Over the last year, since lockdowns forced me to rethink my lifestyle and how important my health is, I’ve made a decision to start putting myself first and it has really changed my outlook on life. Below are 6 ways I get the most out of life despite living with chronic pain and fatigue:
I now enjoy the smaller things. Something as simple as going for a walk can be so relaxing and turn my day from awful to OK or from average to great. Being out in the fresh air even on my worst day can really help my mental health. Spending time with my loved ones, even just watching a film together, is more than enough to make me happy.
I used to be a people pleaser, always putting others first but I found with fibromyalgia it means I neglect my own health. I now sort out my own needs before I help others which may seem selfish to those who don’t suffer with chronic pain and fatigue but to me it is the only way I do more than survive, the only way I can get up the next day and carry on rather than be forced to rest as I used the last of my energy helping someone else.
I now make plans on my terms, only agreeing if I am certain I want to go and that I have enough rest time before and after so I still feel alive. I used to be a yes person, unable to help myself, but I now prioritise what matters most to me and I know what I will and won’t enjoy so I don’t end up in bed suffering for something I didn’t want to do in the first place.
Pacing is the best thing that I never knew I needed. Everyone went on at me for ages about how important it is, but now that I’ve started I have to keep it up. Pacing is all about having regular breaks from whatever activity I am doing, and making sure I don’t overdo it. It can be a bit of a juggling act as my limits change daily but I mostly know when I need to stop now after a lot of practice. It means I still have a good quality life whilst achieving what I want in smaller chunks. It isn’t ideal but it means I can enjoy what I love without too many of the fibromyalgia consequences.
I’ve learnt that some things are worth the pain. I used to be so afraid of the pain and fatigue that I would avoid going anywhere or making any memories. It would consume me and I just hid away from the world. It wasn’t good for my self esteem or social life. When I really want to do something that I know will end in a flare up, I try to book holiday off work or plan in breaks or even work it around days off to ensure I have the time and space to rest.
Finally, some days are going to be bad. Having a chronic illness means that my symptoms fluctuate and sometimes no matter how much I try to avoid it, a flare up will sneak up and snatch everything away from me at the worst time. You are allowed to have bad days and be sad and mourn your healthy life. We are I’m an eternal grieving process and we cannot help being ill. You’ve just got to remember that you have survived all your worst days so far and there will always be better days 💜