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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Joy and hope defeat the pain and fatigue

I am always amazed at the power of the human spirit.  There are countless stories about people surviving when all odds are against them.  When those situations are examined more closely the reason some people survive and thrive when others don't is all about determination, a positive attitude and the belief that they will survive the challenge they face.  I have a small book of quotes that I have had for at least 18 years.  The book is titled "Your Attitude Determines Your Altitude" and one of my favorites is "Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're probably right."  Henry Ford said that.  Another one I like is "A person will be just about as happy as they make up their minds to be."  Abraham Lincoln said that and he suffered from major depression.  In those days there were few treatments for depression so he had to rely on the power of his own spirit to overcome depression.  That's not an easy task.

Those of us that have fibromyalgia have some major hurdles to overcome and depression, anxiety and feelings of hopelessness are common.  Fibromyalgia pain is a powerful force and the exhaustion that accompanies the pain only makes it more difficult to manage the pain.  I talk with so many fibromyalgia sufferers that are taking a number of strong analgesics with little to no pain relief.  In addition, it is imperative to monitor activity level because too much activity causes fibromyalgia symptoms to flair.  And it is difficult to determine just how much activity is okay and when the line is crossed, which leads to feelings of frustration and discouragement.  It is an understatement to say these two fibromyalgia symptoms impair quality of life.


So how do we overcome the fibromyalgia hurdles and improve quality of life?  The answer to this question is critical for all of us.  When I first started this blog I wrote about being the same person I have always been in spite of having an injury and becoming ill with CFS and then fibromyalgia.  I believe that we must incorporate all facets of ourselves to be a whole human being.  Our lives are a journey that lies on a continuum and as we age we wear many battle scars.  Fibromyalgia is just another chapter of our lives.  So we must know that every day we get out of bed is a good one and we know we will experience pain, fatigue and some degree of misery.  We just don't know how much.  I don't know about you, but every morning I do an inventory of how I am feeling.  In one way that gives me an idea about the level of self care I must attend to that day, but on the other hand this also can be self defeating.  When we put our pain, fatigue and misery to the forefront, it becomes the focus of our day.  When I first became ill I couldn't stop working or I would have lost my home and everything I owned.  The thought I had was "I better work at a job that is really interesting so I can overcome the pain, fatigue and multitude of other symptoms I am suffering".  I was absolutely right about that.  Even though I am now retired that premise still works for me.  By putting my interests before the pain, fatigue and misery I am able to find more joy in my day and improve my feelings of hope for the future.  I find joy in simple things and I am easily entertained so that certainly helps!  I build adequate rest periods into my day and I pay attention to how I am feeling and adjust my activity accordingly, but I don't make this the focal point of my day.  This is a strategy that I practice mindfully in addition to taking medications that help me sleep, ease some pain, and improve feelings of depression, and utilizing the alternative therapies that are beneficial such as gentle yoga.  It is important to attend to all your needs, but be aware of which needs are the focus of your day and which ones are placed more in the background.
                                                                                     
                                                                             
The things that bring me joy are the simplest things.  I enjoy taking care of my pets and my plants.  I enjoy people watching and observing and learning about elements of the natural environment.  I certainly enjoy a good cheeseburger and going to my favorite cafe for a latte and interact with my favorite people there.  In fact, when I am feeling the worst, I shower and get dressed and go to Z Cafe to bring some joy into my day.  Sid is so enthusiastic about life and that brings me joy and I listen to his hopes and dreams.  I plan to accomplish one goal every day and if I accomplish more, then it's a bonus day.  I enjoy watching the boats sail in San Diego Bay so I plan outings that don't demand too much of my energy.  I have found that focusing on something other than how I am feeling helps me to overcome the pain, fatigue and misery.  I avoid focusing my attention to the long list of things that need to be done around the house.  Instead I slowly whittle away at that list one by one and I don't worry about the rest.  I focus on what I can do and not what I can no longer do.  I make sure I am interacting with other people that have fibromyalgia, because I need to have someone in my day that understands me.  And I make sure that I am getting out to interact with friends and other people in the community.  I have learned that focusing on someone other than myself helps me to feel better.  I enjoy my personal time, but if I start feeling isolated I connect with other people so isolation does not take a front row seat.  Feelings of isolation are common with fibromyalgia because it is an invisible illness and we don't have much energy to socialize, but those feelings can be destructive.  I need a purpose every day so I blog in the hope I can help others feel a little better and not so alone with this illness.  We must maintain control over each day rather than give our control to an illness that is determined to make our lives abysmal and sad.  I believe in the power of the human spirit and the ability to overcome challenges.  I also believe that together we can thrive despite fibromyalgia.  I extend an invitation to please join me!
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