As much as we may wish we could live a life free from trials, tribulations and pain – the reality is that life will deal us our fair (or perhaps unfair) share of them. They come in different forms and usually enter our lives completely unexpectedly – sometimes knocking us off our feet (usually just figuratively – but occasionally literally as well).
The English novelist James Anthony Froude nailed the hammer on the head when he said, “The trials of life will not wait for us. They come at their own time, not caring much to inquire how ready we may be to meet them.”
This rings especially true for those suffering from a chronic illness like fibromyalgia.
Chances are fibromyalgia didn’t knock on your door and politely inquire if it would be too much of an intrusion to turn your life upside down. Instead, it entered your life without warning – forcing you to weather the storm and pick up the pieces as you go.
So what do you do if you find yourself unexpectedly facing the painful reality of a chronic pain condition like fibromyalgia?
While there are no easy answers – some of the best advice often comes from those who have walked in your shoes. While fellow fibromyalgia sufferers may not always be able to offer specific medical advice related to fibromyalgia – they can offer the kind of invaluable advice that even the most skilled doctor or specialist cannot.
They can offer real life lessons they’ve learned from coping with fibromyalgia and making the most of life with an invisible illness.
We asked them to share some of the most important lessons they’ve learned from living with fibromyalgia. Each of them was generous enough to share with us three key lessons they’ve learned that have helped them in their journeys. Lets take a look at their advice…
Julie from Counting My Spoons
Julie Ryan chronicles life with fibromyalgia on her blog CountingMySpoons.com. She has been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, Endometriosis, Hypothyroidism, TMJ, Migraines, and Cluster Headaches. The goal of her blog is to help others understand what she and others with invisible illnesses are going through as well as to inspire fellow sufferers. Healthline recently named Julie’s blog one of the Best Fibromyalgia Blogs of 2015.
Here is what Julie said were three of the most important lessons she has learned as she has adjusted to life with fibromyalgia:
# 1: Be open to trying anything
For the first couple of years that I was sick I ignored a lot of advice that could have really helped me because I just wasn't open. I scoffed at the idea that diet change could help me, yet when I finally tried changing my diet it helped me more than anything had, or has since.
#2: Stay positive
A positive mental attitude won't heal you but it certainly won't make things worse either. In fact, choosing to focus on the positive really helped me a lot. It's easy when you are in pain and have no energy to drown in depression. But, if you can stay focused on the positives that are in your life you keep a focus, you keep a reason to try anything, and you keep hope alive.
Holding grudges and negativity towards others (or towards yourself) adds stress. Stress increases the pain and fatigue. I think this lesson was harder than the others for me. It takes a lot for me to really hold a grudge against another person and even more to let it go. On the other hand, I'm much harsher on myself. I've always been bad about beating myself up over little things, rethinking conversations and getting focused on the "should haves". I am constantly working on this one. I guess really I'm constantly working on all three of these.
We couldn’t agree more with Julie’s answers and appreciate her honest perspective. As Julie mentioned – constant negativity is likely to increase stress, which in turn increases pain and fatigue. Yes, we’re bound to have days where we just won’t have it in us to stay positive or let go of grudges – which is fine. The important thing is to make a consistent effort not to let that happen too frequently. As Julie put it, she is “constantly working on all three of these.”
See more from Julie on her blog at CountingMySpoons.com, you won’t be disappointed!
Amy from The Fibro Frog
Amy writes about her experiences with fibromyalgia on her blog The Fibro Frog (which is a play on the name “fibro fog”, a common symptom of fibromyalgia). Amy offers a down to earth look at daily life with fibromyalgia and her blog helps others suffering from chronic pain try to focus on the positive. Like Julie, her blog was also recognized as on the Best Fibromyalgia Blogs of 2015. Here are the three most important lessons Amy has learned from living with fibromyalgia:
#1: Pace Yourself
The biggest lesson I've learned from living with chronic pain is to pace myself. Even if I'm having a day where I feel decent, I can't do too much or else it will cause a flare and I'll be down anywhere from 2 days to a good week. That is also the hardest lesson to learn, in my opinion.
#2: Listen to your body
I've also learned to listen to my body. If I'm tired, I rest. If I'm in pain, I just sit and try to relax.
#3: Try to turn hurtful comments into a positive
Another lesson I've learned is to not let what other say bother me if they don't suffer from chronic pain themselves. I don't let it bother me. Instead, I just feel sorry for them that they speak without taking an hour to research chronic pain and what it's truly like for those of us who do suffer. I try to turn the situation into a positive by trying to educate the person about living with chronic pain.
These are great suggestions from Amy! Even though we all know we should listen to our bodies and pace ourselves – we tend to forget that in the moment and can easily end up overdoing it. Listening to what your body is telling you and responding accordingly requires discipline. All too often it means missing out on fun times with friends or family – but recognizing the signs and pacing ourselves can save us from worse trouble down the road.
For more from Amy, check out her blog The Fibro Frog!
For those whose symptoms are new or have only recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia (or any chronic illness) – the road ahead may seem overwhelming. While the road is in fact long and the challenges along it great – others have walked it (or are still walking it). Relying on their support and advice can help push you through the tough days and perhaps even make the journey a little more tolerable.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned from living with fibromyalgia? Share your experiences with us in the comments below or on our Facebook Page!