Balancing the Bank Account

Managing my fibromyalgia is much like balancing my bank account. Days of rest and self-care are deposits building up the balance of energy and wellness. Events, travel, work, and the like are withdrawals from that reserve. As long as the withdrawals don't cause an overdraft, life is copacetic (relatively speaking). When the reserve is overdrawn, symptoms flare and my body is on the verge of bankruptcy. It's a tenuous balance. 

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Holy Cow

I grew up in rural farm country in Western New York, and my father had been raised on a farm, so farm yard adages were part of my vernacular from the very beginning. Farm life both requires and cultivates a deep connection and rhythm with nature. Before we all had weather apps on our Smart Phones, my family used to always predict an oncoming rain storm with two signs from Mother Nature: the leaves of the trees turned over so expose the underside, and the cows laid down. As a game when driving by a farm I'd often count the number of cows laying down, and we'd turn that into a percentage chance of rain. All highly scientific. However, it turns out there's truth in it. Changes in barometric pressure just before a storm actually do cause the cows pain in their legs, so cows lay down.

During the 3 month flare up I'm currently experiencing, the realization dawned on me that I am just like the cows.  

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Fortifying against the f-word

I'm currently on a business trip, my first in 2 months (the longest break I've had from travel in well over a year), and this comes just as I'm beginning to climb out of the deepest depths of the f-word I've ever experienced. I was really nervous leading up to this trip. I finally got back to at least a level of wellness where I could shower every day and actually raise my arms enough to wash my hair, I was terrified of seeing those advances wiped away. No one who has ever left what they qualify as their own rock bottom wants to end up back there again, but I knew this trip was serving up all my biggest triggers and pit falls. Yet, short of quitting my job, I had to come on this trip. So what's a girl to do?

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You can't control when it rains, but you can control if you're holding an umbrella

The f-word is not a static condition. it's a moving, breathing, living manifestation of pain that can change from day-to-day and month-to-month based on a number of factors. In the early years understanding what my pain vary so much in severity, location, and length of a flare up was nearly as baffling to me as it is to dress appropriately for the weather of day in Western New York in the spring. Over the years I've curated my own Farmer's Almanac of sorts which helps me better understand what triggers my symptoms, plan ahead to anticipate flare ups, and do what I can to proactively minimize said flare ups. 

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Speaking of vampires…

Seems like an awful lot of my life situations in some way relate to some CW vampire show, but that seems to be the case. First it was contemplating my heightened senses being a sign I clearly was transitioning to a vampire, alas I awoke the next day still very much human. Less than 24 hours later I found myself thinking about how my very human blood donation had the potential to wind up in the hands of the vampire equivalent of a vegetarian. If you're confused, first read the previous post, second go watch The Vampire Diaries. 

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It's all fun and games until you need a shot of toradol in the ass

5 migraines in 5 days. It almost sounds like some sort of masochistic world tour, but I didn’t even get a lousy t-shirt. What did I get? A shot of toradol in the ass and a veritable cocktail of intense short term pain meds. My migraines come with the focal aura premonition like sun spots bouncing around my visual field. Usually this signals me just about 30 minutes before the pain of the migraine strikes. Often it's actually quite handy. It's enough of an early warning system to alert me that I need to take my meds, drive home while I still can (if I'm at work), and brace myself for the impact of the migraine. This system is generally so reliable that over the years I've learned to never doubt it, and to take action when it appears.

But during this little world tour, it is really messing with me. 

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The M-Word

Migraines. Another chronic condition littering my already lengthy problem list of my medical record. And they f*ing suck. There's really just no other to put it. I'm on day 2 of 2 sudden migraine attacks that that have put me down for the count. Yesterday's struck during yoga class. Today's was during work. Sunday I at least had the ability to come home, curl up in a ball in bed with my eye mask on to block out all the lights, and my trust nurse Maddy curled up at my side. But when one strikes at work, options are more limited. So I improvised. My office mate after 2 years is used to the standard procedures to shut off our overhead fluorescent lights of pain, lower the blinds, and let me curl up in a ball on the floor with blankets we keep handy. As Office Mate of the Year, she also checks in as to when I need a wake-up call to be ready for my next meeting.

These small acts of kindness and understanding can make such a difference; and not just in terms of migraines. With any chronic pain, or even really any "invisible" illness for that matter, for others to acknowledge that our suffering is real is an immensely comforting thing. To have others willing to jump in and help give you what you need, when you need it, is huge.

Cherish those people who can empathize with you, and pay that empathy forward to others who struggle with something you might not have any personal experience or understanding of. 

If it no longer serves you, it's time to let it go

As part of my process of grieving the loss of my pre-fibromyalgia self, I took drastic action in the closet. Combined with the fact that I was now turning 30, I took a look at a large number of the clothes in my closet and realized that they were very much a part of the old Jess. Some clothes were ones I'd had since high school, another chunk from college, another group from my earliest days as a young professional. Each of these previous eras in my life were long passed. Many of the clothes had stuck with me for this long because, until recently, they all still fit. I began to realize maybe that wasn't the only metric I should be using to determine what got to stay and be worn regularly, and what had served its purpose and was ready to move on.

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After the f-word comes the g-word: Grieve

After the f-word comes the g-word: Grieve

The power of ceremony

And like the straight A student that I always was, I took this assignment seriously and got to work. A new moon occurred just a few days later, so I took advantage of the power of the lunar cycle to help me in this grieving process. Performing a private little ceremony for yourself helps to make the process more tangible than simply thinking about grieving. If the new moon ceremony feels weird to you, consider thinking of it as a funeral for the old you.

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The f-word… now what?

Let me be your cautionary tale. Learn from my mistakes. Reap the benefits of my 20/20 hindsight now. Quiet down your racing mind and take an honest inventory of how you're feeling. Don't brush anything under the rug. Don't pretend you don't see that scary monster of fear lurking in the dark places. Inventory it all with no judgements. There's no need to try to get rid of the feelings you don't want. There's just acknowledging, and accepting exactly where you're at in this time of the new diagnosis.

If Dr. Who and I took the TARDIS back in time to my diagnosis, here's what I think my honest inventory would have looked like.

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Road to a Diagnosis

I was 24, training for my first sprint triathlon, and in the best shape of my life. After having taken 4-5 years off from running to heal a stress fracture in my low back, acquired from my years of college lacrosse, I was finally back at it and feeling great. About a month before the race I started noticing a nagging pain in my left shin, which I assumed was no big deal and would heal with the post-race rest time. "No pain, no gain," and all that, right?

Wrong. 

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