Breaking Down And Building Up

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Mind the Polar Bears! Spitsbergen, August 2017

Things have changed this week.

FPR and I have been on another holiday – a five-day coach trip to Devon. Yes, it was very soon after our recent cruise but we just felt like going. Once we were there things looked slightly different.

Now, if you were to ask my baby son, he would tell you that I am a pessimist and, to a certain extent, he would be right. However, like many people with a chronic condition, when it comes to thinking about how much I can do, it’s a very different story: I am definitely grossly over-optimistic. That, of course, was what happened when FPR and I discussed taking this short break. I completely over-estimated how much I would be able to do during the holiday. I don’t see that as an altogether bad thing as it means I haven’t completely lost hope, but I realise that for FPR it is likely to be frustrating.

One thing that I have realised during the two holidays is that I really do need to have a look at how I live my life and what changes it would be wise to make. So, that is what I have started doing. Already! We arrived home on Friday evening and I started changing things this morning (Sunday). Pretty good going, huh?

During the time since I finished working, craft activities have taken up a large proportion of my time. I love to make things and I love to give the things I make to others, especially if the items could help them. Consequently I have huge amounts of crafting materials stashed in various places around our home. I have particularly large amounts of fabric and knitting yarn. I need to pass some of those materials to other people who can use them as I simply cannot do anywhere near as much crafting now as I was able to do a couple of years ago. Consequently, I am having to break down the life I was living and the activities I enjoyed doing and rebuild them into manageable pieces that I can cope with. As I mentioned above, I have begun that process today. I have sorted some of my fabric lengths and decided to donate several of them in a particular direction. Much of the stuff that I have was given to me to use for charitable purposes so, obviously, I must be mindful of that when deciding who I should give to. I think this process is going to take some time but I think it will be time well spent. At the end of it, I hope to be able to concentrate on using my energy on projects that give me a different kind of joy to that which I am used to experiencing through my crafting. In some ways, what I am working towards could be seen as quite selfish, but I feel that it is what I need to do to help me during these changing times. I need to find my new ‘normal’.

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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.

 

 

The Other Choice

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Morocco. February 2012

Last time I said about having a choice to make and went on to write about Fibro Feet. Well, today I am writing about the other option that was in my mind at that time: Tinnitus.

I have had Tinnitus since my early 20s. I clearly remember the first time I recognised that I could have different sounds in each ear, at the same time. It was in the village of Smarden, in Kent, just as I was about to get out of the car. (Just a useless piece of information for you.)

Tinnitus has a been a feature of day-to-day living for most of my adult life. Occasionally it would be severe but then it would settle down again: annoying and sometimes rather too intrusive, but not actually causing any problems. However, since the onset of the Fibromyalgia, the tinnitus has worsened considerably. I’m not saying that the worsening is solely due to the Fibro as some of my medication mentions that Tinnitus can be a side effect, but I certainly believe that Fibro has contributed to the worsening of the condition. I am finding that, more and more, Tinnitus is interfering with my actual ability to hear and distinguish sounds. For quite a long time I have sometimes had to struggle to tell whether a noise is in the environment or just inside my head, but now I find that there are occasions when the noise in my head is so loud and intrusive that it obscures environmental sounds to some extent. The obscuration can range from very slight to almost complete. I don’t think it is affecting my ability to hear speech as that seems to be pretty good but, if FPR asks me is I can hear a certain sound, I can struggle to hear it. It’s not nice! And I don’t like it!

I know that many people with Tinnitus suffer far more than I. I am grateful that mine is not considerably worse and I feel deeply for the suffering that those people constantly live with. My complaint is not so much that I have Tinnitus, it’s that the effects of it are another thing about Fibro that eats away at my self esteem. Bits of me are being stolen by Fibro and other conditions that I have: my brain no longer works as efficiently as I have been used to, my ability to cope with stress is practically non-existent, my body doesn’t function as well and, now, my hearing is being impinged upon. It feels like I am losing being me, that I am being taken over by another being (Fibro). I don’t know but perhaps I am afraid that I will be so completely subsumed by Fibro that I won’t be me, I’ll just be Fibro living in my body.

I think that, probably, most people take their bodies and brains for granted. I certainly did. However, when that edifice starts to crumble, it can be a struggle to find who one is in the rubble. I am still searching.

 

Things That Go Bump In The Night

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My lovely boy.

During the long, dark nights of Winter, many people like to share scary stories and so, on this dark winter’s morning I thought I would continue that tradition, albeit my timing is somewhat out. It’s a bit of an odd thing for me to do as I don’t enjoy being frightened. I have only ever watched one horror film: it was more than 45 years ago and it still gives me the creeps when it comes into my mind!

The start of my scary story is something of a cliché…

It was a cold, dark winter’s night and a gale was howling. There was no moon. Everywhere was black as coal: too dark to see anything. A bat skimmed by, leaving a whisper of its flight. A single, almost silent tap was heard, like a fingernail lightly touching glass. Suddenly that tiny sound exploded into a cacophonous clatter. The noise was deafening. It completely engulfed the cry of the rushing wind. Nothing existed but the sound which completedly overwhelmed the senses. There was an absolute knowledge of a cataclysmic happening. Life-changing. Earth shattering. Everything was obliterated by the intensity of the crushing and crashing. (*pauses dramatically)

It was the sound of Fibro Fog indelicately shoving all of Bossymamma’s marbles towards the brain’s Emergency Exit!

Ladies and gentlemen, Bossymamma’s marbles have left the building.

Fibro Fog rules in Bossymamma’s world.

You don’t think that’s very scary? Hmm. Try it. Try reading something, acting on it, making a telephone call about it and, during the call, realising that what you read was not what was written down. Try writing down some important information, only to find that you have changed just about every pertinent detail. Try having an apparently serious conversation with someone you have never met before and, halfway through a sentence, your brain turns to mush and, not only have you forgotten what you were going to say, but the entire discussion no longer makes any sense to you. Or, how about sorting your medication into dosette boxes, only to discover that you have made a confusing hash of it and have no idea what you’ve done or how to correct it? Believe me, it really does feel as though my marbles are AWOL.

But,

It’s not always like that. Sometimes my mind is as clear, as organised and as logical as it ever has been. Sometimes I can function like Me, Well, I suppose that should read “like the Me that I used to be”. However, I don’t want it to be the Me that I was, I want it to be the Me that I still am. It feels as though I am disappearing: being swallowed by Fibromyalgia and irrevocably changed by it. I’m not ready for me to vanish. Bits of me have been disappearing for years. Stress, anxiety and depression have taken their toll, eroding me. I used to be someone who coped, organised, did things, got others to do things, but that has been slipping away, to be replaced by a very different person – possibly one who is easier for others to be near, but not easier to actually be. Mind you, I haven’t completely given up.

Yesterday an article showed up in my Facebook Newsfeed. It discussed reasons why people with Fibromyalgia don’t like talking on the telephone. One sentence, in particular, stood out for me:

‘Personally, I really dislike speaking to strangers on the phone because I don’t want to appear stupid. At least if it’s someone I know well, I can say, “Sorry, I just had a fibro moment. Can you repeat that?” ‘

I have made a few telephone calls over the past couple of days during which Fibro Fog has made itself felt. However, unlike the author of that article, I am unconcerned about the possibility of appearing stupid. You see, I know that I’m not stupid and that is more important to me than the opnion of someone on the other end of a telephone. The way that I deal with Fibro Fog interfering in a conversation, either in person or on the telephone, is to tell the other person that I have a medical condition that sometimes turns my brain to mush and asking them to repeat what they have said, or explain it another way so that I can take it in. What I am telling them, in effect, is that I expect them to take some responsibility for ensuring that they are helping me to understand. I don’t think that’s unreasonable. How often have you heard someone say about computing, for example, that they ask their son/daughter/grandchild to show them? Then they go on to say that said son/daughter/grandchild just touches a few buttons and does it without explaining, so they don’t learn. It’s the same thing, isn’t it? What’s the point of me asking and then pretending that I have understood, when I haven’t? I’m not ready to sit quietly in the corner like a good little disabled person.

 

 

 

I Must Go Shopping!

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Lettie is feeling a little chilly

Hello there. This will have to be a quick post as I am in a hurry to go shopping. I think John Lewis would be a good place to go but I may need to call in at a supermarket, too.

What do I need to buy so urgently, you ask. Well, our cutlery is looking a little the worse for wear so it would be as well to refresh that drawer. I think I shall buy a set with more place settings as we seem to use them all in no time at all. The situation is particularly bad with the spoons. It seems as though even first thing in the morning there are few usable spoons around. Not only that, but everything seems to need more spoons than usual. Just sitting in the chair, thinking about standing up, often feels as though it is using several of that day’s spoons. I think this is probably the worst patch of fatigue I have had since I was first diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. It would be easy to think “it’s not fair” but it doesn’t help. If anything, it makes things slightly worse. Mentally, I cope better if I keep away from the “Why me?” thoughts. I don’t know whether that would be the same for others but I suspect it may well be.

So, what about the supermarket? I need to dash (!) in there for some window cleaner. Everything is looking foggy so I think the windows must need cleaning. [Yes, I know, it’s corny but I just felt like being silly – on purpose, for a change!]

Actually, at the moment the Fibro Fog doesn’t seem particularly funny. Things have moved on from thinking one thing and saying another. This morning I was sorting out my medication and filling my weekly pill boxes. Things seemed to be going fairly well until I had filled the final box. I noticed that there was a half-full blister pack sticking out of a box. I had deliberately placed the pack that way after using it for the penultimate box as I knew I would be emptying it for the final box. However, once I had filled that box, I noticed that that pack was still half-full! I had put a different (and wrong) type of tablet in each day’s compartment of that box. I had no idea which type of medication I had wrongly used, although, luckily, I recognised which pill it was in each section and was able to remove it. It was a scary moment. Have I reached a point where I cannot be trusted to deal with my own medication? I really don’t want that to be the case… Really, really, really.

That mistake has given me a fright. However, I am not going to panic. I am going to allow myself to calm down and to mull things over. I need to recognise the best way to deal with this. I hope I manage to do so.

 

Nice And Easy Does It

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Singapore, May 2015

For the past two or three weeks (actually, it’s probably longer than that), I have been living quietly. By ‘quietly’ I mean that I haven’t been rushing about: instead I have been doing things when I feel like doing them, resting when I feel like resting, getting up and going to bed when I feel like it – you know the sort of thing. Some of the time it has been through choice, the rest of the time it hasn’t. I have been trying to give my body a chance to recharge its batteries. That may sound odd coming from someone who has problems with fatigue caused by Fibromyalgia, but it has felt as though I needed to have a bit of ‘slow’ time.

It has been an odd state of affairs, this slow time. For a start, I dislike being disabled by the fatigue. It is dreadfully frustrating not to be able to do things that I have been looking forward to, but, after a while, it just felt right to slow things down a bit. I had recently returned, after a long break, to a group that meets on Thursday evenings and I was thoroughly enjoying it. However, I was finding that for probably half of the time, I was too weary to be able to attend. Instead of railing against fate, I decided that my default position would be that I was unable to go to the meetings. That way, if I felt bright enough to go, it would be a big, fat bonus, rather than suffering the disappointment of missing it when the fatigue was playing up. I must say, making that particular decision has made it easier to cope with not being able to attend. At this point, I was going to say that perhaps I should adopt this strategy for everything, but I think that would be a bad thing. It would be a terribly pessimistic standpoint so I don’t think it would work. For the moment, it’s enough to use it just for the Thursday evening group.

I am finding that I am having to keep adjusting the way I live with the Fibro. I suppose much of that is because the Fibro has changed and has been affecting me differently over the last several months. For the time being, I don’t mind the ebb and flow – which is a good thing – but it remains to be seenhow long that remains true. For now, I shall continue on my slow journey, with occasional bursts of speed – not only in my lovely car!

Support Group, Anyone?

My lovely boy.

My lovely boy.

I think I have mentioned previously on here that I don’t read up on Fibromyalgia. When a new symptom appears, I make a quick search online to see if it is connected to Fibro. When I was first diagnosed I made the mistake of reading about it, but I very soon recognised the error of my ways. For many people, learning about their condition is an important and useful part of living with it. However, I find that I cope better if I don’t know. I’m the same when it comes to having any treatments. In fact, I am so bad that a consultant once operated on me, rather than carrying out the lesser [and more appropriate] treatment, because he knew I wouldn’t be able to cope with being awake and aware of what was going on! His was exactly the right course of action. I like to know the details after the event, not before.

Anyway, when I was diagnosed with Fibro, as well as reading about it, I joined a few support groups on Facebook. One year on, I am thinking of leaving those that I haven’t already ceased to be part of. Let me say at this point that, in general, I think support groups can be a marvellous thing but, for me, when it comes to Fibro, they are not really helping. Allow me to explain why.

You will have noticed that I don’t tend to have much pain associated with my Fibro. I have several other symptoms that cause difficulties for me, but pain is not one of them. However, pain is what most people equate with Fibro. Usually, if I tell someone I have Fibro, if they have any knowledge at all about the condition, they make the immediate assumption that I suffer a lot of pain. This seems to hold true within support groups, also. It feels to me, that many people with Fibro, will not believe that someone has Fibro if they don’t have the pain associated with it. It’s almost as though they are wishing the pain upon people! Not only that, but often, people who do have pain can come across as quite aggressive in the way that they speak. Some of the posts I have read in a couple of the Facebook groups are quite unpleasant. Now, I know that being in pain can cause anyone to be short-tempered, but it doesn’t excuse the nasty comments that I have seen in what is supposed to be a support group.

I have seen the phrase “Fibro Warrior” used to describe people living with Fibro. OK, be a warrior if you want to, but please remember that the ‘enemy’ is Fibromyalgia, not your fellow sufferers!

I know that I am not the only person who has noticed this phenomenon as within the last couple of weeks someone else mentioned it in a post that we were both responding to. Indeed, within just the past few days, I have seen a woman being verbally attacked by another member of a particular support group because she goes to work. The assumption of some people with Fibro seems to be that no-one with Fibro is able to work: they seem to forget that everyone’s experience of Fibromyalgia is different. That difference is not wrong, it’s just different.

As for the support groups, I haven’t yet made a definite decision about whether to stay or to leave. I shall probably just go with the status quo, for the time being.