If only managing illness, stress, and anxiety was as easy as “yo, chill.”
Let me give you a quick update on life as I know it the past few months. I have clearly disappeared a bit, so here is why. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, so muscle and joint pain, extreme anxiety, bouts of depression, pure exhaustion that I cannot put into words, and a list of a million other symptoms, have been plaguing me. Already I have heard, “Oh, thats no big deal, at least it isn’t cancer or something more serious.” Well, friends, I KNOW it could be worse, but that doesn’t lessen the actual weight it bears on my life. Let alone, that I have lived with a multitude of these symptoms for majority of my life thinking it was NORMAL to feel this way. So, much to my surprise, people are not chronically suffering from these symptoms on a daily to weekly basis. WOW, mind blown.
Truth is, I have been actually afraid to speak about it because I fear people will roll their eyes. To me, its purely ignorant to try diminishing a persons situation. I feel that people just want to chalk you up to being a negative person, a downer or dramatic, instead of being empathetic and loving wether they can or cannot understand. Imagine this: you worked out hard 24 hours ago (like crossfit type of hard), so now you have DOMS. You have soreness in pretty much EVERY muscle. So hovering over a toilet seat as to not touch it, walking in general, going up and down stairs, lifting things, bending down to pick something up, sitting, standing, driving…pretty much EVERY activity hurts. But then on top of it you get a mono and suddenly your entire energy level is wiped out and you can’t even get up and down from a seated position or your own bed without feeling utter exhaustion. Imagine that you also at the same time somehow never feel rested no matter how much rest you get. Even after sleeping a full 8 hours you wake up stretching your exhausted body for an hour before being able to move and function. But then you have to get up daily, perform normal activities, in my case sit at a desk as well as be actively photographing, all while trying to keep the smiles going and the energy level up when in reality you’re completely withering away inside because you have absolutely zero left to give on a daily basis. BOOM. A day in the life. You can totally take this as me complaining, but honestly, I stopped caring about what anyone thinks the moment I began to type this. In reality, this is me just trying to have some peace in feeling understood, but if I am not, thats cool too. Along with all of this physical stuff, my anxiety has enough intensity to rocket me to fucking Pluto. Crippling isn’t even the word. I cry a lot. I would need an entirely new blog post to even touch that part of my life, so moving on…In between the daily feelings as stated above I have been plagued with migraines, extreme neck and upper back pain, stomach issues and intense confusion/slowness they like to call “fibro fog”. If that isn’t enough to make me suicidal, then the TMJ pain hits me like a ton of bricks for a week straight to the point of literal nausea. After all is said and done, 40 hours of work a week feels like 80 hours because I physically and mentally can’t keep up.
Nope, this isn’t the inspirational, spiritual post that I would normally be writing, but its just my truth as of lately. I do my BEST to put on a happy face, I do my BEST to not let anyone see whats beneath the exterior. Some days I can pull it off, and other days I cannot. Lately, I notice Im more afraid of how people perceive me than I am just being real with my current state. But in the spirit of doing my best to not stay stuck in the problem here is what I have been doing to take steps towards a solution to get well. For those of you who have Fibro, Rheumatoid arthritis or chronic fatigue, maybe this will hit home for you.
- Acceptance. This ones heavy for me. I lived my life letting other people define me. I actually took what others’ thought of me into consideration and then attached that label to my name. Wow, what power I gave up and it wasn’t even their fault; it was mine. I felt like I needed to apologize for not feeling well. I have felt like a burden. I have felt ashamed. FOR YEARS I felt these things especially when I was told in a frustrated way, “You’re always ‘sick’ its ridiculous!” or “You’re too young to always not feel well.” So I would push on through life thinking they were right and I just had to do better. To my surprise, when I was diagnosed, I felt actual relief. I felt like I finally had permission to feel as I did and to not feel badly about how others perceived what I am going through. I mean, how sad is it that I felt I needed permission to not feel good? Even after learning about my Fibro I heard things like “I thought you have to be overweight to have that.” and “Its probably just in your head. Mind over matter!” Yes, some of this stuff is true to a reasonable extent, but really people? What I continue to learn is that I have absolutely no control over how you think of me or act towards me. All I can do is be who I am and live life; thats all any of us can do. Acceptance of where I am has been a change of mind that I have had to work at. And my God do I suck at it most of the time. Though I am feeling these things daily, it doesn’t mean I have given up on getting well. I have been trying things that I will probably have to practice and be consistent at for the rest of my life in order to take good care of myself and give my body the love and attention it needs and deserves. And today, I am fighting for my health with a vengeance. Do I still get down? HELL YEAH. I cry too much and I complain and I shut down and I sleep the illness away and I give up things I want to do because I can’t. It sucks, but I just continue doing my best and now I finally don’t feel bad saying what I can and can’t do. My life and my health is more important to me than how anyone else feels about my life and health.
- Meditation. This is something I NEVER used to be able to work into my life. I don’t do this every day as I probably should, but the fact that I even do it a few times a week is literally a godsend. The benefits for this are endless and they treat my mental state so that my body isn’t as affected by pain. Its such an awesome three-fold remedy to my life-physically, spiritually, and mentally. My anxiety level is reduced, my mind is clearer, my body feels less tense. Yeah, I should probably do that more.
- Yoga. Once a week I have been practicing yoga again. The stretching and strengthening aspect of mind and body being tested, is the one thing I look forward to ALL WEEK LONG. The stretching especially is helpful for me. SO helpful that even if I am not practicing yoga, I have been trying more stretching at home to help my body get some blood flow going. It helps a lot! Though I cannot workout just yet because my energy levels and overall body pains don’t always allow me to, yoga has been slowly building my strength and stamina so that I can hopefully get to a place of practicing a healthy workout schedule.
- Water intake. I used to maybe drink a bottle of water a day. Now, I have been trying to drink at least 8 bottles of water a day. Mostly, I don’t make that goal, but just the increase of water in general has already begun to make a difference.
- Vitamins and minerals. After much research on how to treat myself without the horrific side effects of medication, I found that people who suffer with fibro also had very low levels of magnesium, vitamin D and calcium. So I started taking a supplement with all 3 on a daily basis along with a Vitamin B Complex. Wow, what a difference I feel! I can honestly say that I totally underestimated the effect vitamins and minerals could have on my body. I always thought if I eat well, then I wouldn’t need them, but that is not the truth at all. I even tried to also take fish oil, but even the “burpless” ones repeated on me all day long. Next addition to my routine will be vitamin C.
- Gluten and dairy. This is TOUGHHHHH. I commend anyone who is successfully on a gluten and dairy free diet. At one time in my life I was vegan, and for some reason even that was easier than this! The problem for me is a lack of time to prepare food for myself, so when I am on the go it is hard to find things sans BOTH gluten and dairy. I have been doing my best to cut these things out one step at a time and I can honestly say that I am blown away by the difference in my energy level and overall feelings when I am not eating foods with these. When I do indulge in it, I immediately have a migraine, neck pain and stomach pains.
- Sleep. I have found that I don’t really get a deep sleep, nor do I get enough sleep consistently. So, something I have been taking note of is getting to bed earlier. As I said, I don’t think I fall into a deep enough sleep so sometimes 8 hours doesn’t make me feel any better than 5, but I am continuing my research in this area to help me get real rest. I know that anxiety has A LOT to do with irregular sleep patterns, so I will touch on how I am managing that in a minute. For sleep, melatonin doesn’t work for me, so one thing I have begun doing is taking my magnesium supplements a couple hours before bed. It has a sedative effect so it has helped with sleepiness.
- Epsom salt baths. This goes hand in hand with my trying to lessen my anxiety and help me with sleepiness. The Magnesium in epsom salts while take a warm (not hot) bath, absorbs into the skin and promotes sleepiness. I have infused my bath with Young Living Lavender essential oils to enhance the relaxation as well as their ‘Peace and Calming’ or ‘Valor’ oil. I literally get out of the bath “high” from how peaceful I feel. It is like no other drug-literally.
- Talking. Yep, just speaking about it has been helpful. I go to people I trust, who I don’t feel judged by. People who are loving and unconditional towards me and will just listen and not try to be my doctor or try to fix me. It feels good to know that I can be validated by just simply speaking about my frustrations with where I am at. Regardless of how “negative” this may sound, I need that kind of decompression to help me cope through it and clear my mind of that weight in order to bring positive change into it.
- Chiropractor and massage. I have always gone to a chiropractor since I was a kid. My mom didn’t believe in anything but holistic medicine. So, Im no stranger to the benefits that spinal work has on the body. Aside from helping my scoliosis, getting realigned is a sure way for my body to function as properly as it can. In a perfect world I would be able to afford going 2 times a week, but the reality is I only have the funds to go once every other week. The massage portion sounds like such a luxury. Im sure you imagine me being pampered and soothed as if I was on some relaxing getaway in a reclusive mountain side. Nope. The type of massage I need in order to keep everything in decent working condition is a deep tissue massage. And this isn’t even on a luxury basis. I get a massage out of pure desperation for relief. Needless to say, I cannot afford this often, but when that desperation hits I would gladly sell crack on the street to make sure I get an emergency massage. And yes, its always an emergency. It is painful and they dig deeply along the fibers of my knotted up muscles. Not even a little bit of fun. But the benefits for me days after are amazing. If only I could afford this a few times a month!
Slowwwwwlyyy but surely, I am taking little steps. Day to day, these things feel insignificant and there are times I feel that nothing will get better. But I know that one day, it will be okay and all the effort I am putting into taking care of myself will pay off.
Below you will see what I look like on a “good” day. And even good days are days that I feel like crap, so really I just clean up the best I can and show up to life. Would you ever look at me and think Im sick? Probably not. That is why each of us should bring kindness, understanding and love to people you know or don’t know. We truly never know what a person is going through just by appearances; a suffering person can come in many forms.
“…An angel whose face I couldn’t see embraced me
and his whisper went all through my body:
Don’t be ashamed to be a human being—be proud!
Inside you one vault after another opens endlessly.
You’ll never be complete, and that’s as it should be.”
Photos by Chantel Breanne Photography