done. I’m so tired when I get home each day and it’s not because of lack of sleep or working all day. It’s from pretending to be happy and bubbly all day long. No one understands what it’s like to be trapped in such darkness, with no way out and appear to be happy. No one understands how exhausting it is to put that mask on every single day. No one understands how badly I just want them to genuinely ask how I’m doing — and be ready to listen to me talk about sad I am. Because sometimes, talking about it and sulking in it aren’t always the same thing. On the bright side, smiling depression has its benefits. I’m not the stereotypical depressed person that you see on the commercials for antidepressants. People have a positive view of me instead of judging me for constantly being sad. My stepmom has always told me I light up any room I walk into. Other people have told me the same thing, and that’s comforting, because I don’t want to bring them down with my sadness when I walk into the room. Maybe I do it to try to give myself a glimpse of what it’s like to be happy. Maybe I do it to try to convince myself I’m not actually depressed (even though we all know that’s a lie). Who knows why I do it. All I know is I’ve been like this since I was diagnosed at 12. Here’s to you thinking I’m the happy girl. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Unsplash photo via Lauren Roberts

Paige Wyant

19 Unexpected Side Effects of 'Fibro Fog'

As those living with fibromyalgia know, one of the most common – and frustrating – symptoms of the condition to deal with is brain fog. This “fibro fog” can cause memory problems, difficulty with concentration and focus, and a lack of mental clarity, and can therefore have a significant impact on your day-to-day life and ability to function.But the effects of fibro fog are far-reaching – and many of those who struggle with it may have been surprised by some of the ways it’s affected their life. To raise awareness and help others with fibromyalgia feel more prepared to cope with it, we asked our Mighty community to share an unexpected side effect of fibro fog they’ve experienced. If you can relate to any of the following, know you’re not alone. Here’s what our community shared with us: “ I forget what I’m saying mid-sentence. Or if someone interrupts me I totally lose my train of thought and they will say, ‘oh sorry, continue…’ Then I say I can’t remember what I was talking about and they think I’m angry and spiteful for interrupting me but I honestly can’t remember what I was saying.” – Allison M. “ I forget how I was feeling. Was I sad? Was I crying? Am I happy now? It’s really weird.” – Guðbjörg G. “ I don’t know if this is just me, but I’ll be having a conversation and say a word but think I said another. Like if I’m talking about a memory or a person, I’ll think I’ve said the right name/word, but I haven’t, and the person I’m talking to gets confused. And I get confused about why they are confused, because I think I’ve said the right thing.” – Amanda G. “ I forget my kids’ birthdays or jumble them up. My kids just look at me with *that* look.” – Shayla F.W. “ I think the fact that it’s not always about forgetting things, sometimes it’s just feeling like I’m standing in a literal fog and everything around me is just blurry and in slow motion. But I definitely have moments of just forgetting where I am or what I’m doing/saying. It can be short-term memory issues or long-term depending on the day. It’s such a mess.” – Katelyn I. “ I got a new position but didn’t trust myself working in the pharmacy where no mistakes can be made, as I sometimes feel the cognitive effects. I needed a position that was less stressful.” – Lea J. “ Watching a movie then being able to watch it again because I can’t remember what it was about the first time.” – Dee F. “ I can’t make decisions. Take this morning, for example. I woke up one and a half hours ago and I think I was hungry or thirsty but my mind was too foggy to decipher which one. So I thought I’ll either get a drink or grab a piece of food. But the fog made it so hard to be able to break down the decision that I’m still sitting here having not had food or drink. The worst part is that I know it’s so simple, but the fibro fog literally blocks the part of my brain that knows how to problem solve.” – Alexandria P. “ When I’m in the middle of a fog triggered by stress, I start to slur my words. The first time it happened, I was working. My coworker thought it was hilarious, while I was almost in tears I was so scared and embarrassed.” – Miranda J. “ I forget even the most basic words at times. I’ll wind up practically playing charades just to get the word I’m thinking of out!” – Ashley A. “ Because fibro is invisible, and the public doesn’t know what is wrong with me, many people don’t understand when I ‘blank out.’ I have been at the cashier, blanked out completely and I couldn’t make change, so I tried to use my debit card, but I forgot my PIN number, so I had to leave the purchase and come back when I was feeling better. It’s so frustrating!” – Jen N. “ I forget where I’m driving to or feel lost in the small town I’ve lived in my whole life.” – Dawn R. “ I stutter, the words just won’t come out and I feel like my brain is a skipping record. Sometimes my brain fog can be so bad I am unable to read. I also forgot my address, how to spell my name, don’t ever ask me what day it is! I have to laugh, otherwise forgetting these simple things can be so distressing I cry.” – Jayne D. “ I once forgot how to count money. I work in retail and was counting out my register when I realized I didn’t know how much my handful of $20s amounted to. I almost burst into tears – up until that moment I had been confident that I’d been doing a good job at work in spite of my fibromyalgia. Now, I’m always questioning everything I do. Thankfully, my bosses are super understanding – my manager that night just calmly took the money from me and counted it out so I could do it with her. It was exactly what I needed to not totally lose it.” – R. Shay H. “ Having a conversation with someone in the morning, and by the afternoon you can’t remember anything you talked about.” – Bonnie P. “ I had to give up driving as it worried me how it was affecting me. Yes, the forgetting the destination and my rubbish reaction time for stopping, etc. started to scare me – e.g. what if someone steps out in front? Losing my thread when someone interrupts me mid-flow is embarrassing. Slurring words or not finding the right word for what I want to say embarrasses me terribly and I tend to clam up in company.” – Jo A. “ I couldn’t put gas in my car because I forgot my zip code. I eventually had to Google it.” – Katrina R. “ Walking into a room for an item, looking at item thinking that it looks familiar. Then leaving the room only to realize that the item looked familiar because it’s what I went to get.” – Carrie B. “ Too foggy to remember.” – Helene P. Read the stories below to find out how our Mighty community copes with brain fog: 14 Products People With Brain Fog Swear By17 Apps That Can Make Life Easier When Brain Fog Takes OverThe Small Tricks That Help Me Cope With Brain Fog25 ‘Hacks’ That Can Make Life With Brain Fog Easier

Common Mistakes About Pacing Yourself When You're Sick

They say the key to happiness, sustaining our lifestyle and managing pain is to simply pace ourselves. We have all been in a place in our lives where pacing our actions would benefit us. Whether it be because we had the flu, were pregnant, broke a leg or we were just too stressed and we needed a break! I have heard this advice from the first day I left the doctor’s office with my diagnosis. “You have to learn to pace yourself.” My immediate thoughts were “Yeah, I can do that, that’s easy, what else you got for me?” You can tell by my response that this concept was completely foreign to me. I had never once been told to pace myself in any of the activities that I did. The American way is full throttle, competitive, balls to the wall, aggressive, take what is yours, work hard play hard, multitask, be a champion at everything. If you aren’t first you’re last. Hell, even my generation isn’t pacing themselves with tailgating parties. We are bingers. We need instant satisfaction. And more importantly we are creatures of total independence. So there I was: 34 years old. Successful. Miss Independence who put herself through college and grad school by nothing less than hard work and suddenly, I was told to slow down. My attitude: Turn down for what? So I didn’t. Clearly the doctors, physical therapists and even those who had the same illness did not know what this fierce redhead could achieve. It’s easy… mind over matter… push push push. Those chores and grocery shopping weren’t going to do themselves. Money had to be made, traveling for work must be done, presentations had to be delivered and people had to be counseled. It was as simple as that. My life did not have any room to slow down… I didn’t even know how to pump the brakes. And I crashed. My body began to rebel. My pain began to soar and my energy was non-existent. I was going through the motions because I truly believed there was no other way to live my life. It took numerous people and my persistent instincts to literally stop me in my tracks. When I crashed, I fell hard, knocking the wind out of my lungs and my legs no longer able to carry me to all of these “important” responsibilities that I had. It was then that I realized… I was important. My health was important.  Those responsibilities would fade and someone else was capable of doing those tasks. My body needed to heal. For the past 22 months I have been trying to figure out what that four-letter word means… Pace yourself. In the last six weeks during a battle between “how to heal” and “being a workhorse” I have determined that I am the worst when it comes to pacing myself. Since I am not an expert, I thought it would be fun to de-bunk those really unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves. 1. When you feel good, take advantage of the moment and get stuff done! Terrible advice. I still do this. Every time I have a few moments of feeling good I dive headfirst into a project that is way too big. I usually end up sitting in the middle of a mess (literally) that now I cannot even clean up because I have pushed my body to the max. Projects this month have included organizing receipts (why!?), de-cluttering my bedroom, clipping coupons (seriously?) and trying to find plans and materials to build my chicken a coop. Who am I kidding? Sometimes, it is worth paying someone a few extra bucks. Teenagers in your neighborhood are always looking for side jobs, and think of it as helping today’s youth learn responsibility! 2. Volunteer to take on extra work, because honestly you could use the distraction. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Nobody is going to think less of you because you didn’t jump in and take on running the PTA, hosting a book club, working on the weekend! Usually after volunteering I am set way back from where I was when I started. This certainly only works as a distraction in theory. You can enjoy all of these things but you don’t have to be the ringleader! In fact, I guarantee you will enjoy them more if you aren’t in charge! 3. Nobody wants to hear you complain, so lie about how you really feel. Not a smart move. Being honest is not complaining , you are simply expressing the truth and your reality. “I feel really great” will result in people being excited and then they start to suggest all sorts of plans that you might not be up for. Let’s go shopping! How about a three-hour movie! Or if you have the flu, you could end up sharing your germs. I recommend being honest and sincere and those around you will do their best to understand. Sure, those with who are healthy do not know what it means to be in chronic pain but they also don’t want you to lie about something that may affect your well-being. The same with being overwhelmed or stressed out — be honest and let others know how you are feeling. 4. If someone offers you help, turn down his or her offer politely. Nobody likes a mooch. I just learned how to ask for help at 35 years old. I laugh when I hear toddlers say “I do it myself.”  You my friend, are not a toddler anymore, declaring your independence. We all know you can do it… but… that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. I believe people want to help you, so let them! You know that realistically you can’t do it all, so why not share some of the load? And get this… we all know people feel pretty helpless when it comes to our illness. When they are able to pick up a prescription, push your wheelchair or grab some groceries for you, it makes them feel good as well. One of my very good friends told me years ago, “Kelly, let others help you! It is a gift they are trying to give you.” Nobody wants to have their gift turned down. And if it wasn’t a sincere offering on their part, then guess what? They won’t ask you again and you can move on! 5. You feel guilty for not doing “your share” of the household chores, so even though you are feeling pretty icky, you splurge all of your week’s energy on the doing the dishes. Another one that always gets me! If we don’t already feel bad enough, we have to add guilt in there? Why do we do this to ourselves? If your loved one really loves and understands your condition/illness, then they probably don’t expect you to mop the floors every week. They live with you and see how life affects you everyday. Would you want your significant other to feel guilty about not washing dishes? I would never! And guess what, they are just dishes. It is just cleaning. You may even create more work for the person now that you have used up your energy stash for the week. If you are having trouble with this, try heading to couples counseling where a trained professional can help you and your partner to communicate to figure out what is realistic for you. If there is extra cash, hire a housecleaner twice a month. If cash is low, check out aid services through social services, which may be free to eligible community members, or perhaps a church would be eager to help. The bottom line is that this isn’t a competition, although sometimes it may feel like it. This is unlike any other race you have run before, so it takes some time to figure out where you may struggle and how your body responds to the environment. Be kind to yourself and know you are doing the best you can. Our bodies are amazing and even throughout all of our chronic pain and illness… we are still here. Be patient with yourself. Listen to your body and your instincts and don’t let the false beliefs become your strategy of pacing.

Paige Wyant

15 Memes That Describe Feeling 'Sick of Being Sick'

One of the most frustrating and difficult aspects of chronic illness to cope with is the fact that it’s, well, chronic. Being sick nonstop and having to constantly deal with symptoms, doctor appointments, insurance companies, new medications and treatments can be downright exhausting. Mighty contributor Cat Thurmon perfectly articulates this challenge in her essay, I Am So Sick of Being Sick. “I’m getting worn down, physically, mentally and emotionally,” she writes. “I must hold onto the thought that this too shall pass.” If you’re struggling with feeling worn down by living with chronic illness, you’re not alone. With conditions that are lifelong, sometimes one of the best ways to “lighten the load” is by taking a few moments to simply connect with other chronic warriors facing similar struggles through a bit of humor. So if laughing is one of the coping mechanisms in your toolkit, check out the following memes. 1. via @_._ccourtneyy_._ Instagram 2. via @emma_butterfly Instagram 3. via @mychronicillness Instagram 4. via @myillnessmythoughts Instagram 5. via Imgflip 6. via @rhiiannonfisher Instagram 7. via @stuffiwasthinking Instagram 8. via @spooniewarriorpics Instagram 9. via @_lymelife_ Instagram 10. via @supportforspoonies Instagram 11. via @freephim Instagram 12. via disabilityhealth Tumblr 13. via @christ.coffee.curls.courage Instagram 14. via @chronicpainmemes Instagram 15. via @emma_butterfly Instagram

Cat
Cat @cat-thurmon
contributor

Sick of Being Sick With Fibromyalgia, Chronic Illness

Having a chronic illness such as fibromyalgia really does take its toll on you, especially when you have a ton of other stuff along with it like me. It waxes and wanes but it never goes away, at least it doesn’t for me. Right now I must say it’s as bad as it has ever been before. My pain level has driven me so far down that even my positive outlook is suffering. I am so sick of being sick. My only escape is the sleep I get but now the pain is twisting my dreams and I can’t even escape it there now. I awake so sore that it makes me want to scream out just to move. I’m as tired when I wake up as I was when I went to bed. Relief seems to be escaping me these days. Get more exercise, that’s what they say. They have no idea how hard that is to do when every movement makes you want to flinch with pain. When walking any distance at all makes your spine feel as though it’s just going to crumble apart and disintegrate. I do what I can, I walk short distances, I do leg lifts in my chair, but it’s hard. I wish others could understand how hard. Lose weight. I try, I really do. Without being able to be as active as you need to be it’s a very hard thing to do. I know my weight, which was put on after falling ill, makes it worse. It makes my self-image worse too which doesn’t help things at all. I wish I could lose it and I’m trying hard to, but it’s a slow process feeling as I do. Take your meds. I do, I promise I do, just as they tell me to do, but it isn’t helping enough. I have missed them and I was lucky not to spend the day curled up in a ball on the floor, so I know they help, but they aren’t doing enough. There has to be something out there that will help give me my life back. Depression? Sure, I struggle with depression. When there isn’t a part of your body that doesn’t hurt all of the time, you might be depressed too. I think those of us who function with this are a lot stronger than people give us credit for. I can’t even eat without experiencing symptoms. I eat something, it sends me running to the bathroom. There isn’t an aspect of living that fibromyalgia or the slew of co-existing conditions do not touch. You name it, there is an ill effect to go along with it. The symptoms feed off each other, each one causing the others to be worse. I try to stay positive. I know this will pass and I will feel better, but even then I won’t feel good. I have my good spells but even then there is still the ever-present pain, depression, stomach issues etc. Still, there are better times when I can do more and enjoy more, but what do I do in the meantime? I’m getting worn down, physically, mentally and emotionally. I’m losing hope that there are good days ahead and that relief can be found. I mustn’t let myself get like that, I must always believe there is hope, but right now that’s hard. I must hold onto the thought that this too shall pass. I just hope it passes quickly… We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.