It Was A Cold, Dark Midwinter Night…

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A cold, dark midwinter night

Actually, no, it wasn’t, it was a warm, clammy, near midsummer night, but you get what I mean.

As I type this, it is Sunday morning and the clock reads 02:13. I have just sat down with a cup of coffee and a chocolate caramel biscuit. I got up 10 minutes ago, having retired at 9.00 o’clock last night because I was so tired it was almost literally painful. Just a few hours earlier, FPR had commented on the fact that I had been more awake than on the previous two days. S*d’s Law has had a very busy week, this week.

I had my assessment for a Blue Disabled Parking Badge on Wednesday of this past week. I had been anxious leading up to the day of the assessment but adrenaline saw me through – probably too well. The Occupational Therapist I saw informed me that it will take about 14 days for the matrix to calculate whether or not I am entitled to a Badge.

I was a bit tired for the rest of the day, but not overly so: I suspect the adrenaline was still working its magic. However, Thursday and Friday were completely written off. In fact, on Thursday, I could barely keep my eyes open. I was so fatigued it was making me nauseous. I managed to crawl into bed at 8.30pm – and I mean ‘crawl’. The thought of having to climb the stairs almost had me in tears. Somehow I made it into bed whereupon I slept. In fact, apart from a ‘comfort’ visit, I didn’t wake until late.

Friday wasn’t quite as bad, but I wasn’t able to do much. I did manage to do a little food shopping and a few rows of knitting, but that was about it. Oh, and I stayed up late. When I say ‘late’, I mean later than the previous night!

On Saturday, I had an appointment with the chiropodist. I have reached the point where I am too stiff to be able to cut my toenails. I don’t want to ask FPR to do them for various reasons, not the least of which is his eyesight. I don’t want to say he is myopic because of the connotations of that word, but he does have very short sight. Anyway, I digress. I attended the appointment and returned home. I spent the day awake but doing little, apart from arranging my forthcoming journey to see my baby son and his partner. I didn’t feel particularly fatigued, but neither did I feel like doing much. After dinner, I knitted just three rows of a very small item that I have on my needles before becoming exhausted. I sat quietly, becoming more tired and feeling more unwell until I managed to make the decision to go to bed. [NB I have worded that sentence like that deliberately as it’s how it happened. It took an inordinate amount of mental energy to actually realise and then decide that I had to go to bed.]

S*d’s Law was also at work earlier in the week. Last Sunday evening I had planned to meet a friend at a film screening in Longsight and to give another friend a lift home afterwards. I had dovetailed my entire weekend to give me the best possible chance of not having to cancel and everything was going well… Then our next-door neighbours’ daughter decided to play with her karaoke machine: outside, about 15 feet from our living room window, from around 3.00pm to 7.00pm – when I needed to sleep! I could have cried. I hadn’t expected that I would need to sleep, although, when I realised that I did need to, I didn’t perceive it as a particular problem as I had plenty of time. However, given that the ‘performance’ had started and then continued until 7.00pm, it completely scuppered any chance I had of going out, as I needed to leave soon after 6.00. I was sorely disappointed, especially as it meant letting down two friends. I am so very lucky to have understanding friends but it doesn’t stop me feeling embarrassed and ashamed at having to let them down.

S*d’s Law and Fibromyalgia (and, of course ME/CFS, if I do have it) have a lot to answer for!

 

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Old Wives’ Tales

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Sydney Opera House from The Rocks

We’ve probably all heard an old wives’ tale or two, haven’t we? Do you remember, as a child, pulling a face only for your mother to say “you should be careful or the wind will change and your face will stay like that”? I must admit, I have never seen anyone whose face did actually stay like it!

I remember, many years ago, hearing or reading that each of us is most awake and active at the time of day when we were born. I can’t remember whether it was from a printed article, a TV or radio broadcast, or whether someone said it to me. I have no idea whether the idea has been looked at scientifically but I tend to think of it as a bit of an old wives tale. Anyway, that little gem found its own nook or cranny in my brain and slept there for years, just occasionally waking up and giving my mind a little nudge, before dozing off again.

This week, my pet snippet decided to poke its tiny head out. Just a quick “hello”, you understand.

I was born in the middle of the night, 3.10am actually, and there have been plenty of periods when I have been quite a night owl. The first such period I remember was when I was at primary school: for several weeks I would wake somewhere around 2.30 or 3.00am. I was wide awake and would go downstairs. I would get myself something to drink, and possibly a snack, then settle down comfortably in an armchair and read the daily paper. I remember my mother coming downstairs the first time this occurred, and asking me what I was doing. I simply said that I had woken up and was wide awake so had decided to sit downstairs and read the paper. As I wrote that it sounded rather precocious but it wasn’t meant to be: I was just answering her question. Well, she accepted that answer and went back to bed. And, just like that, the whole family accepted that I got up for a couple of hours during the night. As I said above, it went on for several weeks.

At various times in my life, I have gone through these periods of early morning activity. It may be more accurate to say that they happen in the middle of the night. As a teenager, one of my jobs at home was to do the ironing. My favourite time to do it was immediately after I had been out on a Saturday night. I would return home at something like midnight or 1.00am, entering through one of the bars in the pub we lived in. I would say ‘hi’ to everyone who was at that night’s lock-in, then go through to the living quarters and do the ironing. I would have the radio blasting out (we were well away from any houses) whilst ironing clothes, with the back door wide open. As I look back, I realise how unwise it was to have the back door, not just unlocked, but flung open. Ah, the folly of youth! Oh well, I wasn’t confronted by burglars, nor did I suffer anything worse than a few moths coming in because of the light. Obviously Fate didn’t feel very tempted by my actions!

Since retiring from work early, I have often noticed that I don’t feel like going to sleep at a ‘normal’ time. However, I don’t necessarily heed that inner voice but do go to bed at a reasonable time. Not this week, though. I began the week with a few days of moderate fatigue. After a couple of days I realised that, as the day turned to evening, the fatigue would begin to lift slowly. This meant that by late evening I was feeling I had some energy that could be used. I have been known to do vacuuming when I feel like this late at night – not this week, though. I am in the middle of a huge sorting and decluttering job so expended the energy on that task. (When I say ‘energy’ it is a relative term. Don’t imagine I am leaping about because you would be sorely disappointed at the reality!)

It is not easy to figure out how much of this week’s fatigue and energy peaks and troughs are due to Fibro. At a guess, I would say that they are part-Fibro and part-Old Wive’s Tale.

 

 

Quick Step, Anyone?

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My late mother, who was a lifelong dance-a-holic

I’m assuming that you are familiar with the “slow, slow, quick, quick, slow” of the ballroom dance called the Quick Step. Those instructions comprise one of my strongest memories of my childhood. My sister and I used to go to ballroom dancing lessons every week in a small hotel which had its own modestly-sized ballroom.

There’s not much chance of me doing the Quick Step at the moment. I’d be fine at the “slow” but the “quick” would be more of a problem. Well, I say a problem but, really, it would be missing completely. As you might guess, fatigue is being an absolute pain in the proverbial. Whilst we were on holiday I was pretty sure I would be hit by the post-adrenaline crash when we reached home. However, surprisingly, it didn’t quite happen like that. We arrived home last Saturday evening, and I was feeling just the usual weariness that comes after a long journey. On Sunday, I was a little tired, but nothing too awful. Come Monday morning, though, it was an entirely different story.

I was up and dressed at a reasonable hour (nowadays I often don’t dress until late morning). I was planning to go to meet a couple of friends, although I really didn’t feel much like it. I was very relieved to receive a text message from E saying that J was away and that if I still wanted to meet, she would get ready and see me half an hour later than originally planned. It gave me the perfect excuse to withdraw. That was important to me because I so often feel that I am letting them down when I have to cancel arrangements.

Rather than having a protracted text conversation I rang E to chat. Within a few minutes of ending the call I went to sleep… for several hours! And it feels as though I have been sleeping ever since.

I think this may have been my worst week of fatigue during my whole Fibro (and now also CFS) journey. I sleep for an hour or so after my first cup of coffee in the morning. When I waken I attend to a small task downstairs, planning to wash and dress immediately after, but the task wears me out and I collapse in a heap in the chair. Cue more sleep. I wake again and go upstairs (a huge effort, in itself) and force myself to deal with another small task in addition to washing and dressing. Fatigue rears its ugly head again so that I am feeling dreadful by the time I get downstairs. Oh, good, there’s my chair: I can collapse in another heap. Oh! I’ve fallen asleep again!

I think you get the picture.

There are things that I wanted to do this week and I haven’t managed any that needed me to be outside of the house. FPR and I went to see his mother one day but that was a mammoth struggle which took its toll the following day.

It has been difficult during the past few weeks to keep any sense of humour about things but I’m hoping that it will return soon. In the meantime, I have realised that I need to have a serious think about adapting the way I live my life to cope with the restrictions that fatigue is forcing upon me. It will have to include the craft activities that I do and may well mean some serious stash-busting will have to take place. I wonder where I can find some energy to deal with that? Ideas on a postcard, please.

 

 

Which Way Shall I Go?

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My Big Sister

I am wondering which way to go, today. I’m spoilt for choice as I could go this way, or that. I am stuck between Scylla and Charibdis Charybdis (spelling mistake courtesy of FPR!). Caught between a rock and a hard place and trying to choose between the Devil and the deep blue sea. I’m weighing up all my options before I come down on one side or the other as, at the moment, I am sitting on the fence.

I need to make a decision.

Had you guessed that?

The decision concerns this blogpost but I shall continue as I am, for the moment.

When I go to bed I really like snuggling under the duvet. I especially like the winter because snuggling feels so cosy and warm, even though my nose is probably still cold. However, there is one problem with diving in bed and drawing the covers right up and around me: Fibro Feet.

Between about five to fifteen minutes after I settle in bed, my Fibro Feet switch on to maximum, which means that the covers have to be kept well away from my little tootsies. They are burning hot inside and it feels as though the skin is being scraped off with a rasp. In fact, that scraping feels so realistic that a picture of it happening comes into my mind. That, in itself, is unpleasant because, as those closest to me know, I am very squeamish. I really dislike blood and gore and the image that comes into my brain contains both of those.

Another sensation that begins is that of my feet being pinched by a strong metal clamp. It doesn’t feel as though they are being squashed, it has a very definite feel of being pinched. I wonder why it is that all the sensations and feelings connected with having Fibromyalgia and/or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are all so unpleasant? The two conditions really should be told that it’s rather unkind to inflict all of that onto people who are having to cope with life encumbered by long-term illness.

The Fibro Feet don’t just attack when I am in bed, although they do consistently appear then. Their campaign against my poor plates of meat reignites at all sorts of times and in various places, but there doesn’t seem to be a regular pattern – except when I go to bed. It’s OK if I fall asleep immediately (feel free to snort with laughter at this point, if you wish), if not, they attack and they attack fast – and they ain’t takin’ any prisoners.

‘Twas The Night Before Christmas…

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The Italian Chapel on Mainland in the Orkney Islands

FPR and I have spent a lovely few hours with family this afternoon. They had their Christmas celebration yesterday so on Christmas Eve it was Boxing Day! A bit of a mixed-up time, eh? Not only that, but I have had a generous early Christmas present.

My friend, Fibro, decided to give me a present consisting of multiple symptoms that I don’t usually have a problem with. I must say, at this point, that none of the individual symptoms has been unbearably awful. However, the arrival of lots of them at once has been a bit anti-social. It has felt overwhelming, at times. I have been feeling pain in places that don’t usually give me any trouble and it has also been making itself at home in the places where it is a familiar face. It has been particularly bad in the thoracic region of my back and up across my neck, shoulders and arms. Fatigue has been playing up for a while but, the last few days it has ramped up the action or, should I say, the lack of action. An example of this is that I have only been able to work a few short rows of knitting, before having to rest – particularly irritating as I am trying to complete a Christmas gift!

Sleep has been less restorative than usual. Up until now, sleeping has revived me, but that doesn’t seem to be working, at the moment.

The Fibro Feet have been working hard causing discomfort, as have the Fibro Fingers. Add to that particular mix, the Restless Legs and you have a lively dance to watch.

With the symptoms I have mentioned, and others, has come a general feeling of unwellness. Bossymamma has not been a happy bunny!

As Anne with an ‘e’ says: “Fibromyalgia: the gift that keeps on giving”.

It’s VERY Expensive!

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Not very welcoming, is it?

FPR’s mother is still in hospital, with all that it entails. She rings me, asking if I will do something for her, then gives instructions in her own particular way. Often the tasks are clearly unnecessary and unlikely to yield any positive result, which makes it difficult to be enthusiastic in the carrying out of them. The trouble is that these tasks take a heavy toll. They drain what little energy I have – and, believe me, it is very little.

You know what it’s like when someone is in hospital: there are telephone calls, more telephone calls and even more telephone calls; chasing round trying to find things the patient has asked for; walking and caring for the patient’s dog; miles and miles of extra driving, much of it on unfamiliar routes; meals at peculiar times because of visiting hours and travelling time to and from the hospital; trying to fit in ordinary day-to-day appointments, and so on. Then there’s the cost…

The cost I am talking about isn’t financial, it’s physical. I am feeling constantly drained and, because I am so exhausted, that is interfering with my sleep pattern. For the past couple of weeks I have been lucky to manage four or five hours at night, and, on several occasions, it has been much less than that. It is taking a heavy toll. The more tired I become, the more problems I encounter with my sleeping, the more pain I have, the foggier my brain is and the more unwell I feel.

As I said, it’s very expensive.

Waves Are Not Only On The Beach

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Waves aren’t only found on the beach, are they? If you’re like me, your hair has waves, but waves can also be abstract (thank you, FPR for giving me the word I was seeking), like a wave of sound. However, the waves I am talking about cannot be heard by anyone and only one person can feel them when they develop. They are waves of things like fatigue, nausea or hunger.

Just a few days ago, I was thinking about and enjoying the relative hiatus in my fatigue – tempting providence, some might say. I’m not sure if “tempting providence” would be the right description: I prefer to describe it as appreciating the good times. Anyway, within a few hours the good times had rolled.

It began on Saturday morning with me feeling quiet. I know that might seem like a strange word to describe how one is, but, really, it is the best word I can come up with to describe my whole demeanor. When I’m quiet, I don’t feel ill, but neither do I feel well; I don’t feel like doing anything but neither do I want to be doing nothing – it has to be a very low-key activity; I don’t feel like talking, or listening, but I don’t want silence – just some low background sound from something like the TV or radio. This “quiet” feeling lasted several hours then the waves began.

The first wave swept across me when I had popped upstairs for some reason. It was an “I don’t feel right” kind of wave. By the time I had gone back downstairs, the next wave was hitting: fatigue, followed quickly by a wave of hunger. As I hope you can tell, the waves were coming thick and fast. Hunger was followed by fatigue, which was being chased by nausea which, in turn, had hunger hard on its heels, but fatigue wasn’t letting hunger get away with that and quickly overtook it. It was a peculiar sensation having so many feelings sweeping over me. I really needed to sleep.

Nowadays, when fatigue hits, I have a sleep in my recliner chair. I don’t like going to bed during the day as I tend to sleep too deeply. Usually, sleeping in the chair in sufficient to refresh me. (I realise how lucky I am that my sleeping does tend to restore me.) However, when I tried to settle in my chair, I realised that it wasn’t where I needed to be. My body wanted to be lying down so, for the first time for many months, I lay on the sofa, but as soon as I lay down another wave of hunger hit, quickly followed by nausea. I knew that I needed to eat something, despite the sporadic waves of nausea. I grabbed a breakfast bar and managed to eat it before the nausea reappeared. As soon as I finished eating, I lay down again, falling asleep within a short time.

When I awoke, I felt much better and got through the rest of Saturday with no problem. Sunday was fairly good. On Monday morning, I had my regular post-breakfast nap but it lasted longer, and was deeper, than usual. I was awake in time to go to my regular Monday morning activity and was pretty much OK for the rest of the day – “OK” meaning I was able to do a little, then rest, then do some more and rest some more. I was more tired than usual in the evening and retired to bed earlier than I normally would. I slept well and got up around my usual time and had a cup of tea before my post-breakfast nap (P-BN). The only thing was that my P-BN was just the start: no sooner had I woken from it than I fell asleep. That sleep went on for longer than I would have liked as, by the time I came to, it was too late for me to go to Tuesday morning’s activity. That was disappointing as fatigue and other reasons have prevented me from attending several of those meetings.

I am due to go out this evening and am desperately hoping that, by taking things easy today, I shall be sufficiently hale and hearty to be able to go tonight. Fingers crossed!

 

Waking and Sleeping

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Morocco, February 2012

It’s very easy to become anxious about one’s sleep patterns. How often do we hear someone talking about how they “can’t sleep”? Actually, how often do we, ourselves, say those words? I know I used to talk about lack of sleep (maybe that should say “complain about”) quite often.

You might think that sleep, or the lack thereof, would be high on my list of grumbles, but, actually, it isn’t. Lack of restorative sleep is a well-known symptom of Fibromyalgia. Luckily, I don’t seem to have that particular problem: when I sleep I am refreshed by it, even if I sleep for only a few hours overnight.

In the past, stress has greatly affected my sleeping, but not always in the way you might think. There have been just a few occasions where a sudden stressful event has caused me to become overwhelmingly tired and to sleep deeply for many hours. I think it was my brain’s way of escaping whatever awful thing was happening. It was always strange as the events were of a kind that one might imagine would make sleep impossible. As I say, that happened rarely, more usually I would struggle to sleep. (My late husband would sometimes deliberately bore me to sleep, if I was having a rough time of things, by talking about a subject that interested him but had the opposite effect on me. Most times it worked like a dream!)

Over the past four or five years, I have realised that worrying about the amount of sleep I have is pointless. I believe that if one begins to actually worry about sleep, the whole problem grows exponentially. When I am going through a period of disturbed sleep, I simply accept it. It is a benefit of Fibromyalgia [yes, really, there is a benefit!] that I can sit in an armchair, with my legs up, and fall asleep. In fact, it’s not particularly unusual for me to fall asleep more easily in the chair than in bed! So, if I am lying in bed awake, I am quite likely to get up and go downstairs. I might have a cup of coffee, do some knitting or sewing or, perhaps, watch TV. Sometimes I will fall asleep in the chair, or on the sofa, and at other times I’ll go back to bed. The one thing I won’t do is worry about it.

Obviously, my situation means that I am able to leave the sleep to sort itself out without it causing me too many problems. I no longer go to work and I have no dependants, so my time is my own. I am very lucky to be in that position, unlike so many other Fibro Warriors who have partners, children and homes to organise. However, please don’t think that I take my good fortune for granted. I have had some truly awful times in my life and long ago reached the point where I learned to enjoy and appreciate every good time that came along.

 

Two Days On The Trot. Or not.

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Beautiful stained glass window

May I begin by saying that I am not making any religious statement by showing this photograph – I photographed it, and am showing it here, because I think the colours are beautiful.

Back to Fibromyalgia…

Yesterday started sluggishly and didn’t ever manage to speed up. I was paying the price for having lived something like a *normal* day on Sunday. The Fibro was obviously thinking about punishing me for actually feeling pleased at what I had achieved over the weekend. Well, it was terrible of me to imagine I’d had something like a good day, wasn’t it? No, actually, it wasn’t terrible. Despite what the Fibro might think, I am allowed to have positive thoughts and good or goodish days. When it tries to tell me otherwise I will stand with a mutinous expression on my face, my fingers fixed firmly in my ears, loudly chanting “Nah nah, nah-nah nah” at it.

However, I may not be quite so bold the next day. Hmmm.

Cue, Monday and the sluggish start. I wasn’t too bad, but I certainly wasn’t lively. I managed to go out in the morning but by the time I returned home, just before lunch, I needed to rest and, preferably, to sleep. That wasn’t to be. We had visitors due at 1:30 pm so I simply rested in an armchair for a while. Then I received a message that they were likely to be late, but by then it was too late to sleep. “Oh, well,” thought I, “I can sleep after they leave”. No, that wasn’t going to happen as they were later leaving than I had anticipated. That wasn’t a problem in itself as they are pleasant people and it was good to see them. It was simply that, by the time I had sorted through some of the items they had brought, it was almost time for dinner so there was no time for a nap.

I slept fairly well overnight. (I am thankful that currently, my sleeping at night, although short, does refresh me reasonably well.) This morning I awoke earlier than necessary so lay in bed awhile before getting up to face the day.

My first task of the day before I even went downstairs. I wanted to continue some easy sorting and tidying that I had started yesterday. I had been tackling it in fits and starts and thought I would do a little before my first coffee of the day. It didn’t take long for my energy to wane and, unfortunately, that was how it stayed for most of the day. I had been due to have the morning out with some friends today but had to cancel as I knew I had to sleep and was unlikely to wake up in time to get ready and go. In fact, I awoke at the time I should have been arriving at Elizabeth’s house and couldn’t find enuogh energy to get up from the chair for quite some time after that.

That sluggishness and fatigue has lasted all day, although I have managed three or four small, sedentary tasks over the course of the whole day. I have deliberately tried not to overdo things today as I have things to do tomorrow so, would you mind letting the Fibro know that it would be better if it didn’t come to see me on Wednesday, please?

 

 

It All Mounts Up

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Lots of bridges across the River Tyne

Little Sis and I are still on our holiday. Yesterday we sampled the delights of Hartlepool on a half-day excursion.

We had spent quite some time thinking, discussing and planning what we would do and had finally decided to visit the Art Gallery. As we alighted the coach, we were directly opposite the square where the gallery is situated so had only to walk about 100 yards to go inside. When we left we headed for the shopping centre which was directly opposite the square, right by where the driver had dropped us off.

We found a coffee shop where we stopped for a while, then we wandered around some of the shopping centre, calling in at just three or four shops. By the time we had done that, I was becoming very fatigued and the telltale back pain was starting. In view of that, we found a bench and sat down to wait out the last hour before the coach was due to pick us up.

During the short drive back to the hotel I rested. There was an optional excusoin in the afternoon which Little Sis and I had talked about going on. However, I realised that I was too lacking in energy, so Little Sis decided to go without me.

We ate the lunch we had brought back with us and Little Sis departed. After spending some time online, I lay down to rest. I fell asleep soon after, waking when Little Sis returned. I didn’t stay awake for long, though. Two and a quarter hours later, I was wakened by the telephone!

Even though I had slept for much of the afternoon, I also slept well overnight. I think going out each day this week has drained me to the extent that I haven’t been able to fully recharge my batteries. I think the cumulative effect of the past several days has hit me. I don’t know whether it has happened because of the bad patch I have had, or whether I have, perhaps, reached a stage where a holiday like this is simply too much to cope with in a short space of time. I think I shall reserve judgment until I have tried another coach holiday. Maybe that will give me a better idea…