Your working, with fibromyalgia?

Yes

I’ve had fibromyalgia since 2004 and have kept working.

How?

Fibromyalgia is not a degenerative disease; studies have shown, for most sufferers it will stay the same or improve. Knowing this fact can help to give you a positive outlook on your future. Perhaps working towards small achievable goals to improve your health.

My story 

When I was first diagnosed and before this.  I felt tired, fatigued and had pain in my body for months that just got worse. Nothing I did seemed to help. To some extent it was a relief to find out what was wrong.  I had managed to keep working and had odd days off.  These days stretched into longer periods of time off. 

After the fibromyalgia diagnosis, I slowly started to learn, how to manage my symptoms on a daily basis. Finding out my limitations and how much I could do without making my symptoms worse or triggering a flare up took time to find out. I found stress played a big part in making symptoms worse. Making sure I took adequate rest breaks during the day was essential. 

At some point during these initial first weeks you will want to consider what changes you need to make in your life to help manage fibromyalgia symptoms. One of them may be to re-evaluate your work choices. Perhaps looking at alternative jobs after doing thorough research.

Thinking about what would help you do your existing job and talking to your employer is worth considering. Beforehand gather together evidence to support your diagnosis such as doctors letters. Get the support of your superior and other more senior staff.  Explain what your symptoms are and how they affect you. Perhaps taking along a diary of symptoms, would be easier to illustrate how to adapt your job. Approach this in a positive way showing you can be flexible.

If you are newly diagnosed, your first step could be to educate others working with you, what fibromyalgia is. Your relationship with colleagues is important when your working, if they have a understanding of your condition it will help you feel more confident about work.

Things that could help you……

If you live in the UK have a look at the following information.

If your looking for a job, finding work with an employer in the UK who is disability confident can make a difference. Depending on what they have signed up to they are encouraged to recruit new staff and retain existing employees who would be defined under the equality act 2010 as having a disability.

The equality act 2010 states that all employers in the UK must make reasonable adjustments  for people with disabilities, or a long term health condition, so they aren’t disadvantaged when carrying out their jobs. 

Your employer can look at ways you can adapt your role, within the reasonable adjustments criteria. This could include switching your working hours to more suitable times or looking at special equipment to help you carry out your role. 

A UK access to work  assessment may be able to highlight things you have overlooked that could help you carry out your work. The assessor contacts you to find out more about your circumstances and makes recommendations to suit you.

So, what else can I do?

I personally think that having a long term health condition has made me more aware of my health and well-being. I look after myself better than some of my peers.

Because I need to exercise regularly to keep my body moving I have a very good awareness of what I need to do to keep as fit and healthy as possible.

Take a look at my pages on

Exercise

Diet and Irritable Bowel Syndrome and

Fibromyalgia Self Help.

Telling your family and friends and explaining how it affects you. With their support you will be able to achieve more.

Having a positive mental attitude and setting yourself realistic goals. I use meditation to help me find focus and a positive direction in my daily life. Follow my link to meditation  for information about this.

Lastly…post me your experiences of working with fibromyalgia and other related illnesses.

Mindfulness and fibromyalgia

buddha statue under white clouds
Photo by Daniela Ruiz on Pexels.com

In a previous post I mentioned that mindful meditation has been proven to help the symptoms of fibromyalgia. I was intrigued to explore this in more detail. 

How can mindfulness be described?

In a nutshell, it’s focusing our attention purely on the present moment. Doing this without letting the mind drift back to past memories or thinking about future events. Mindfulness is embracing the present with acceptance, without judgment.

The monkey mind

There are so many distractions for us to focus our mind on. To illustrate the monkey mind, try this exercise for a couple of minutes.

Focus your mind on your breathing.  Think about where you can feel movement in your chest from your breathing.  Concentrate on this area, for a few minutes. You will notice your thoughts stray, thinking about numerous things other than the breath.

These thoughts are from past or future experiences. The mind is rarely focused on the present. It jumps from one subject to another, like a monkey playing. This practice is called the monkey mind.

selective focus photography of white magnolia flowers
Photo by Andrey Grushnikov on Pexels.com

Why should I try mindfulness?

Clinical researchers have carried out a number of tests which have shown that mindfulness can improve your overall health and wellbeing. For fibromyalgia sufferers the benefits can be:

  • lower stress levels 
  • lower depression
  • improve the quality of sleep 
  • reduce anxiety 
  • encourage positive thinking
  • alter the way the mind reacts to difficult situations 
  • improve decision making 

How do I start to practice mindfulness?

Start by focusing on your senses when you carry out your everyday routine. By thinking about the feel, touch, smell and the sound of everything you are experiencing. 

If you carry out a task such as washing the dishes, think about the heat of the water, the texture and feel of the plates, the scent of washing up liquid and the sound of water filling up the bowl. 

“If you have a regular daily routine build some time into it every day to practice mindfulness.”

You could try changing your daily activities. For example if you regularly go for a walk and always walk the same way; try changing the route to one your not as familiar with. Or try a completely new walk. 

By changing your routine to something different or new it will get your mind to focus on a familiar task in a different or new way.

landscape sky clouds hd wallpaper
Photo by Donald Tong on Pexels.com

Thought watching 

If you find while you are concentrating on tasks thoughts interrupt you. Just observe them, try not to be side tracked by them.

Introduce a label for each thought that arises; ‘I’m nervous about a exam result’, label it ‘thought’, or a feeling ‘I feel worried’ label it ‘emotion’; and go back to the task you are carrying out.

This practice will help train the mind to not follow a thought and get sidetracked by it. Just observe thoughts without judgment, acknowledging them, and labelling them. Going back to the task.

Mindfulness meditation

Taking mindfulness a step further incorporating it into daily meditation practice can encourage the mind to work in a regular pattern.

Mindfulness meditation works by silently spending a few minutes every day thinking about one aspect of the body, such as breathing awareness and acknowledging thoughts, when they arise and bringing back attention to the breathing.

Have a look at my page on Meditation for more information about suggestions for meditation practice.

 

Revisiting Mindfulness

aquatic bloom blooming blossom
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ve neglected my meditation practice recently; getting back into it proved straight away how helpful it is.

If you have never tried mindfulness or meditation join me now and find out how it can help you and perhaps try it out.

In a previous post I mentioned that mindful meditation has been proven to help the symptoms of fibromyalgia and also help to calm a active mind. I was intrigued to explore this in more detail. 

How can mindfulness be described?

In a nutshell, it’s focusing our attention purely on the present moment. Doing this without letting the mind drift back to past memories or thinking about future events. Mindfulness is embracing the present with acceptance, without judgment.

The monkey mind 🐒

There are so many distractions for us to focus our mind on. To illustrate the monkey mind, try this exercise for a couple of minutes.

Focus your mind on your breathing.  Think about where you can feel movement in your chest from your breathing.  Concentrate on this area, for a few minutes. You will notice your thoughts stray, thinking about numerous things other than the breath.

These thoughts are from past or future experiences. The mind is rarely focused on the present. It jumps from one subject to another, like a monkey playing. This practice is called the monkey mind.

Why should I try mindfulness?

Clinical researchers have carried out a number of tests which have shown that mindfulness can improve your overall health and wellbeing. For fibromyalgia sufferers the benefits can be:

  • lower stress levels 
  • lower depression
  • improve the quality of sleep 
  • reduce anxiety 
  • encourage positive thinking
  • alter the way the mind reacts to difficult situations 
  • improve decision making 

How do I start to practice mindfulness?

Start by focusing on your senses when you carry out your everyday routine. By thinking about the feel, touch, smell and the sound of everything you are experiencing. 

If you carry out a task such as washing the dishes, think about the heat of the water, the texture and feel of the plates, the scent of washing up liquid and the sound of water filling up the bowl. 

If you have a regular daily routine build some time into it every day to practice mindfulness.

You could try changing your daily activities. For example if you regularly go for a walk and always walk the same way; try changing the route to one your not as familiar with. Or try a completely new walk. 

By changing your routine to something different or new it will get your mind to focus on a familiar task in a different or new way.

analysis blackboard board bubble
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Thought watching 

If you find while you are concentrating on tasks thoughts interrupt you. Just observe them, try not to be side tracked by them.

Introduce a label for each thought that arises; ‘I’m nervous about a exam result’, label it ‘thought’, or a feeling ‘I feel worried’ label it ‘emotion’; and go back to the task you are carrying out.

This practice will help train the mind to not follow a thought and get sidetracked by it. Just observe thoughts without judgment, acknowledging them, and labelling them. Going back to the task.

Mindfulness meditation

Taking mindfulness a step further incorporating it into daily meditation practice can encourage the mind to work in a regular pattern.

Mindfulness meditation works by silently spending a few minutes every day thinking about one aspect of the body, such as breathing awareness and acknowledging thoughts, when they arise and bringing back attention to the breathing.

Have a look at my page on Meditation for more information about suggestions for meditation practice.

 

A different view of the world, having empathy

above abstract background desert
Photo by Mariusz Prusaczyk on Pexels.com

For most of us, our lives are basically pretty boring and mundane.

But what if one day you woke up and everything had totally changed?

Sometimes for a brief split second we have a thought and visualise it becoming reality.

How strange and unusual it feels.

Just for a moment now,

stop 

and take yourself to that thought.

                                 💭  💭  💭  💭  💭  💭

What did I think of?

I imagined I was free of fibromyalgia

and visiting the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

I’m looking out onto a perfectly blue sea; staying in a floating hotel 🏨overlooking the reef. I’m going snorkelling around the reef; an I was getting an underwater camera 📸ready to take pictures of the coral reef and the fish.🐠🐟

How did I feel ?

Totally free and like I was visiting a giant tropical fish tank. Swimming around the coral reef, the water was warm. The coral looked like a fantasy underwater garden; the different colours changing as I swam past. 🏊‍♀️

person takes photo of tortoise
Photo by Richard Segal on Pexels.com

I hope I have been able to illustrate how it feels to be totally free and able to do anything you want.

The opposite is true living with an invisible illness like fibromyalgia. Plans are broken all the time;

constantly letting others down because your illness is so unpredictable.

Just meeting a friend for a meal is fraught with problems.

Planning what type of food you can eat;

Could it trigger my IBS?

Does the restaurant have chairs with padded seats that are comfortable to sit on for about an hour or more?

Could it start my lower back pains if I am forced to sit on a wooden chair?

On the day I planned to go out, I woke up with pain in my head and feeling disoriented, I’m unable to drive. The meal is cancelled.

Now you are thinking;

and perhaps you’re feeling sorry for anyone with an invisible illness.

Having empathy for someone is a better response; rather than sympathy.

Or to explain this in a better way a quote from the novel,

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.”

Just putting yourself in that persons shoes can give some insight into our version of living; our different view of the world we face on a daily basis.

Perhaps now you could repeat the above exercise, but this time, imagining you have fibromyalgia.

I’ll start you off with how my day can start….

You wake up and you’re legs are aching, as you move to get out of bed a muscle in your back twinges in a spasm. Your in intense pain for a moment, luckily the pain softens. You manage to get out without any other area going into spasms. As you start to get dressed your head feels achey. Your chest feels painful as well…

A great way to start the day and I’ve not got to work yet!

Motivate yourself ? and lose weight….

appetite apple close up delicious
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

If you’re trying to lose weight your probably also trying to find the answer to this question.

It’s even more difficult to do when you’ve got a chronic illness, like fibromyalgia, sapping all your energy and enthusiasm.

I know I lack motivation.

It’s something I’ve been trying to unlock the secret to.

It’s especially true for my diet.

Since my carer went on a low fat diet recently and lost a lot of weight. I’ve also cut back on saturated fat, cheese and cake.

sliced cheese on brown table top
Photo by NastyaSensei Sens on Pexels.com

Now I try to eat low fat alternatives, which is not always easy.

My body wants to eat snacks and other unhealthy food.

I asked my carer how he managed to stay motivated enough to only eat certain foods.

He said he eats enough at meal times to feel full up and only snacks on fruit and healthy alternatives, when he is hungry.

He added.

Once your mind is set on achieving a target weight it’s easier to get motivated to keep working towards it.

Regularly checking your weight and keeping up exercise  which helps to keep the weight down.It’s obviously a formula that’s working for him.

But everyone is different and what works for one person is not necessarily going to help someone else.

You may remember my post about Keeping Positive and Motivated with Fibromyalgia from earlier in the year. I suggested a number of ways to reprogram the mindset, using positive thinking.

I read recently that the opposite is true for some people. Looking at things in a negative way motivates them more. Although I find it difficult to recommend using this technique to motivate, due to the downward spiral of thoughts it can trigger.

I have noticed that it has worked for me in the past. For instance the negative comments of others inspire me to prove them wrong. When someone says,

”You can’t achieve —————”.

”You’re be unable to complete ———“.

I will always prove them wrong and work really hard to achieve that target and surpass it.

Its a bit like us fibro warriors when we pretend to be well and not ill. We’re constantly striving to show we can do things, we want to engage in life and contribute.

To sum up, choosing the best way forward to motivate yourself is something that can be down to trial and error.

A period of experimentation could be helpful to find the way forward. Loosing weight is down to choosing the best motivational techniques for you.

assorted sliced fruits
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On reflection from…

black withered tree surounded by body of water
Photo by Kyle Roxas on Pexels.com

So, you think you know all about fibromyalgia.

OK, tell me what your understanding of fibromyalgia is…

It’s a chronic illness,

With no cure,

It’s an invisible illness; because the pain or symptoms a sufferer has are not visible.

It predominantly effects women but also some men,

What are the main symptoms?

it’s not a definitive list because fibromyalgia symptoms can be combined with other illnesses which can in some cases magnify the symptoms.

Pain throughout the whole body; the pain can vary in intensity and type.

Joints and muscles feel stiff

Poor quality of sleep

Feeling tired and fatigued

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Extreme Sensitivity

Cognitive problems, feeling confused, or dazed, sometimes called Fibro fog

Headaches

Depression

Anxiety

Painful periods

The symptoms can vary from person to person.

Symptoms can get better or worse from time to time.

Factors that influence this are:

the amount of stress you are experiencing

how much daily exercise you have

and changes in climate and temperature

How does fibromyalgia effect your daily living?

Everything I do from buying groceries, doing household cleaning, ironing clothes and cooking meals.

Using the example of household cleaning; my carer does the hoovering when it involves moving furniture. I can do some, but it varies how much I can do from day to day with fluctuating pain levels.

I wanted to reflect on my previous post partly to think about what has changed and how it can be improved.

I’m pleased that others with chronic illnesses and fibromyalgia liked my other fibromyalgia related posts. Thanks for your likes and comments, which are really encouraging.

I’ve been in situations with others not understanding what fibromyalgia/invisible illness/a chronic illness is and how it effects me.

I started my blog originally to give others some insight into what it’s like living and managing with fibromyalgia.

But, apart from surviving the constantly fluctuating illnesses and pain associated with fibromyalgia.

The main problem for me is,

getting others to understand that having 

fibromyalgia

means I have limitations on what I can do.

It’s not just one thing that’s affected

it’s everything, every day, all the time.

There’s a lot of ground to cover helping others understand what fibromyalgia is, but hopefully after reading my post you will be some way towards it.

Further information is available on the NHS website.  

If you think you may be suffering from fibromyalgia, consult your doctor or health professional.

Going back to the fact there’s no cure.  I’ve lived with fibromyalgia for 14 years and found although some times are really tough. I have been able to boost my general health through diet, exercise and meditation.

The positives are my symptoms are still there but have improved since I was first diagnosed. I can now do some hoovering!