I have had Fibromyalgia for nearly a decade now. It involves chronic pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, Irritable Bowel Syndromes and many other such symptoms. At first, I couldn’t even get out of bed. Brushing my teeth, holding a mug, typing – all of it was very painful. Slowly, over time, I have gotten a better handle over Fibromyalgia and learnt to manage it. Even now things like shampooing, sitting for long, sleeping peacefully and similar tasks are tough. However, I am able to get out of bed on most days and do my work. I also socialize, play with my cats, go out for board gaming and write.
Fibromyalgia is famous for not being curable with any medicine. Therefore, we need to rely on some hacks to manage Fibromyalgia better. Here’s a list of some of them that have worked for me.
See a counselor, mediate, take medicines – do whatever works for you.
I. Pace Yourself, Rest, Recuperate
We have good days and bad days. During the good days, we tend to push ourselves too much and overdo. Many of the Fibromyalgia patients are overactive and energetic. They are go-getters. However, pushing yourself too much leads to pain and fatigue. This vicious cycle has to be broken. It is important to pace yourself and get adequate rest. Even during the good days, lie down, listen to music, get a massage, take a hot shower and do whatever it takes to relax you. Remember that stress and overworking cause flares. If you had to push yourself due to some obligation (work or personal), then take time to recuperate.
II. See a counsellor, take care of your mental health
Mental health and Fibromyalgia are intricately related. I have Bipolar Disorder too. Stress causes body pain and fatigue. It worsens the Fibromyalgia symptoms. Fibromyalgia comes with many emotional pitfalls. We have to deal with denial, anger, self-worth issues, guilt, self-image problems, lack of confidence, self-pity etcetera. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has been proven as a good method for managing Fibromyalgia, for managing stress and for dealing with emotional burden that comes with Fibromyalgia. It is important to take care of your mental health in order to have a good physical health. Depression and anxiety are part of Fibromyalgia and need to be battled with care. See a counselor, mediate, take medicines – do whatever works for you.
A good support system reminds you during a flare that there are things outside the bad time that you are stuck in.
This is the most hated advice by all but many studies have shown that light exercise is crucial for Fibromyalgia. During good days, we tend to ignore exercising. During bad days, we do not have energy for it. It is important to break out of this cycle. Start exercising slowly. I started with just 15 minutes of walking.
If you are doing rigorous exercise, then be careful to not push yourself too much. Swimming and water based exercises are highly recommended. Regular, light exercise that you can manage even on slightly bad days is the key. I do yoga and walking. You can also try things like Tai Chi. Again, do whatever works for you, but do try to get some exercise regularly. During really bad days, you might have to skip it. Also, do not listen to those who seem to tell you that exercise or losing weight is the cure. Do not let them make you feel guilty. However, it does help you manage your illness better.
IV. Build a Support System
I am lucky to have a good support system that I could rely on. You can rely on people who are part of your support system not just for physical help but also for emotional support. A good support system reminds you during a flare that there are things outside the bad time that you are stuck in. For me, my support system some of my family, some friends, my pets, other spoonies and my doctors. Another part of building a support system is to cultivate a hobby that you love doing. For me, it is board gaming. When I am out board gaming, I can forget about my pain for a while and just concentrate on the game in front of me.
Fibromyalgia has been connected with other diseases like thyroid malfunctioning, Vitamin D deficiency and other nutrients’ deficiency.
V. Take adequate medication and supplements as per your needs
Fibromyalgia has been connected with other diseases like thyroid malfunctioning, Vitamin D deficiency and other nutrients’ deficiency. Due to this, I regularly go for blood tests that check various hormones, vitamins and other nutrients in my body. I also check for cholesterol, sugar and other such things. Due to my deficiencies, I regularly take medicines for Thyroid and Vitamin D. I also take other supplements for iron-deficiency and some vitamins. For Fibromyalgia, I take GXXXXXXXXX though it does not suit everyone.
So, consult your doctor about the diagnostic tests that you need, and about the medicines that you should take.
Although Fibromyalgia is not curable but we can make lifestyle changes such as those mentioned above to better manage our condition.
About the Author:
Swati Agrawal is Director (Operations) at IDIA Charitable Trust, and a lawyer by training. She has various invisible illnesses, and likes to work towards spreading awareness about invisible illnesses and disabilities.