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Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Need to Feed

I have been asked many times what I think most helps relieve the symptoms of Fibromyalgia and chronic pain.  Well, the answer is simple and not really magical: diet and exercise.  Like anyone, the healthier we are the better we will feel.  The better we eat and the more we move, the better we will feel.  ALL of us can improve the way we take care of our bodies!

I will start with diet.  First of all, stop eating processed foods.  Processing takes the life and ability to nourish our bodies right out of our food.  Secondly, if it is white in color, you probably shouldn’t eat it.  White flour, white sugar, white potatoes, lots of mayo on your sandwich, it just isn’t going to be helpful.  Substitute whole grain flour; use honey, stevia or dates for sweetener, or eat a piece of fruit; substitute sweet potatoes or yams for white potatoes; use a little bit of mayo or hummus or mashed avocado on your sandwich.  These are not new revelations for a better diet.  Chances are very good that you have heard these things before.  Consider the possibility that changing your diet will change your life.  AND consider that you CAN do it.  Take baby steps and don’t beat yourself up when you go back to your old ways.  Perfection doesn’t exist.  Pick yourself up and go forward.  It really is what you do 80% of the time that counts the most.  Try it for a few months and see how you feel.

If you already do the above, I would bet there are ways you could eat more nutritiously.  You could add more raw fruits and vegetables to your diet, particularly dark greens.  You could have a smoothie with spinach in it every day.  I realize how disgusting that sounds!  I thought so at first, too, until I tried it.  I didn’t know the spinach was there!  The only thing that was different was that my smoothie looked like a St. Patrick’s Day creation.  If you can get past drinking something green, you are good to go!  Try putting it into a colored glass.

You can also try switching from iceberg lettuce to romaine or green leaf.  If that is already part of your diet, add chopped kale.  (Personally, I like the curly green kale and not the dinosaur/Tuscan/Lacinto kind.)  My point is, find ways to get fruits and vegetables, in their natural form, into your body.  If eating raw fruits and veggies wreaks havoc on your digestive system, see how you feel if you lightly steam or stir-fry them.  Eating the colors of the rainbow will help you more than you can imagine.  I will write more about diet another day.

About exercise…as my rheumatologist says, “A toned muscle will always feel better than an untoned one.”  I know it hurts to exercise, but over time it hurts less during and after the exercise, you have more energy during the day and you have more restful sleep.  That is quite a payoff!!!  Try walking just a quarter-mile every other day, more if you can.  I started out that way and have been able to do half-marathons, the 3-day breast cancer walk (60 miles over 3 days!), and hike the 4-day Incan Trail to Machu Picchu (a lifelong dream).  SO MUCH is possible!  Before I became active again, the only thing stopping me was fear and fatigue, but mostly fear.  Once I let go of the fear of the pain, I was able to really live my dreams.  If you are afraid of exercise, I understand completely, but you have to let go of that fear so you can get the most out of your life.  There is no other way.

So, as I was saying, start out walking a short distance and slowly work your way up.   Look for a “therapeutic” or “restorative” yoga class.  There won’t be much “exercise,” but your body will be able to be in more positions than sitting or lying down with relative comfort and you will learn breathing techniques that will move more oxygen into the muscles.  If you are in Reno, I have a class, “Yoga for Challenging Bodies,” at 5:15 on Monday nights.  Let me know if you are interested.  Yoga (the right kind) and Tai Chi are both very good for most FMS patients.  You can also play with your animals, or those at a shelter, or your kids or someone else’s.  The point is to be more active and in ways that you enjoy.  It will feel better than “exercise.”

One more thing.  I used to smoke, but quit before I got FMS.  If  you smoke, quit.  Smoking deprives your body (your muscles!) of oxygen.  To feel their best, your muscles need all the oxygen and nutrients they can get.  All of your other efforts will be diminished if you smoke, as will your general health, the health of anyone around you, and your finances will suffer.  I know it can be very difficult to quit, but there is help out there.  Take advantage of it and do the best thing you can do for yourself and your family.

Now go out there and kick some Fibro Arse!

XOXO

Julie

P.S.  As always, I am not giving you medical advice.  That is your doctor’s job. 🙂

Welcome Readers!

Welcome to my Fibromyalgia Lifeline blog! I am so glad you are here. I thought I would start with telling you about my experience in getting a diagnosis. I was pretty lucky. It took less than six months to get a diagnosis. I have read it takes the average FMS sufferer up to seven years. I can’t imagine!

On the “About” page there is a little bit about me. Please, introduce yourself in the comments below. If you would, I would greatly appreciate you telling me what you want to read about, and what troubles you in having FMS or another chronic pain issue. Whether you have FMS or some other type of chronic pain, it is likely invisible to others, so it has many of the same characteristics and effects on your life. This blog is for you, too.

Here is the story of my diagnosis.

One day in the latter part of 2003, I woke up in horrifying pain that completely consumed my body and mind. I had no clue what to think! I felt that, at just 40 years old, my life was over. Part of me wished, in that moment, that it was. Similar things had happened to me since my 20s, but it was never as severe and debilitating. I was so fatigued that I couldn’t really move even if I weren’t in so much pain, and I had slept so long I missed a day. This was definitely different, and in the past ten and a half years it hasn’t gone away. But, I have learned what my body and mind needs to keep the pain and fatigue from overwhelming me like it did on that day in 2003.

From that day in 2003 to about April 2004, was a series of tests, along with extreme fear, and a cycle of uncertainty and elation. I had no idea what was going on with my body, I knew I wasn’t imagining it, and I knew the purpose of the blood tests. The blood tests were going to tell my doctor if I was going to die or not. All those test results were normal! Okay. So. I wasn’t going to die any time soon from any type of cancer, virus, or any of a host of other diseases. But I still didn’t know what the hell was wrong with me! I also wondered how many times I could get poked with a needle in a few weeks time and not have some kind of ill effect. Apparently, more than I had been poked. One benefit of $15,000 worth of tests, without the benefit of insurance, is that I don’t have to lie down to have blood drawn anymore.

All the while I had this terrible pain to contend with. My primary care doctor was on sabbatical, so I had to see someone else, a doctor who didn’t know me. She would not give me any pain medication because she didn’t know what was wrong with me and she was concerned I would become addicted. Neither of those concerned me! I was taking leftover narcotics from dentists for nearly a month and, while they weren’t helping all that much, they didn’t seem to be making anything worse. The narcotics soon ran out. Then I started drinking. That only helped for the time I was completely inebriated. I found that the next three days weren’t really worth it. The hangovers made me even more miserable, since hangovers are worse when you have FMS. Plus, I once got so drunk I did a face plant in the dirt and chipped a tooth. Grrrrr. I was at a complete loss. I was just so desperate for relief I didn’t know what to do.

Eventually, I was referred to a rheumatologist who diagnosed me with Fibromyalgia. Hot damn! I knew what was wrong! He helped me, through trial and error find the right traditional medication. I helped myself, through trial and error find the right diet, exercise, and alternative methods to help me the rest of the way. In the future, I will talk about the things I do, the things I’ve tried, and the things I believe to be helpful to all of us who suffer from FMS and other chronic pain syndromes (as long as they are okay with your doctor!!!).

It took several months to get the medical help I needed, and to get well enough to learn what I could do to heal my now completely screwed up body and life. Ten and a half years later I am still learning, but am happy that I feel well enough to live a happy life on my own terms.

Yes, I made some mistakes along the way to my diagnosis. Probably the worst was drinking like a fish because the pain and fear were unbearable. I should have gone to a different doctor to see if I could get some type of pain control. (The rheumatologist told me there was no reason I should have had to suffer like that without medical help.) I had, also, never learned to be an advocate for myself with regard to my healthcare because I never had to before, and I didn’t feel well enough to stick up for myself and ask the right questions. Between not being well and being so independent, I didn’t know how to ask for help from a friend or family member. I had yet to learn that being independent means knowing when to ask for help.

I now have an amazing support system, with my husband, friends, family members, and a great healthcare team. These are the things I want for you, and I will do what I can to help you get them. Please leave comments letting me know how I can help you. I look forward to getting to know you!

Sending you wishes for a bright future!
Julie

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