Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Change Your Thinking

“If you can’t change your fate, change your attitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson  
     When I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, the rheumatologist came in and said, "I have good news and bad news.  The good news is it won't kill you and the bad news is it will never go away and there is nothing I can do for you."  I was on a leave of absence from work, barely able to move, and feeling sorry for myself.  One night I realized that he was right.  There was nothing I could do to make it go away and all this energy feeling sorry for myself was making my body feel worse.  I started to think about the positive side - it wouldn't kill me.  Well, that's not such a bad diagnosis when you think about it like that.  There are plenty of worse things I could have.  Once I started thinking about that little glimmer of positive energy, I began to feel a little better.   
     It's okay to rage and cry and mourn the loss.  But when it's over, focusing on the "can'ts" doesn't change them, it only makes me feel miserable. Positive thinking won't make me better, but it makes me feel better.  Accepting the "can'ts" doesn't mean I like it or it's okay, it just lets me focus on all the "cans" in my life.  It's all good because life works out the way it's supposed to be.  None of us gets out alive, so we may as well enjoy the journey.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Crash

     Wow - this is a hard thing for me to actually do, even though I know better.  I know if I overdo it today, I will crash for the next few days, but I "forget."  I get sick of being sick.  I hate turning down fun activities because something that is "no big deal" for everyone else took all my energy for the next few days.  It's embarrassing and frustrating and discouraging.
     On the days when I feel good, I am thrilled to feel even a smidgen of the way I used to feel.  I know it won't last, so I try to do everything I can in the few hours I have.  I know I will crash later, but in the moment, I don't care.  I want my life back.  I want to dance and garden and play and shop and visit with people.  I will deal with the crash later.
     Of course, the crash is horrible!  Pain everywhere - even elbows.  Muscles that refuse to move, even when that means crawling up the stairs or not being able to shampoo your hair.  
     My daughter is going to go back to school this fall.  I've been talking to her about ways to pace herself so she doesn't crash as often.  Obviously I need to take my own advice.  Anyone have any great suggestions for us to avoid the crash?  

Friday, July 1, 2011

Stages of Grief

     I knew you went through the stages of grief when someone died, but I never realized that you go through the same stages when you have a chronic illness like Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
     The first stage is denial.  I dove into this stage.  To prove I wasn't sick, I did twice as much work as I had been doing.  I had major flare-ups during this stage because I refused to accept what my body was telling me.  This led easily into the second step - anger.
     When I realized I couldn't just ignore it, I got angry.  I blamed my doctors for not being smart enough or caring enough to help me.  If my doctor told me one more time I would be cured if I would just exercise and lose weight, I would curse him with this disease.  I blamed my family and friends for not understanding what I was going through when they said things like, "I get tired, too."  I got angry at God for making me sick.  Mostly I raged at myself for not being able to fix it.  For the first time in my life I couldn't will myself to overcome an obstacle, and I felt like a failure.
     When anger didn't work, I began bargaining with God.  When that didn't work I bargained with my family and friends.  What if I stay home and rest tomorrow, then can I go to the party Friday?  When they didn't have the power to fix it, I turned to bargaining with myself.  The problem was I never kept my part of the bargains.  I would end up back in denial, pushing myself too hard, and then angry when it didn't work.
     After spiraling through the first three stages several times, I got depressed.  Why should I even go on living if I was going to live with excruciating pain, unable to dress myself or hold my baby?  I spent a lot of time in this stage and those dark days were a pain all its own.  My doctor thought I was in pain because I was depressed.  I knew I was depressed because of the physical and emotional pain of the Fibromyalgia and CFS.  I wish I could tell you how I made it through those days, but they are a blur of blackness when I try to remember them now.
     The last step is acceptance.  I reached this stage by starting this blog and reaching out to others in pain.  I read everything I could on the subject and began taking better care of myself.  I stopped thinking of Fibromyalgia as the main part of my identity and began seeing me as Tiff again, with a new aspect to my life.
     I wish I could say that once you reach acceptance you are done, but that's not the case.  I still spiral through the stages every time something new comes up in my life.  Monday is a memorial hike for someone I loved.  I really wanted to go and immediately went into denial that there were any reasons I couldn't go.  Then I began bargaining.  What if I am careful?  What if I promise not to overdo it?  What if...
When I found out it would be an all-day eight mile hike up a rough terrain, I knew there was no way I could go.  I was so angry at myself for not being able to do something that was so easy for everyone else.  Then I got depressed that I wouldn't be able to honor his memory in such a spiritual way.  I'm still in this stage today, but I hope to move into acceptance soon.  My daughter and I plan to choose a flower that represents him and plant it in our garden so I will have a special place to go instead of the hike.
     After dealing with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue for the past ten years, the steps are just as painful, but they are easier to go through and I go through them more quickly than I did originally.  I hope you are able to find acceptance in your life, but I'm here for you while you go through the other stages.