I made this graphic to display my new mantra: "I have Fibromyalgia, but it doesn't have me!" It doesn't always feel true, but it is what I strive and pray for. At the very least, the phrase reminds me that I don't have to live in defeat to my Fibromyalgia. I can live in peace, no matter what my physical state, and have joy if I keep my focus right. :)
So...The title of this post is "What I've Learned"...That covers a lot of things.
- I've learned that I am not perfect. I know! Quite the shock! I am an imperfect being with flaws who messes up on a daily basis. I am not the "Martha Stewart" type. I don't have a model figure. I have good kids, but they don't always have that amazing mom who has all the answers, and they are not always the epitome of little darlings that never do anything wrong signifying that I haven't "arrived" in terms of child rearing. I am not the perfect wife who always has the house spotless or has dinner ready or has the laundry done or greets my husband at the door with a kiss and a smile on my face, perfectly dressed and made-up or who always gets up with my husband when he leaves for work in the wee hours of the morning to make sure he's got everything he needs and to kiss him good-bye. I sometimes forget. I sometimes say things I don't mean. I don't always feel like reading my Bible or having a proper attitude. The list could go on and on, too, I'm sure. You know what, though? I am not supposed to be perfect. I am supposed to be real. I am supposed to be me, in all my flawed glory, and strive to fix what is fixable and accept that it is not about perfection. It is about showing the world, and my Savior, my heart and striving to improve for Him, to be like Him, to love like Him, to show the world just how amazing God is through my eyes, to apologize when I mess up and try to do better next time, and remember that God knows I will NEVER be perfect, and that's why He sent His Son to die for me so that I can live forever with Him one day anyway. Imagine that? He wants me despite it all. I'll never get over that. So, I'm ok with being imperfect...as long as I have my perfect Savior by my side to help me through it all. :)
- I've learned that Fibromyalgia is effected by 3 things: food, attitude and environment.
- Food: I have to eat right (i.e. the more whole and natural the food, the better, especially veggies and fruit) and avoid my food triggers (so far they are soy, processed food, too much sugar or the wrong type (I can eat cane sugar, maple syrup, molasses and honey in moderation), artificial sweeteners, chocolate (other than Nestle's Dark Chocolate Morsels or cocoa powder), and peanuts (though natural peanut butter and unsalted peanuts don't seem to bother me so much, but the other types/kinds definitely do, but generally only if I have too much which is basically more than a serving or 2 per day)).
- Attitude: I have to make sure that I stay calm and not over-react, and if I don't that leads to issues, from pain to fatigue. This can be a struggle because it's like a vicious cycle. I can be tired and then get cranky, which makes me hurt, which makes me cranky, which makes me tired, which makes me cranky...You get the picture? It is very important that I keep in God's Word and pray daily, that I stay in church, that I surround myself with family and good, Christian friends and that I make time each day to be alone to re-center myself (several times a day if need be, and normally it only takes a few seconds to minutes, but not always). When I feel the stress building, I have to give myself a time-out of sorts and go into another room if possible, close my eyes, take a deep breath and confess to God that I'm about to lose it and that I know if I lose it, it's going to snowball on me, so I need His help! He will come to my aid every time if I let Him. I know that may sound strange, but sometimes I like to hang onto my anger and frustration because I feel justified in it. I just KNOW that I was right and he/she was wrong, and I'm just gonna fester! That's a HUGE no-no for me, but yet it is one of those nasty habits that seems to want to hang on some days. It is part of my "work in progress" self, and something that I need prayer for.
- Environment: By this I mean weather as well as scenery. If it is cold, I hurt, plain and simple. I need to always carry a sweater or blanket, and sometimes that gets me looked at which can make me a bit self-conscious which doesn't help things, but that's when I refocus and ask for God's help to ignore the stares and give me strength to explain if need be. Also, when things are dreary or messy, it's hard not to suddenly feel overwhelmed. This is something I have to give to God and ask for His help to find the "silver lining". It is not easy, but it's not impossible. It's one of the big things on my prayer list right now, too. I keep telling myself, "This, too, shall pass," which is something I heard all the time growing up. Nothing in this life is permanent, including messes and nasty/cold weather - just breathe, ask God for help, and do what you can.
- I've learned that Fibromyalgia is silent. It is not an obvious condition in most cases. Most people could look at me and not have the faintest clue that I have a chronic condition. I look like your average, healthy (albeit overweight) woman who looks ready to take on the world. I don't have a rash, I don't have obvious swelling (though sometimes I do), I don't have braces on my legs or other joints or for my back (though I know some people with Fibromyalgia who do), I don't use a cane or have a wheel chair (though I know those who do), I don't look "ill"...and that makes this condition a million times worse. People say thoughtless things to that regard. They look at you like you're crazy when you tell them you can't sleep at nights or you have powerful mood swings you cannot control or you hurt everywhere like you've been hit by a truck or when you tell them if you eat thus and so you'll be unable to move properly for days. It's like your watching life through a body you are not able to control, and you scream and holler for it to do what you want it to do JUST ONCE, and it's like it laughs at you, mocks you...THAT is the silent struggle only those with Fibromyalgia, or others with similar conditions, can understand. Thing is, I don't really mind that other people don't understand Fibromyalgia - I'm kinda thrilled they've never experienced anything like it. I just want them to BELIEVE me, take me at my word, hug me if it's appropriate and say they are praying for me. I really don't want to hear "I understand" from someone who cannot possibly understand, but "I'm praying for you" goes a really long way. If you're reading this and you've ever said anything without thinking that may have come across as hurtful (I did it, too), learn from it and do better next time; apologize if need be, but don't beat yourself up for it. You couldn't possibly know what it's like, so I wouldn't hold you accountable for a stray word offered in what you thought was help. Just take what I said to heart and keep it in mind for next time. :) And, no, I don't have anyone in mind; I'm just speaking my heart.
- I've learned that Fibromyalgia is individual. Oh, sure, we all have triggers, but those are not always the same for everyone. What foods bother me, may not bother you. The things that stress me, may not stress you. Cold bothers me, but may not bother you. Though I love hearing what helped you or a loved one, though I love reading the latest and greatest information on the web or in books, keep in mind this truth: Fibromyalgia has no hard and fast rules. I have been advised to go gluten-free and even grain-free, and I am willing to if need be, but cutting them out has not made a difference in me, so I am not planning on doing that any time soon. However, I do notice a difference in white flour vs. say whole grains. Your run-of-the-mill white flour can bother me, but not say whole grain oats or bran or whole wheat flour that's not processed to death. I still have to watch how much I get, but I think it's like that for anyone. I also have been told (via various means, including articles) to limit tomatoes and potatoes, to cut out corn, to cut out sugar, to cut out coffee and chocolate, to cut out dairy, to take more vitamins, to take only certain types of vitamins, to get off vitamins, to eat fish, to avoid fish, to eat soy, to not eat soy, to never get another shot, to avoid medications, to stop taking meds all together, to add more meds, to amp up my amount of whole grains, to eat peppers, to not eat peppers, to exercise more, to exercise less, to sleep on a hard bed, to sleep on a soft bed - you see the amount of conflicting information out there? Some of you are laughing, I know, but you have to remember, all this advise was given to help. It's what's worked for them or for people they know and love. I take it all with a grain of salt and search through it all, pray about it and see what works for me. It may not be what worked for you or your loved one, but it is what is good and right and perfect for me.
- I've learned that God is a whole lot bigger than I first realized. I feel so much smaller than I ever have in my entire life, and I'm glad for it in so many ways. I have to rely less and less on my strength, and more and more on His. I have to turn to Him more and more just to make it through the next 5 minutes, let alone the rest of the day. I am grateful for that gift. Life is so much sweeter when you are letting the Lord fill you with His strength, mercy and grace. It doesn't mean I feel great when I give it over to God - I still have the pain or fatigue and the urge to be depressed/anxious doesn't immediately go away - but I get His peace, His light, and suddenly there is the way out, the light at the end of the tunnel, and I know it will be ok...no matter what. Hope is such a great feeling.
- I've learned that having to change my diet again has its perks. I have lost 8 or 9 lbs. now, and that makes me very happy! :) I also have more energy and need less pain meds, and that's always a plus! :)
- I've learned that I have an amazing husband, family and church. They have been so supportive and pray for me all the time. My hubby doesn't get upset with me when something remains undone and he tries to help where he can, my sweet boys are more than willing to help, and my darling little girl is so quick to offer hugs, and that only scratches the surface of it. My church family, my extended family and friends, too, nearly always have words of encouragement for me, are there to offer hugs and are ready to pray with me or for me, too, whenever I need them. Having such a great support group is key with Fibromyalgia, that's for sure!
That's not everything, but it's enough for now. :) I hope that in some way this post has been an encouragement to you, but (if not) at least informative. Have a great day, and thanks again for reading me!
P.S. If you like my little picture above, there is a code for it as a badge on the sidebar. Feel free to add it to your blogs, Facebook, etc. or share it with friends and family who you think could find benefit from this blog. I only ask that you use it as it was meant to be used and not represent it as your own work. Thanks. :)