If you ask someone how they slept last night, chances are you’ll get one of two answers – “fantastic” or “not at all”. It seems like a lot of people have trouble getting a good night’s sleep. The reasons can be many – having young children, an uncomfortable bed, too hot, too cold, too much stress…the list goes on.
When you live with Chronic Pain, it’s an entirely different story. Pain is usually the main factor in keeping us awake, and the likelihood of a good night’s sleep is generally not to be expected. Read on to find out more about what it takes for a good night snooze.
Sleep And Your Immune System
Without sufficient sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation, effectively creating an immune response. Cytokines are both produced and released during sleep, causing a double whammy if you skimp on shut-eye. Chronic sleep loss even makes the flu vaccine less effective by reducing your body’s ability to respond.
Stock Up on Naps
To stay healthy, especially during the influenza season, get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night. This will help keep your immune system in fighting shape and also protect you from other health issues including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. If your sleep schedule is interrupted by a busy workweek or other factors, try to make up for the lost rest with naps. Taking two naps that are no longer than 30 minutes each —one in the morning and one in the afternoon—has been shown to help decrease stress and offset the negative effects that sleep deprivation has on the immune system. If you can’t swing a half-hour nap during the workday, try grabbing a 20-minute siesta on your lunch hour, and another right before dinner.
Other Healthy Tactics
Of course, there’s more to boosting your immunity and guarding against illness than getting ample sleep. It’s also important to practice smart stay-healthy strategies such as washing your hands with soap regularly, avoiding close contact with people who are obviously under the weather and talking with your doctor about getting an annual flu shot. And remember: Even if you do come down with a case of seasonal sniffles, you’ll be able to bounce back faster if your body is well rested.
11 Tips For A Better Sleep
Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends or during vacations.
Set a bedtime that is early enough for you to get at least 7 hours of sleep.
Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy. If you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed.
Establish a relaxing bedtime routine. Use your bed only for sleep and sex.
Make your bedroom quiet and relaxing. Keep the room at a comfortable, cool temperature.
Limit exposure to bright light in the evenings. Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
Don’t eat a large meal before bedtime. If you are hungry at night, eat a light, healthy snack.
Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet.
Avoid consuming caffeine in the late afternoon or evening.
Avoid consuming alcohol before bedtime.
Reduce your fluid intake before bedtime.
Take your medications on a regular basis. If you take sleeping meds, take them on a regular basis as directed instead of just hit and miss each night.
If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I live with Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue. My pain comes from Fibromyalgia, Osteoarthritis in all my major joints, Myofascial Pain, a condition called Trigeminal Neuralgia, Diabetes (and Neuropathy that comes from that), Pelvic Adhesions, a spinal condition called Forestier’s Disease, aka D.I.S.H. which stands for Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis, Gastroparesis and several other medical conditions.
My many faces of pain
I’ve been living with Chronic pain for over 30 years now, from the time I was a teen, and I’ve learned a few things in those years. I’d like to share 10 of those things with you now.
1. THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE
No matter how long I’ve been in pain for, I’ve never given up hope that things are going to get better. Some days I have are pure agony. Some days are pure delight. I cling to the good days as a reminder that things can be better and often are. There is always hope.
2. A GOOD DOCTOR IS TO BE TREASURED
Doctors have a hard time treating patients with chronic pain because they haven’t been trained well. They’re trained to diagnose a problem and solve it, so chronic pain is frustrating for them as well. If you don’t have a sympathetic doctor who is doing everything they can for you, find another doctor. When you do find one, be honest with them. Share everything…your depression, your anger, your worries. A good doctor wants to help you, but if you can’t share with them, you’re not giving them the chance to do all they can.
3. SUPPORT GROUPS AREN’T RIGHT FOR EVERYONE
Some people thrive in a support group. Others tend to get tired of the constant back patting and “Oh my gawd, I’m so sorry” conversations. Some are in the middle. I think a support group can be a great thing, as long as it’s the right fit. You want a group where you can feel heard and valued while offering support to the others as well – not just a one-way street. I also think it’s important to not jump into every group you hear about. That just becomes confusing and almost like a competition, to see how much sympathy you can drum up. You have to be willing to give back and you can’t forge honest relationships with people when you’re in a dozen active groups in my opinion. Unless that’s all you do all day long. And if that’s the case, I feel sorry for you, because you’re obviously not getting something you truly need.
4. CHRONIC PAIN IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO EXPLAIN TO OTHERS
Despite having great tools like the Spoon Theory and the Battery Analogy to talk about how much energy it costs us to live with chronic pain, it’s almost impossible to get others to understand what it’s like to live with chronic pain day in and day out. Here’s the thing…THE PAIN NEVER GOES AWAY. I can’t make it any more clear than that. No matter what I’m doing, or not doing. I’m hurting. Sometimes I’m in agony, like when I get a Trigeminal Neuralgia Flare up. Try to imagine the last time you experienced brain freeze from eating/drinking something cold…do you remember that sensation? That agonizing pierce of pain in your brain? Now try to imagine that same feeling but in your cheekbone…for 12 hours in a row. Can’t imagine it?? Go try and get brain freeze as a reminder. That’s what my TN flare-ups are like. They start in my cheekbone and spread to my sinus cavity and my eye, then down to my jaw, and to my esophagus. I get spasms in my throat and often I get chest pain as well. For 12 hours.
My Fibromyalgia pain feels like my limbs are in concrete…it’s a heavy throbbing sensation in my arms and legs that make them impossible to move. The Neuropathy I feel in my feet is like pins and needles that never go away. My back pain is so intolerable that I can’t sweep my floors for more than 5 minutes without my lower spine seizing up.
5. DID I MENTION, THE PAIN NEVER GOES AWAY.
Sometimes it lightens up a bit, maybe after I’ve had a rare good night’s sleep, but if I’ve done too much on a particular day, the next day will be agony. Every day is different, and I’ve learned that there is no rhyme or reason as to what might cause a flare and why some days are better than others. Even as I’m typing this, my hands and wrists are throbbing and I’m making more mistakes typing than I normally do. When I sleep, I have to make sure my fingers aren’t curled, or I’ll wake up and won’t be able to move them.
6. COMFORT ROUTINES FOR FLARE UP DAYS ARE LIFESAVERS
In order to combat chronic pain, you need to have an arsenal of weapons at your disposal. This can include medications, therapies like massage or chiropractic care, acupuncture, heat, cold, stretching, yoga, and other items that help you when your pain is flaring up. Warm fluffy blankets and socks, a TENS machine or massaging unit, a roll-on pain medication – whatever you find works for you is part of your comfort routine and it’s important that you use these items when needed before your pain becomes even worse.
7. PACING REALLY DOES WORK
One of the important things you learn when you have chronic pain is that you have a limited amount of energy and you have to pace yourself throughout the day/week, etc. in order to stay ahead of the pain. Pacing is critical in helping to prevent flare-ups or in helping to reduce the number of flare-ups you may experience. There comes a point when you may have to consider outside help for chores because you can’t do them all. Perhaps a teenage neighbour can help with cleaning or laundry or care in the garden. Maybe you decide to hire a cleaning service twice a month for a deep clean that you can’t get to. Whatever you need and whatever you decide, my best advice is to lose the guilt. It’s not your fault you have chronic pain. You do what you need to, in order to make your home a happy one again.
8. SLEEP IS A VERY GOOD THING
Most people with chronic pain struggle to get good sleep, just by the very nature of being in pain. Take the time to establish a good sleep routine and don’t be afraid to nap during the day if that’s what your body requires. Just sent a timer for no more than 90 minutes (one sleep cycle) and do it early enough that it won’t interfere with bedtime. If you need to ask your doctor about sleep medications, then ask. Don’t be afraid of them, but perhaps try the more natural solutions first, like melatonin. Your doctor can give you the best advice.
9. WE ARE ALL WARRIORS
Just by the mere fact you are reading this and identifying with it, you are a warrior. Living with chronic pain is no picnic my friend and those of us who do it struggle every single day of our lives. Some days are good, some days are bad and some days are too difficult to talk about. It takes a special kind of strength to manage chronic pain and life at the same time and I admire every single person out there who is doing it. You are a warrior.
10. I’VE FINALLY ACCEPTED MY BODY THE WAY IT IS
For all my bravado and positive spirit, it took me a long time to learn to love this pain-filled body of mine. When I was forced to leave my job at the top of my game in 2009 I was devastated. I didn’t think I’d ever be useful to anyone again and I sank into a deep depression over how my body had let me down. It took several years before I was able to accept that this truly was my “new normal” and that returning to work wasn’t going to happen for me. When I found myself in a place where my health had improved somewhat, and I felt I had something to give back, I started volunteering for the Patient Voices Network and that really helped me get back on my feet. I am able to take part in committee work again, but at a pace that works for me and my health. I’m better able to accept my body and all it’s medical failings because I’ve found ways to contribute again.
I’ve also been able to get involved in hobbies again such as crafting and reading. I’m learning how to crochet and do needlepoint, all things I didn’t have time for when I was too busy working. So accepting my limitations also opened the door to new things for me to try, which has been a blessing. Perhaps you’re in the same place now, ready to accept that this is your new normal, and it’s an okay place to be. If you’re going to be in pain anyways, doesn’t it make sense to accept it and find ways to make the best of it.
I’ve been blessed with a positive nature that has helped to get me through a lot of difficult situations in my life. Chronic pain and my medical conditions are part of that. I believe in God and trust Jesus every day to be there for me. I have wonderful family and friends who have been so supportive of me. I belong to a great support group online that genuinely cares about me. More than anything though, and as my first point says,
Readers, thank you for checking out our final Interviewee – the fabulous Terri Sutula.
Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…
Hi, I’m Terri Sutula, and I currently live in the state of Virginia, USA. I’ve been married to the love of my life for the last 21 years, and I’m the Mom of a fabulous grown son. I served 20 years in the Air Force, and after I retired, I went back to school and received my degree in Religion (emphasis church ministry), then obtained my certifications in Personal Training and Health Coaching with the goal of developing a whole-person health ministry. Those plans took a bit of a turn in 2011…. Now I consider my blog to be my ministry, and I hope that by sharing my journey, setbacks and all, I can let people know that there is still life – a great life – after diagnosis, and help them avoid the hopelessness I felt at one point during my illness.
One fascinating fact about me is:
I don’t know if I’d call it fascinating, but it’s something my family loves to tease me about…. I’m constantly making up silly songs to popular tunes. I just can’t seem to help myself haha.
Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have…
My main issue is fibromyalgia, though I’ve suffered from migraines my entire life, and have also lived with endometriosis, early osteoporosis (probably from the endometriosis treatment), and irritable bowel syndrome for years.
My symptoms/condition began…
Around 2011, my primary fibromyalgia symptoms began after a “snowball” of illnesses, accidents, and a stressful move. I got the flu and soon after that, was diagnosed with subacute thyroiditis, which resolved after about a year. During the same period, I had a couple of bad falls which ended with me doing a face-plant on the pavement. My second fall ended in a trip to the Emergency Room and pain in my ribs for months afterwards. Then, about a year later, we moved to another city, and everything that could go wrong did. I became extremely stressed out, my abdominal symptoms got worse and worse, and the fatigue and whole-body pain became overwhelming.
My diagnosis process was…
Surprisingly enough, my diagnosis process was pretty quick and easy. I went to my Primary Care doctor, explained my symptoms and my accompanying illnesses, and he checked me for tender points, did some bloodwork, and confirmed what I suspected – that I had fibromyalgia.
The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is…
The hardest thing for me to come to terms with is my physical limitations. As I mentioned earlier, I was in the military for 20 years, stayed mentally and physically strong, and was capable of doing pretty much anything I put my mind to. Learning to work within my revised capabilities has really been a challenge, but it has also been a time of growth. It’s given me greater empathy for others and I’ve discovered a new sense of purpose.
A typical day for me involves…
I’m not sure I have a really “typical” day – I just do whatever needs to be done on a given day. I do try to do some blog work most days, and I break my cleaning chores into different days so I’m not trying to do everything at once. We’ve started picking up groceries for a few days at a time rather than doing a “big” shopping trip once a week. It gets me out of the house and helps me work with my energy levels. It’s a lot easier to run into the store for a few things than to spend a long time shopping. I guess I’d say I do all the “normal” things others do, just on a smaller, more relaxed scale. I’ve learned that pacing my activities is key to keeping flares at bay.
The one thing I cannot live without is…
I have to say that there are actually two things I can’t live without, my faith and a sense of humour. Both of these are my keys to not just surviving, but thriving, with fibromyalgia and any other adverse event or circumstance that comes my way.
Being ill/disabled has taught me…
This illness has taught me that it’s okay to ask for help, and it’s okay to not be okay sometimes. I’ve learned that I don’t have to be strong all the time; it’s okay to share the load with others and asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s actually a sign of strength.
My support system is…
My absolute biggest supporter is my husband, and I’m so grateful to have him. I’m very fortunate to have a really supportive family in general, but he’s my day-by-day, minute-by-minute supporter. He sees what I go through many days and is always willing to do whatever I need him to do.
If I had one-day symptom/disability-free I would…
I would go hiking on one of the beautiful trails we have around here. My hubby and I used to love to pack a picnic lunch and go hiking, and unfortunately, my pain and energy levels don’t allow us to do that right now. My goal is to work my way up to at least some of the easy trails.
One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…
You find out what’s really important to you when you have a chronic illness/disability. When you aren’t in such a place of “doing” all the time, as I was before I became ill, you can concentrate on the things that really add the most value and joy to your life.
One final thing I want people to know is:
There is hope, and there is a fulfilling life after diagnosis. Your life might not look exactly the way you imagined and you might have to learn to adjust to your “new normal” but this new phase of your life might open up even greater opportunities for you to live a life of joy and purpose.
It’s time to meet our next guest, the wonderful Sharon Sayler. I’ve had the pleasure of being a guest on Sharon’s show and she’s delightful. Let’s hear more:
Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…
First, thank you, Pamela, for creating an excellent platform for which we have this opportunity to share. I enjoy our mutual understanding that through thoughtful sharing of experiences others in our community know that they are not alone. That feeling of ‘am I the only one?’ can be isolating. Building community and awareness of ways to thrive and optimize our health journey are critical.
I’m Sharon Sayler, MBA, PCC and the founder of Competitive Edge Communications. I’m affectionately called the ‘Difficult People Whisperer’ by my clients. As a speaker and trainer, I teach professionals how to enhance their verbal and nonverbal communication skills to achieve their goals. According to GlobalGurus.org, I’m one of the top five experts in body language in the world.
I am also an international best-selling author of several books. A perennial favorite is ‘What Your Body Says and How to Master the Message: Inspire, Influence, Build Trust and Create Lasting Business Relationships’ (Wiley.) Iam also proud to share. I’ve also authored a best-selling children’s book ‘Pinky Chenille and the Rainbow Hunters’ with a second book in the Pinky Chenille series out soon.
Several years ago, life and work took an unexpected turn to become what my friends now call a “compelling-passion.” With my COURAGE communications techniques combined with my own experience dealing with a rare medical condition, I have been teaching others to become courageous self-advocates. Self-advocacy communication techniques can turn life transitions into transformations.
One of the ways I share the messages of ‘thriving regardless of your diagnosis’ and medical self-empowerment is through The Autoimmune Hour, now #1 show on OMTimes Radio along with the @UnderstandingAutoimmune YouTube channel, and the show’s website UnderstandingAutoimmune.com.
Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have…
I dislike the word ‘have’ as I prefer my unconscious mind not to take ownership, yet for ease of understanding, the label my experience has is autoimmune more specifically Dermatomyositis.
Dermatomyositis is a rare inflammatory (autoimmune) disease defined by muscle weakness and a distinctive skin rash. The painful, peeling rash had covered 60% of my body by the time I recovered from the initial ‘flare.’
My symptoms/condition began…
Suddenly and not so suddenly.One morning I woke up after a late night cross-country flight and my legs felt incredibly weak. I had to use my arms to move my legs to stand. Although frightened, this seemed to work itself out over the next few hours. I chalked it up as ‘weird’ and kept working. Feeling tired and achy for the next two weeks, I suddenly broke out in hives that soon covered a large percentage of my body.
I realize now I’d had a variety of symptoms long before this episode that fit a wide range of conditions, and it wasn’t until the distinctive skin rash that a definitive diagnosis was made.
My diagnosis process was…
Bizarre to say the least. I had been seeing a specialist for about a year with her proclaiming a variety of diagnoses that didn’t seem to fit….
The day I walked in with the ‘now peeling distinctive skin rash’ she immediately excused herself and came back 10-minutes later with another doctor who without introduction, pulled out a magnifying glass and looked at various parts of the rash, looked at the first doctor, nodded ‘yes,’ and left the room. The first doctor that I had known for a few years dropped her head and slowly apologized to me for having dermatomyositis.
She could have said supercalifragilisticexpialidocious as the word ‘dermatomyositis’ meant nothing to me. The sad-news-body-language told me, ‘it’s not good.’ After that, the words blended together as I struggled internally to understand what she was saying – it was like my ears had stopped hearing and my brain had ‘frozen.’
We parted ways with an understanding I had to see a rheumatologist. Upon reaching the elevator, I immediately ‘googled’ the word, at which time the shock and grief hit hard.
The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is…
Losing perspective. Now, that I’ve been through multiple phases of recovery, I realize the worst part is losing perspective on ‘when is an itch, just an itch.’The slightest change, the smallest strange pain, anything odd or different begins the mental gymnastics of Do I need to worry about this? What does this mean? Is this so important that I must seek medical attention immediately, can it wait until tomorrow, or what if I just let it run-its-course will I be okay?And of course, dealing with all the new found food and chemical sensitivities as the body defenses seem to be stuck in hyperdrive make social occasions awkward.
A typical day for me involves…
Everything I used to do that I still want to do. The changes I see are I’m more consistent in choosing to set boundaries, say ‘no’ when I want to, remove myself from others drama and be conscious of my decisions and actions around what I should be doing for overall good health such as quality food, stress reduction, sleep, and exercise.
The one thing I cannot live without is…
Spending time creating joy, especially with my beautiful family and friends. Life is too short — spend it giving and receiving love. (And the irresistible passion I have for doing The Autoimmune Hour podcast and video show.)
Being ill/disabled has taught me…
I don’t consider myself ill or disabled, yet I’ve learned to be more patient and understanding. It’s crystal clear now, the old saying ‘that one can never really know what someone else is going through unless you’ve been there too.” My mantra these days is ‘Come from love. Always.’
What advice would I give someone recently diagnosed…
First, if you can, take time to absorb and sit with the ‘bad news.’ If it’s not immediately life-threatening, don’t make any major life decisions right away.
I remember I was told by a ‘top-notch’ doctor to have a surgery that in my mind would have made my life much worse in the long run, and with no real assurance that it would solve the immediate problem… I felt like they were treating me as if they were working on a car like ‘let’s remove the spark plugs and see if that works better….” Upon finding out that it wasn’t immediately necessary, I thanked them and sought a second opinion.
That second opinion changed my worldview; the second doctor said, “That’s a surgeon’s answer to a problem they cannot solve.” Wise words that I use everywhere now as in each person/expert/etc. has a specific point of view and the more narrow their expertise, the more narrow their recommendations will probably be.
Always run options through the filter of “What are other ways I can view and solve ‘this?’ Remember, it’s okay to ‘fire’ someone. If someone is upset that I seek a second opinion. I say “Thank you for your time and no thank you.” I like to joke that there are as many varied opinions as there are experts.
Second, be careful how you talk about what you are going through. Our words create our reality. Words such as ‘poor me’ and ‘why me? can create our identity. Consider the word ‘have’ and how it denotes ‘ownership’ Do I want to own my diagnosis? No. I prefer to look at the word ‘have’ from the viewpoint that I can ‘have’ cockroaches, but that doesn’t mean I own them and that I can and will eradicate them. When said enough times your words become truth in your mind, and in the minds others too.
I prefer ‘I am having an autoimmune experience or journey.’ A diagnosis is just a label to chart a possible course based on symptoms and the prognosis is based on statistics — work hard to be on the positive side of the stats. Challenge yours and others’ conclusions on what your future will be. On The Autoimmune Hour, we have numerous stories of people thriving regardless of their diagnosis including Pamela who recently shared her Thriver story: www.UnderstandingAutoimmune.com/Jessen/.
My support system is…
My amazing family and friends as well as a team of medical professionals that are in alignment with, or at least, honor my view of ‘my body, my decision.’And the UnderstandingAutoimmune’s Courage Club Community that is growing every day through the podcast and website.
If I had one-day symptom/disability-free, I would…
Hmmm, I don’t know. I’m finding ways to live fully and thrive regardless of my diagnosis. Maybe eat a whole loaf of fresh baked crusty bread slathered in homemade butter and raw honey at a quaint Parisian cafe!
One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…
A deeper appreciation of the quality and value of all life.
My social media links are:
The show can be heard on a major podcast outlets such as OMTimes Radio, Spreaker, iTunes, YouTube and iHeart Radio.
Let’s welcome back John Martinez as my Guest Blogger today. John brought us information about using eyewear to help with migraines, and today, he’s talking about CBD Oil to help ease Migraine pain. Please note that all opinions expressed are those of the author but I do endorse them as well.
CBD Oil for Migraines – Effective, or Merely Hype?
Additionally, in the migraine community, there are loads of anecdotal evidence expressing the effectiveness of CBD and treating migraines. Is it all hype, or are these claims backed by scientific literature?
This article will get into the specifics of what CBD oil is, and whether it’s something migraineurs should investigate as something that could benefit them.
What Is CBD Oil?
CBD (also known as cannabidiol) oil is a naturally derived product from the plant Cannabis Sativa. Cannabis Sativa is categorized as a family of plants that contains two primary species: hemp and marijuana. The Cannabis Sativa plant also contains 120 other substances aside from cannabidiol. Most CBD oil is extracted from the hemp plant and contains no THC, which is the psychoactive chemical in marijuana. THC is the chemical that causes the feeling of being high. CBD oil is an isolated extract from the hemp side of Cannabis Sativa, not the marijuana side of the plant that contains THC.
Although CBD is derived from the same plant that has the ability to produce marijuana, CBD is non-addictive. A study that was conducted by the World Health Organization has proven, through a double-blind and randomized study that, on the scales of the Addiction Research Centre Inventory, there was no difference in addiction risk between CBD oil and the administered placebo.
Could CBD Oil Help Me with Migraines?
The efficacy of CBD oil to treat migraines varies from person to person. In a 2012 study, CBD was found to reduce inflammation and assist with chronic pain relief. CBD oil has minimal side effects compared to typical over the counter drugs and prescribed medications. Some side effects of CBD include appetite changes, fatigue, and diarrhea, which most of us would categorize as minor. One of the most appealing aspects of CBD oil is that it is not a pharmaceutically-engineered drug, but rather a natural avenue towards pain relief.
Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any studies specifically demonstrating the effects CBD has on people with migraines. There have been quite a few studies on marijuana as a whole and migraines, but not isolated CBD.
For example, there was a 2016 survey conducted by Pharmacotherapy which indicated that “medical marijuana” may reduce the frequency of migraine headaches – from 10.4 down to 4.6 per month. Even though marijuana contains CBD, we can’t attribute the results to CBD.
Overview of CBD Oil and Migraine Pain Relief
While it’s too soon to definitively say that CBD oil might be an effective treatment for people suffering with migraines, progress is being made.
All we know for sure is that there are some properties in CBD that help with inflammation and chronic pain management. And we also know that in medical literature, marijuana (which contains CBD) seems to be giving some people migraine relief.
Since it’s now legal on a federal level (in the US), and it’s a naturally occurring compound, it may be worth a try.
One of the hardest parts of living with an Invisible Illness such as Fibromyalgia, MS, Ehlers Danlos, etc. is that you quite often look just fine on the outside, while your insides are screaming in pain. This leads many people to wonder if you truly are ill, or how serious your illness actually is. How do you handle this, as a Person with Chronic Pain (PwCP)?
For one thing, you should never have to make excuses for your pain to anyone. What you feel is what you feel, and there is never a reason to justify it or prove it, not even to your doctors. For years, people with Fibromyalgia went undiagnosed or misdiagnosed because Pain was often the only symptom a patient could describe. There are no other outward symptoms and nothing comes back in the blood tests or x-rays that a doctor might order. It’s only through using the 18 Tender Points and determining how many of them you have that a definitive diagnosis can be made for Fibro.
Other diseases often come with outward symptoms – the “butterfly rash” of lupus, the enlarged joints of Rheumatoid Arthritis, the dislocating joints of Ehler Danlos, the varying symptoms of MS – all of them a visual reminder that there is something wrong with a person. Fibro doesn’t present itself that way, and so a person can often look “normal” like everyone else, yet be in a flare up.
So how do you handle it when the people who are closest to you don’t believe you are ill or doubt the severity of your illness. The first step is to educate them on what Fibromyalgia is: a disorder characterized by widespread pain, which causes many symptoms like extreme fatigue, sleep issues, memory loss and mood issues. It is essentially a very painful, exhausting disease, for which there is no cure and few treatments.” It is becoming much more recognized in the Medical field, unlike in the past, and is well accepted as a legitimate condition, just like arthritis, Lupus, MS, etc.
Basically, your brain miscommunicates with the nerves in the spinal cord and sends out the wrong messages to your body, resulting in an overload of symptoms. This graphic may be helpful in showing you just some of what you can experience:
And this is the reason it’s such a hard disease to diagnose because these symptoms are often looked at just on their own, and not seen as part of the bigger picture. It’s no wonder people look at us and think we’re crazy. To have all these symptoms and yet still look perfectly normal on the outside…well, I’d wonder too perhaps. That’s where the education comes in. The more we teach people about Fibromyalgia and how it mimics so many other diseases, the more people will realize just how huge a burden we are carrying every day.
Nobody wants to be told they look awful though, so how do you break this Catch-22? You want people to see you as you really are, but you don’t necessarily want to look ill at the same time. Are you obligated to dress up and put on makeup everytime you go out, just to look “good” for strangers? Of course not, but I am advocating that you do it for yourself if you’re able. Run a brush through your hair, throw some lipstick on, go for a trendier haircut or a manicure. Never do it for someone else though and never let a stranger’s comments get to you. Only you know how you’re feeling at any point and sometimes it’s just not possible to do these sorts of things. Pain may get in the way, or finances or depression…in these times, just do the best you can with what you have in the way of energy and time and desire.
Remember…you are perfect just the way you are…everything else you do is a bonus.
Education of others is key, and I truly believe that the more we can share about Fibromyalgia and other Invisible Illnesses with them, the more they will understand what we are going through, and the more compassionate they will become. Perhaps then they will stop commenting on how “fine” we look, and will start seeing us in a true light. Maybe they will see our struggles, our problems, our symptoms and what we have to go through on a daily basis just to survive and finally understand how difficult our lives truly are. Then and only then will come the appreciation and admiration we’ve been waiting for.
If you’ve been to my blog before, you know that I live with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Invisible Illness. If this is your first visit, you now know something about me. I want it made very clear that YES…Fibromyalgia IS REAL.
Here are just some of the MANY symptoms that people with Fibro have reported experiencing:
Walk a mile in my very painful shoes and you will know exactly how painful it is to live with Fibro. Every one of my muscles feels like it’s being dragged in concrete and every joint feels like it’s been twisted, then put into a mechanical vise and clamped as tightly as possible. I get shooting pains in parts of my body that I didn’t even know existed, for no reason at all. My arms burn and my hands and feet tingle or go numb.
The brain fog is awful…forgetting what you’re saying in the middle of a conversation is so embarrassing. I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast. I can’t remember if I ATE breakfast. I take medications that cause horrible side effects like weight gain and shaking hands and brain zaps…a sensation like an electrical shock that runs across your brain and where you can feel AND hear a literal buzz. I am constantly exhausted by the lack of sleep that comes with Fibro. It’s never refreshing and it’s never enough.
Yet, with all of this that I and my fellow Fibromites go through, there are still doctors who say “it’s all in your head” and “it doesn’t exist”. Well, tell me then…what DO I have wrong? All my tests come back negative for everything you tested me for…but I have all
18 of the 18 tender points that indicate Fibromyalgia is what I have.
Here are things I’ve had to say to friends and to DOCTORS who have questioned me about Fibro and Chronic Pain at various times over the last 10 years:
1. This is not “just in my head”. My pain is real.
2. I wish Fibro came with bruises, that way, you could see how much pain I’m feeling just so you could believe me.
3. It never goes away. My pain is always there, even when I’m acting “normal”. Don’t let my smile fool you, I am always in pain. Always.
4. There is no standard day or week or month with Fibromyalgia, It changes from hour to hour sometimes. Some days are better than others. Some days I think I want to die (this one always gets me in trouble).
5. Staying home instead of working or doing something fun isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
6. You think I’m faking being sick, but really I’m faking being well.
7. The Brain Fog is terrifying. You try forgetting what you’re saying in the middle of a sentence and see how it makes you feel – you feel stupid and old and easy to dismiss. I lose things easily and am easily distracted. It’s so frustrating.
8. Day to day activities are exhausting. Heck, getting out of bed is exhausting.
9. Even if there were drugs that worked well, I am not a drug seeker and my history will show that. I have ONE Family Doctor and use ONE Pharmacy! I just want relief from the pain.
10. What part of “chronic condition” are you having a hard time understanding? I am not going to get better. I am going to live with this for the rest of my life. I hope to get better but it’s never going to go away. Don’t give me false hope.
11. I’m willing to try just about anything, but just because something worked for some Aunt’s friend’s cousin’s sister doesn’t mean it’s going to work for me. We’re all different and treatment isn’t a one size fits all option. But, whatever…I’m willing to listen.
12. Sometimes, I have to cancel my plans at the last minute. Sometimes, I cancel my plans with the same friend 2 or 3 times in a row. It’s not a reflection on the friend. It’s my body.
13. I wish more doctors understood Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain and took us more seriously. Do you see me as a drug seeker too? What about when my x-rays show a body filled with arthritis? How do you deny my pain then? I just want you to help me find answers and relief.
14. Some days, even my hair hurts
15. There are days when the most I can accomplish is moving from the bed to the couch, and that’s okay. At least I did something.
16. On the days I feel good, I push myself too hard to get things done, even though I know I’m going to pay for it later. I hate being thought of as lazy. When my husband comes home, I can honestly say to him, “honey, today I cleaned up, did the dishes, vacuumed the house, did the laundry, baked cookies and scrubbed the bathroom”. And then I know I’ll be bed-bound for the rest of the week.
17. What you see on the outside doesn’t necessarily reflect how I feel on the inside.
18. My chronic fatigue is at times overwhelming and I can’t push past it. It’s exhausting to be this exhausted.
19. I wish a simple nap would help to relieve my pain, but it will not disappear if I lay down and have a rest.
20. I’m a real person with real pain. I didn’t ask for this but I’m being forced to live with it. I didn’t do anything to get this, but sometimes I feel like I’m being punished.
Research has now shown that Fibromyalgia is NOT an inflammatory condition like so many doctors first thought. It is technically NOT an autoimmune disease. What Fibro IS, is a NERVE disease where the brain misreads the pain signals going to the body through the spinal cord. This causes widespread pain throughout the body that can be felt in many different ways, and these include the various symptoms shown in the chart above.
Oh, it can be so frustrating having an Invisible Illness like Fibro. I truly do wish there were outward signs of this illness so that people could see that you’re ill. Something like bruises or a rash, or big F’s showing up on your body would be perfect (“oh look…she has F’s all over her…poor thing, she has Fibromyalgia…go get the door for her”). I truly wouldn’t mind that if it would help a doctor believe in what I’m going through, trust me.
As a person living with Chronic Pain from Fibromyalgia and a host of other conditions, I tend to live with a lot of shame. I blame myself for not being able to keep up with the chores around the house that I should be able to do. I blame myself for not being able to work as an Administrative Specialist, a job I adored. I had a pity party about a lot of things as I stared at the dust on the TV stand. That’s right…I should upon myself today. I do it often. Too often.
Most people with Chronic Pain do the same thing. When we lose the ability to stay on top of the chores we used to do easily before, we start to feel guilty and ashamed. Dishes pile up, laundry goes unwashed, showering and personal grooming falls by the wayside and moving from bed to couch often becomes our biggest accomplishment. It’s not that we want to feel this way, but pain and the side effects of medication often make us this way. Most of the medications we are given include fatigue as one of the side effects. Others include weight gain, which can slow us down tremendously, nausea, constipation and/or diarrhea, dizziness, and other unpleasant things.
And that brings up another issue. All of these side effects do little to help us feel pretty. In addition to feeling pain and fatigue, we’re often left carrying extra weight so now we feel even less attractive than before. It’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.
So how do we get over “shoulding” on ourselves. We feel like we should be able to keep up with the chores around the house, while we’re still taking care of making dinner and watching the kids and staying on top of their activities and doing everything else expected of us, plus making sure our spouse’s needs are met.
What happens when you live with a spouse who expects you to manage everything exactly like you did before you became sick? A spouse who doesn’t believe that you’re really ill and who thinks it’s all in your head? What if you live without a spouse – if you’re a single parent with no support? Who takes care of you?
In order to find victory in the midst of this shame, try answering some of these questions*, being as honest as you can.
What three words/phrases best describe you in a POSITIVE way? Don’t settle for neutral or slightly positive words to describe yourself. Be bold.
What do you do best? Everyone has unique talents and abilities — find yours by taking an accurate inventory of your life.
What is your biggest accomplishment in the last year? If fibro and depression have been a longstanding part of your life, you likely feel that the last year has been void of any accomplishments. Look deeper — achievements come in all shapes and sizes. Depression works to minimize your triumphs, but shedding light on them magnifies their impact.
What are three successes in your life? When you look at your lifetime successes, you begin to see how effective and valuable you can be. You understand your value and build your self-esteem.
What are you working on? Having goals and direction in life limits depression. Completing those goals adds another accomplishment to your list and boosts esteem.
Fibromyalgia may change many things in our lives, so it’s important that we remember to find the positives and celebrate them. No more shoulding on ourselves!
So, I’ve decided to give up the guilt about what I’m NOT able to do around the house. I’ve even found new hobbies and activities that I’m passionate about and that I’m actually good at! I’ve become a volunteer for an organization in BC, my home province in Canada, that uses Patient Partners to work with Health Care organizations to help make real change in how health care is delivered. The Patient Voices Network has given me opportunties to speak in front of large crowds, attend educational events and become part of several committees. I’m careful to choose to become engaged according to how I’m feeling and I don’t take on engagements that require weekly participation. Most of what I do involves 3-4 hours of my time per month which is manageable. Twice I’ve had to regretfully pull out of engagements that became too involved for me to manage. Even at the last conference I attended which lasted for 3 days, I was able to build rest time into the daily schedules. I wouldn’t have been able to manage otherwise.
That being said, I don’t want anyone to think that I’m underestimating how awfully painful it is to be forced to change yourself or how hard it is to find new passions to give you a sense of purpose. These are not simple to apply or instant fixes. Please don’t think I’m minimizing the pain of the loss. I want you to know that I think you’re incredible because of the fact that you’ve survived those things and have continued moving forward, no matter how slow. That is victory!
Even when you’re sick and you haven’t found new activities or even if you can’t get out of bed, what I just said about you being incredible is still true. You’ve survived so much and you’re still here fighting! I mention finding new things to do as a way to better self-esteem because I know it’s something helpful when possible, but there are so many things I feel are more important and that have been more fulfilling for me.
Being sick has forced me to learn a lot of lessons that other people might not ever learn – lessons about patience, how to deal with pain and difficulties with grace, good humour and empathy. I’ve learned that the little things are often the big things in life.
All That Matters
It’s the Little Things That Matter
They’re the things that mean a lot
They’re the things that I can count on
When I’m giving things a thought
Oh there’s lots of big grand gestures
That are meant to mean big things
But in the end, they aren’t the ones
That tug at my heartstrings
I prefer the smaller hidden ones
The things that seem quite shy
The little acts that are given out
Not meant to catch your eye
It’s the little things that matter
That make a quiet sound
I love them best from all the rest
They make the world go round
Also, I think I understand more about pain and can truly empathize with others who are hurting. I feel like I can truly help people because of the pain I’ve experienced. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty darn cool. And I feel like it takes immense strength to not only survive chronic illness, but to continue appreciating life and showing love to others when in constant pain. It’s also taken strength to rebuild myself and my self-esteem. I have to give myself credit for that. And finally, as much as I wish I was healthy, I fight for my life every day and I’ve won every single time. If that’s not victory then I don’t know what is! And the last thing I know is that if I’m capable of all this…you are too.
I belong to a Facebook group called the Fibro Blogger Directory and we’ve been challenged to send in and answer questions relating to Fibromyalgia in the month of November. I wanted to share this question and then answer it:
What is a typical day like in your life?
From Pamela in Langford, BC Canada
It’s 2:30 in the morning and the house is quiet. I’m sitting in my recliner with Dorie, my cat on my lap, and the TV on the CatTV channel on YouTube. I went to bed at midnight but I only managed a couple of hours of sleep before I woke up, so here I am again, back on the computer in a quiet dark house. The only sound I hear is snoring – from both husband and cat, and I shake my head, not quite laughing as I listen to them both. I wish it was me, but once again, this means Wakefulness has won this battle and persists in keeping me away from Dreamland. I hurt all over, every muscle is aching and Painsomnia wins again.
So starts a typical day in my life. I live with the Chronic Pain of Fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and several other conditions and it’s often the painsomnia from these conditions the keeps me awake at night. At this point, I’ll probably just stay awake until Ray wakes up in the morning at 4:30. There’s no sense trying to sleep now because I’m too awake. So I do what I always do; I surf the Internet, I go on Facebook and I write; either on my blog or for one of the various articles I’ll be submitting to other publications. I often find it easiest to write in the middle of the night; my thoughts flow freely and things come to the surface that are easier to write about, whether they be memories or new subject matter.
At 4:30am the alarm in our bedroom goes off and Ray wakes up. I head to the kitchen and put the dishes away from last night and make a cup of coffee for myself before heading back to my recliner while he finishes showering. I stay here until he leaves for work, so I’m out of the way. He finishes his shower and comes to kiss me good morning, then makes his breakfast while I stay out of the way. I am busy updating my Facebook page and morning Devotionals. We exchange kisses and he heads out, and then I force myself up from the comfort of my recliner. I have some cereal or yogurt for breakfast and enjoy another cup of coffee before I get serious about doing some work. Much of my day is spent on the computer generally taking care of blogging, moderating a forum I belong to, checking my email and visiting Facebook. No real change from the wee hours of the night!
At 7am, I take my first dose of medications for the day. Every hour, I make myself get up and do some stretching. My body screams back in pain, but if I don’t do this my muscles will atrophy. I also try to get one major chore done around the house, whether that be sweeping the floors, scrubbing the bathroom, vacuuming, etc.
Lately, I’ve been dealing with back pain and spasms in my SI Joint on the left side and an area around the left facet joint in my lower back. The pain has lasted for 2 weeks and I’m off to see my Pain Specialist on the day of writing this (Oct. 22nd) as well as my family doctor, plus I’m meeting a friend for lunch. It’s a much busier day than usual. Normally I would eat lunch around noon, and then check the mail at 2pm – the highlight of my day!
While most days are spent at home, I do have doctor appointments on a fairly regular basis. I also have work that I do for my volunteer positions, including conference calls that happen in person and online. As part of my health journey, I go for regular massages as well, and there will probably be some physiotherapy appointments coming up too so my calendar will start getting busier. My rule of thumb is to keep an open day after every day that has something planned so I can rest, otherwise, I become too fatigued to manage.
At 3pm, my alarm goes off to take my afternoon medication.
I often lay down for a nap at this point and can usually sleep for about an hour. When I wake up, I’ll read for a while, or watch something on Netflix, and if I have the energy, I’ll start prepping dinner. We do a lot of prepared food in our house as I don’t always have the energy to do a lot of cooking. M&M Food Stores get a lot of business from us! Tonight though it will be leftover Chinese food, so no worries about having to cook! I’ll get back on the computer until Ray is home, and then we’ll sit down for dinner and talk about our days.
The evening is quiet. Ray plays a game on his computer and I continue to work on blog posts and hang out on Facebook, etc. or read a book or magazine. Dorie, our cat curls up with me and it’s a comfortable place to be. I take my evening medications at 7pm and by 8:30pm, Ray is heading to bed. I’m tired, but I know I’m not ready to sleep, so I tuck him in with a goodnight kiss and head back to my recliner. I’ll do up the dinner dishes shortly and then spend the rest of the evening on the computer, chatting with friends, reading magazines, and unwinding. I take my final medications at 11pm and turn off the computer. Sometimes I read, and sometimes I just listen to relaxing music until midnight. That’s the end of the day for me. I crawl into bed, my body aching all over, and pray that sleep will come. I drift off, finally and start dreaming…
It’s 2:30 in the morning and the house is quiet. I’ve just woken up…and there will be no more sleep tonight.
I’m so tired, I’m repeating a post from the past!!!
Have you ever felt exhausted? So exhausted you could barely move? The kind of exhausted that leaves you feeling almost helpless? Guess what…I have a new word for you!!!
Actually, I think there are many people in my life who this word could apply to…the warriors who struggle along every day despite the illnesses that try to hold them back. My friends and fellow Warriors…you are simply Quanked!!!!!!
Taken from Grandiloquent Words:
-Overpowered by fatigue.
-To have the strength reduced or exhausted, as by labour or exertion; become fatigued; be sleepy. Origin uncertain Used in a sentence:
“After sprunting all weekend, then frooncing to get my chores done, I’m well quanked.”Quanked is a condition in which one’s energy and vitality have been consumed. One who is quanked has used up his or her bodily or mental resources, usually because of arduous or long-sustained effort. To feel quanked at the end of the day; quanked after a hard run; feeling rather quanked; quanked by a long vigil.-See forswunke
Now, in all seriousness, I think the word is an excellent one to describe how it feels to be exhausted when you live with an Invisible Illness. It’s beyond any type of tiredness you’ve ever felt before. It’s sleeping for 12 hours and waking up just as tired as you were before you fell asleep. It’s like climbing a mountain when all you did was go up one flight of stairs. When sleeping on the couch is easier than trying to get up to go to bed.
Now add in being in pain constantly and what do you get? You get you. You get me. You get people like us, who have been living in varying stages of agony for varying periods of time. I’ve talked with several friends who live with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue plus various other Invisible Illnesses and they’ve described their fatigue and pain like this:
It’s like swimming through concrete while being on fire at the same time (this was mine).
It’s like constantly having a “pins and needles” sensation that never goes away
I feel like I’m being randomly stabbed by a crazed maniac, but that crazed maniac is inside my body and I can’t stop it.
There are parts of my body that are numb and parts of my body that are burning and other parts of my body are throbbing and it all happens at the same time.
My brain is foggy and I can’t remember things like I used to. I hurt everywhere all the time and I’m always tired, no matter how much sleep I get. I don’t like this me that I am anymore.
I feel like I’ve been in a war, but you can’t see my wounds
Do you remember when you were young and you could stay up for hours and hours at night and never feel old? Yeah, well I can’t do that anymore. I’m lucky if I can stay up past 7pm and I don’t even have kids. I’m too tired and achy and sore.
There are ways you can try to improve your sleep with Fibro and Chronic Pain and the key is consistency:
Sleep in a quiet dark room with a slightly cooler temperature than normal. Wear a sleep mask if necessary.
Power down the electronics (TV, computer, Smartphone, etc.) one hour before bedtime. The light from your bedside clock is also enough to disrupt your sleep, so check and see if there is a dim light setting, or face the clock away from you at night.
Set a regular bedtime and wake up time. Establishing a schedule can help the body recognize good sleep habits.
Consider downloading and listening to “sleep music”. There are many recordings that are free, including delta wave music which works with your brainwaves to help lull you into a natural sleep. A “white noise” machine may do the trick for you. These can be found in almost any electronics store and come with various sounds and settings, designed to help your body relax and let go.
Limit Alcohol before bed. You know you’ve read this before but for good reason. Alcohol may make you “feel” tired but actually will wake you up more often.
Eat a healthy snack 45 minutes before bed. This would be something with protein in it like half a turkey sandwich, a small bowl of whole-grain low-sugar cereal, milk or yogurt or a banana. Eating like this before bed helps stave off the “midnight munchies” where you wake up starving in the wee hours of the night.
Get some exercise! Regular exercise like walking or swimming can help the body to rest well in the evening. Start slow and build up over time. Work with a personal trainer if possible who can help you set up a routine tailored to your specific needs and abilities.
Check with your Doctor to ensure there are no other underlying health issues that could be causing your fatigue (i.e.: thyroid issues, anemia, etc.).
Don’t just lay there – get up! If you haven’t been able to fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and leave the bedroom. Read or do something that doesn’t involve your TV or computer/Smartphone until you feel sleepy and then try again. The bedroom should be for sleep and sex only. The longer you lay awake in bed for, the more used to being awake in bed your body becomes. You need to break that cycle so getting out of bed and moving to a different room is the smart choice.
Medications should be the last resort but are available to help if needed. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for information about over the counter medications to try first.
If you tend to be a worrier at night, with a million things running through your head, allow yourself 10 minutes of this. Set an alarm and let your thoughts go wild. At the end of those 10 minutes, it’s time to stop. It takes practice but it gives you the opportunity to get all those worries out without mulling them over for hours. This isn’t the time for solutions, just the time to acknowledge that they’re there. In the end, say something like “I’m glad I had this time to worry about everything, but now I’m going to sleep on them. I’ll deal with them in the morning”. It tells your brain you’ve acknowledged the worries, and you’ll do something about them later. And off to sleep you go.
Another way to sleep better at night is to be organized during the day. The less you leave to chance during the daytime, the less you need to stress at night. “Did I sign Johnny’s papers for camp?” “Where did I put the chequebook?” “When is the next Book Club meeting?” Whether you use your smartphone, an organizer or the calendar at home, by having a regular system for keeping track of appointments, meetings and paperwork, you’ll stress less knowing you have it all in one place and you’ll sleep better at night.
Sleeping better isn’t always about being in less pain. It’s about doing all the things you can to make your environment as sleep-conducive as possible which may result in less pain. Removing as much stress as possible from your sleeping area is one of the biggest and best things you can do, so try and think of all the things that will make your bedroom area the most comfortable it can be. The key is, whatever you do, do it with consistency. None of us wants to feel quanked.