Climbing mountains (metaphorically speaking…) is something that those of us with fibro are well used to doing. When going through a flare up, everyday tasks are challenging and we struggle to do things that healthy people take for granted: being able to get out of bed, to shower, to dress, to leave the house, to run errands, to spend time with friends and family, to go to work etc. When you are in pain, it affects your mood, your ability to concentrate, your energy level and during a flare up, you can experience pain throughout your body, as well as numbness, tingling and stiffness. Over the course of two years, my health declined to the point where I felt old before my time and unable to fully function. I had to have intermittent sick days to be able to keep going in my job as a teacher and most days after school I would have to get in to bed to rest after a school day as I was so exhausted. Doing work after school such as marking and planning was out of the question which impacted on my ability to do my job properly. When it got to the point that I was also spending a significant amount of the weekend in bed, having to have food delivered all the time as I didn’t have the energy to make food for myself and the pain and stiffness had diminished my quality of life, then I knew I had to do something about it. I avoided going to the doctor for a long time as I was terrified I had MS (the symptoms are very similar to fibro) but eventually I was so miserable because of the struggle to lead a normal life every day that I made myself go get checked out. Getting a diagnosis was a complete game changer.
There is no cure for fibro but a year on from my diagnosis, I feel back to my old self and living a life I never thought possible. Obviously I still have fibro but I have very few symptoms these days. I don’t take any medication at all and no longer use the small dose of CBD oil that I used for a few weeks after stopping the Lyrica. I am not on any kind of special dietary plan either. Some people are under the impression that removing certain foods from your diet or incorporating various foods and supplements will help. Of course it is beneficial to eat a healthy balanced diet (that’s common sense) but everyone should eat what suits their body and if you feel better cutting out or including particular foods then do what works for you. I know that when you are enduring a flare up that you will try anything to feel better because I did the same thing. There is no secret remedy for my current period of wellness other than a radical change in my life.
For the last few years I was involved in a very stressful personal situation, an unhealthy romantic relationship, and doing a job that essentially sucked the life out of me. I genuinely loved my time as a teacher – being with students, mentoring them and guiding them through life is a privilege and I treasure the relationships I formed with the young people I cared for – but it is an incredibly demanding vocation and I gave it my all. As my work stress increased with responsibilities, my health deteriorated and something had to give. I made the decision to leave both the relationship and the job, not a decision taken lightly, and though the process was painful, it has given me my life back. I feel like I have shed the skin of the past and I’m now living life with better health and renewed enthusiasm.
To those of you currently struggling, trying desperately to manage the symptoms of fibro flare ups, my heart goes out to you. I can’t give you a quick fix cure to ease your pain, I can only share with you my story and perhaps give you hope that an improvement in your health is possible. I will always have fibro but I know that my flares are triggered and exacerbated by extreme emotional stress and as I move forward in my life, I am going to have to take care of myself and aim to keep stress on a manageable level. Those of you who have read my earlier blog posts know that I am taking an indefinite career break at the moment, travelling the world, and I fully realise how fortunate I am to be able to do that. Self-care on the road means I have to listen to my body, take rest breaks and have relaxing rest days when I need them and so far I’m feeling great.
This week I achieved something that a year ago I would have considered completely impossible. I climbed a mountain. Just a small one. It wasn’t Everest – but it was a personal Everest. It was a challenging uphill hike to see a beautiful church in Kazbegi, Georgia. I set off with a lovely group of people, telling them that I was determined to reach the top but I would probably be quite slow as I would have to go at my own pace. They were very understanding and supportive, waiting for me along the way (particularly my mate Rob) so I didn’t feel too left behind, and shouting encouragement. I can’t say I enjoyed the slog up there but I felt euphoric and a bit emotional when I reached the top. The stunning views were worth it. I’m proud of myself for giving it a go and for the brave steps I have taken to achieve the state of wellness I’m now enjoying. To all the other fibrowarriors out there, keep climbing those daily mountains and don’t give up. You got this!
Take care, Lisa.