Tag Archives: chronic fatigue

Energy!

11 Mar

Chronic illness cat

 

Chronic illness cat, you speak the truth.

Gentle hugs,

Chels

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Physical Therapy and Fibro – What I learned in 5 Weeks

28 Jul

I’ve finished my 5 week physical therapy session! My primary care doctor referred me to the orthopedic sports medicine center for PT in an attempt to help with my FMS symptoms. I was happy to do it, because if I can avoid taking more medication, and learn new ways to manage my pain, I’m all for it. Luckily, my mom has gone to PT a few times over the past several years, and I’m familiar with the staff at OSM. So, my therapist was already a little familiar with me and my symptoms, and that always helps in any health related situation.

There are some exercises I really love (not because I’m excited about exercise, necessarily, but because they do seem to help,) and there are some exercises that seem to exacerbate my symptoms. Here’s what I learned in my 5 weeks of PT:

1. You don’t have to do all of the exercises all at once. My therapist helped me figure this one out. She essentially gave me permission to spread out the exercises, and listen to my body. She suggested that if I had used my upper body more one day, or had more pain in my upper body, to just concentrate on core or leg exercises, and vice versa. This helped me not be so hard on myself. I tend to overdo when I have a little energy, so it kept me from causing myself more pain, and feeling guilty for not being able to do all the exercises I wanted to.

2. You can do the resistance exercises without the resistance. For me, the resistance exercises (with the band,) were more harmful than helpful. I have a reoccurring pain/knot in my right neck and shoulder area that causes a lot of pain down into my arm and hand. Nearly every time I used the band, I’d hurt for a week. So, I started doing some of those exercises without the band. I told my therapist, and she was totally fine with it. Of course, it’s not going to give the exact same results, but you’ll at least be mimicking the motions.

3. I’m stronger than I thought. Thankfully, I lead a relatively active life, and was active before the fibro symptoms started, but I’d been down on myself lately for not being as active as I want to be. It turns out, my core is pretty darn strong. My therapist was surprised, probably because I’d mentioned how I’m not as active as I want to be, and let me know that my core was stronger than I thought. When you have fibro, it’s especially important to have a strong core, because it affects the way the rest of your body moves, and can give you better posture when sitting and standing. That means you can sit and stand longer, which may not sound like a big deal to those without fibro or chronic pain or fatigue, but it’s a big deal! Sitting and standing for long periods of time are two of the biggest issues with FMS, and cause a lot of pain.

4. My left side really is weaker than my right side. I’ve always said that I tend to have more pain on my right, and more weakness on my left, and now I have proof. My left side is wobbly, y’all, but that’s ok! Now I have specific exercises to bring that side up to speed. It’s not uncommon for one side of your body to be more <insert adjective here> than the other. Our bodies are asymmetrical, our brains work differently for each side, and most of us have a dominant side, so it’s something everyone experiences. It may just be a little more obvious when you’re doing PT.

5. I shouldn’t have donated our exercise ball. Why, oh why did I get rid of that bouncy thing? Some of the most effective exercises can be done on an exercise ball, and just sitting on one can strengthen your core, lower body, improve posture, and balance. Time to find a new one!

6. I still needed to increase my meds. The main reason my doc referred me to PT was to avoid giving me more medication. Unfortunately, after several years, the Tramadol I take for pain doesn’t last as long. I started waking up in the middle of the night in pain, and experiencing breakthrough pain during the day. She and I agree on taking a whole body approach, and avoiding medication whenever possible. After a few weeks of PT, though, it was clear to me that I needed the one extra dose a day I asked for at my appointment. I don’t need to take more every single day, but now my prescription allows for me to take that extra dose if I need it. It’s not a failure, though, it just means that my body is changing, so I have to honor that.

I hope that you’ll consider adding some physical therapy to your pain management routine. The stretches have been the most helpful for me, but you may find that another kind of exercise helps you. You will have to take things slowly, and that’s fine. Allow your body to adapt to the new activity – it’s a challenge in and of itself.  Talk to your doc and see if PT is something that could help lessen your pain and possibly increase your energy level.

Gentle hugs,

Chels

How to move like a boss (with chronic illness.)

15 May

The apartment is a little crazy right now, with some things in boxes, and some things being sorted out for donations. While I’m in moving mode, I thought I’d share some tips to make moving cheaper and easier for you, especially if you have chronic health issues.

Start packing in advance. Rather than waiting until the day of, or even a couple of days before, your move, start packing things as far in advance as possible. Pack a little bit at a time, beginning with decorative things, or things you rarely use. Pack up your kitchen with the exception of a couple of plates, cups, and necessary utensils, that you can use for the next few weeks. (You may even realize that you don’t need all of those plates and cups, anyway.) Starting several weeks before you move means that there will be nothing to do but move boxes on the big day, and it means that if you have a flare or an especially bad pain day close to the move, you won’t have the stress of trying to get everything done while you feel awful.

Donate, donate, donate. You will find, as you start packing early, that there are some things you forgot you even had. As you pack, designate a few trash bags or boxes for donations to your local Goodwill, church, or mission. This year, our donations are going to a friend who’s organizing a yard sale fundraiser for her friend’s son who was recently diagnosed with leukemia. If you’re unable to take your donations to the charity of your choice, see if they’ll pick them up at your home, or if a friend or family member can take them for you. By donating, you’ll save yourself time and energy moving things you no longer need or want.

Our donations (so far!) Notice I only used a couple of boxes; the rest is in trash bags.

Our donations (so far!) Notice I only used a couple of boxes; the rest is in trash bags.

Sell, sell, sell. Moving can be expensive, even if you’re frugal. There are application fees, deposits, possible repair costs, and you may have to pay to set up internet or utilities. So, if you have some “big ticket” items you’ve decided you no longer need, sell them! Furniture, new clothing and shoes, electronics, and gently used tools are good examples of items that are sale-worthy. All it takes is a couple of good photos, a price, and Facebook or Craigslist. (Be sure to let people know if they’ll need to pick up whatever it is you’re selling.) I posted pictures and information about our chest of drawers on Facebook, and within an hour, it was sold! If you aren’t sure what to price something, take a look on Craigslist or Ebay for similar items. Put that money aside to be used specifically for moving expenses, and your wallet won’t suffer.

Organize as you go.  This is a life saver. While you’re sorting out your donation and sale items, you may as well organizing what you’re keeping, right? Making sure like items are together, putting them in organizational containers, and labeling them as you pack will save you a ton of time and frustration.

*If you find an item in your bedroom that should go with your bath items, resist the urge to go ahead and throw it in with your bedroom things! Make a pile to the side of items that don’t belong, and when you’re done in one room, take them with you to their rightful place. It may seem like you’re saving time by just tossing unlike items in the same box or bag, but you’ll be so glad that you didn’t when it comes time to unpack.

*Utilize space-saving containers, like plastic bins that can be slid under the bed, or rolling plastic drawers that can be easily moved, as you pack. It’s wonderful when your office, bath, kitchen, and/or garage items are already packed in their respective clear or color-coded storage containers. You can also use vacuum seal bags or Ziploc bags in various sizes to store out of season clothing, or small craft supplies to save room. The money you may spend on new, more durable storage containers will be offset by the money you won’t have to spend when you move again, or when you decide your space needs to be more organized. There’s less to pack and unpack, the containers are easy to identify, and quick to store. Hint: Dollar General, Dollar Tree, and Family Dollar are gold mines when it comes to small and large storage containers. Think outside the box for small containers, too, like ones for organizing drawers, and check out the kitchen area, where plastic trays, bowls, and cups are just waiting to be used.

More Dollar Tree containers hold all of my craft supplies on wire shelving. Labeled, of course!

More Dollar Tree containers hold all of my craft supplies on wire shelving. Labeled, of course!

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These are my embroidery supplies, in a container from Dollar Tree, and the floss is separated by color in Ziploc bags.

*Label everything. If it’s going in a box or bag, label with box with what’s inside, and which room it belongs to with a Sharpie. If you’ve organized your belongings in the aforementioned awesome storage containers, invest in a label maker to identify what’s inside. Use sticky notes or plain old paper and tape to mark to which rooms the containers go, and you can remove them easily as you go.

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My handy label maker put to good use!

My handy label maker put to good use!

FREE is good. Use what you have. After you begin organizing your things in plastic containers and drawers, you may find that there’s not a whole lot left that needs to be packed in boxes. To avoid making an extra trip and spending more money, use things you have around your home to pack the rest. Use trash bags, plastic and reusable shopping bags to contain pillows and bedding. Use spare, clean blankets and towels to protect fragile items, like collectibles, plates and glasses, or even furniture. (You can also put an old blanket under a piece of furniture to easily slide it across the floor when moving.) If you need boxes, check Craigslist.com’s “free” section, or utilize your Facebook page to see if anyone has spare boxes you can use. While you’re at the grocery store or dollar store, check to see if they have any boxes they’re throwing away. They’re usually more than happy to let you have them.

Plastic and reusable shopping bags to pack up the craft room, and an old bedding package to hold all of my fabric scraps in one place.

Plastic and reusable shopping bags to pack up the craft room, and an old bedding package to hold all of my fabric scraps in one place.

Make a list. If you easily get distracted or forget things, like I do, create a list. Need to turn in keys? Need to have the old place cleaned by a certain time? List things in order of importance, and you’ll be less likely to get stuck scrubbing the bathroom by yourself at 11:45 p.m.

Ask for help! Now is the time to decide if you want to hire movers, or enlist your family and friends. Sometimes it’s more than worth it to hire movers; look for a company that only charges you to move, so that you can do the packing yourself. That way, you don’t have to do any heavy lifting, but you’ll know where all of your things are once you’re settled into your new place. If your friends are helping, see if you can incorporate a truck or two in the mix. Larger vehicles = fewer trips, and that makes everyone happy. If no one you know drives a large vehicle, rental trucks are available through moving companies, but sometimes you’ll find a better deal at a hardware store, so don’t forget to check yours. Remember that more volunteers to move your stuff isn’t always better. Depending on the amount you’re moving, 4-6 people will make the time fly by, and there’ll be less confusion about where your furniture and boxes should go.

I know some of this may seem like common sense, or maybe even a little anal retentive, but it’s all helped us keep our sanity in the past, so I hope these tips help ease the pain of your next move!

Gentle hugs,

Chels

The new normal. (How not to torture yourself with unrealistic expectations.)

21 Aug

When you adjust to a life change that limits your physical and mental abilities even slightly, it takes patience. For a recovering perfectionist and independent like me, it’s a sometimes excruciating process.  So, I’d like to share some things I’ve learned so far.

1. Your new normal. In most ways you’re the same person, but, let’s be real, there are things you can’t do that you used to be able to do. It may be a sport or a technical skill, or it may be something as simple as enjoying a night out with your friends. The key is not to compare your normal to anyone else’s, or, perhaps more importantly, your old version of normal. If you need to make your goals and achievements smaller, that’s okay. It doesn’t make your accomplishments any less significant! If all you can manage to do today is get out of bed, brush your teeth, and take a shower, then you’ve done three things, and you should be proud. Those three things could be the equivalent of running a day’s worth of errands during your old normal.

2. Be honest and patient. Some people will understand and try to adapt to your new normal, and others might get frustrated or take it personally that you aren’t able to spend as much time with them or do the things you used to do together. Be as honest with yourself and your family and friends as you can. Explain to them what your limitations are now, and why. Just like you’re expecting them to have patience with you, have patience with them if they forget you can’t do something, or if you’re left out of an event because they just assume you wouldn’t be able to do it. They may not feel what you feel, but they’re going through this process with you, and, hopefully, trying to adapt.

3. You may lose a friend (or two.) It’s sad, but usually losing a friend over your illness has a silver lining. Not everyone you know may be emotionally capable of seeing you go through what you’re going through, in which case you’d spend the majority of your time and energy comforting them instead of taking care of yourself, anyway. It could also be that they were just a “seasonal” friend, or maybe not a good friend at all. If their friendship depends entirely on what you give them and not on what they can give to you, then, again, you could spend all your time and energy trying to keep up that dynamic, even if your health suffers for it. Remember that people handle stressful situations differently. That doesn’t make them bad people, just different, and you both may be better off going your separate ways.

4. Best buds. Just like you may lose someone you love, you’ll probably figure out which of your friends will stick by you no matter what. You may also form strong relationships with people you may not have been close to before. Someone may struggle with a similar illness, or they may really love staying inside and being a homebody – something you may have to get used to if you’re a person who likes to go out a lot. Be open to new friendships!

5. Body language. If you weren’t aware of your body before, now’s the chance to practice listening to it. I still have a tendency to overdo it on days that I feel better, but then I pay for it later. Understand how you need to treat yourself in order to prevent flares or unnecessary pain, and you’ll save yourself a lot of grief. Manage your time wisely, and spread out chores and responsibilities if you can. For instance, do one type of cleaning for 10-15 minutes a day, rather than cleaning your whole home at once.

6. S.O.S. When you learn how to listen to your body, you’ll learn that sometimes all the time management and pacing yourself doesn’t quite do the trick. You may have enough energy to go to the store, but you may not be able to carry all of the groceries. Ask an employee to load your car, and ask a friend or family member to help you unload when you get home. Believe me when I say that it’s not worth your pride to hurt yourself. Usually, the people who want to be there for you feel helpless when it comes to your illness, and asking for their help can benefit them just as much as it benefits you. As a friend at church said to me once, “Don’t deny someone a blessing by refusing their help.” If someone offers to help when you need it, just say yes.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned while coping with your illness?

Gentle hugs,

Chels

Touch

13 Aug

Touch is so important. Studies have shown that children who don’t receive physical touch develop literal skin hunger, and suffer from psychological effects. While I like my space, I grew up in an affectionate family, and I’m happy to give hugs and hold hands. It’s why I got my massage therapy license – I know how much touch can do to heal wounds people don’t even know they have.

It’s not uncommon for people to cry during a massage treatment, not because of physical pain, but because of the emotional release that can come with physical contact. I truly believe that we’ve created such busy lives for ourselves that we haven’t created time to recognize and honor our own emotions. It was a privilege to be a massage therapist while it lasted. Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with FM during the middle of school, and while I stubbornly finished my internship, took the certification test, and went on to massage professionally for several months, it proved too strenuous for me. (Massage therapy is on the list of the top 10 most physically strenuous professions.)

So, I practice what I’ve learned on myself, my husband, and occasionally my mom. One thing that my mom and I have always practiced is acupressure. My knowledge of the subject isn’t extensive, but I’ve helped more than one friend get rid of a headache using pressure points. If you’d like to try it yourself, here’s an easy to follow chart to try on your left hand:

The general suggestion is to hold the point firmly for 7-10 seconds.

For more info, visit webmd.com.

Massage and acupressure are considered medical treatments, and, as with any other treatment, you should consult your doctor before trying it. If you have arthritis, tumors or cysts in the massage area, cancer, or if you’re pregnant, you may want to avoid massage or acupressure altogether. (Massage has been linked to, but not proven to cause, contractions and early labor in pregnant women.)

Gentle hugs,

Chels

Undergarments = torture devices

5 Aug

 

Can I get an amen?

Gentle hugs,

Chels

Chronic fatigue is a bummer.

1 Aug

Like the tortoise. Just don’t give up!

Gentle hugs,

Chels