A chronic pain in the ass…my experience with Fibromyaligia

by , on
12th November 2017

In 2005 I sustained an awful back injury whilst I was away on business in Inverness. I’d herniated two discs, damaged my sacroiliac joint and one of the major ligaments running from the back of my pelvis and into my right hip.

At the very instant I twisted (pulling a really heavy suitcase down a staircase in a hotel that didn’t have a lift), my instant reaction was “that should’ve hurt” and I went to breakfast, thinking I’d had a near miss. Fast forward two hours later and I’m interviewing candidates for a job role and panicking as my back is going into spasm and I’m wondering how I am going to get out of the chair, let alone home to Cheshire.  The pain was unreal.  I could hardly get up the stairs to get on the plane – the hostess took one look at me, handed me a bottle of brandy and said “sit there” (1A).

For three days, I couldn’t really do much at all and was sofa-bound. Standing took about five minutes and sitting and walking were extremely difficult and painful.  When I did get to the physiotherapist (about a week later) when she touched my lower back, I – involuntary -punched her.

So, for another two years, I was in constant pain with my back and considering that sitting exacerbated my compressed discs; the fact my job involved a lot of driving, was not exactly helping.

And then the tiredness started.  Crippling, draining, constant fatigue. There were also other symptoms – lack of concentration, dizziness, heart palpitations, clumsiness and of course, pain.  Perhaps worse of all was the inability to get a deep, restorative sleep – adding insult to injury when you’re desperately tired anyway.

Whether it’s understandable – or not – people were generally not particularly sympathetic.  I would fall asleep on nights out.  I even fell asleep on my friends hen-do in Paris watching the show at the Moulin Rouge.  ” You’re working too hard” was a common response “you need a holiday”.  The other gem was “you’re depressed” (of course I’m fu*!ing depressed, I’m getting no actual sleep you cretin) in a seemingly long line of diagnosis made by sudden medical professionals.

One day, I put my hand over my shoulder to scratch my back.  My nails were short yet it felt like someone had dragged a red hot rake across my muscles.  Concerned, I went to the doctor who had just been studying a condition called Fibromyalgia and my symptoms seemed to match.  Getting a diagnosis on the NHS was a non starter at that point, so I paid privately and got a formal confirmation that yes, my symptoms were conducive with the condition.

Getting a formal diagnosis though was really the first part of a long road into understanding what I was dealing with.  The private consultant prescribed me medication to help me sleep (Amitriptyline – which I couldn’t ultimately take because I wasn’t safe to drive the next morning) and told me to do more exercise (crucial to managing Fibromyalgia) when I was already walking several miles per day……..

Pretty soon; I realised that my ability to deal with the condition, was solely down to me.  At the end of the day, no-one else can manage your symptoms and everyone’s experience is different anyway.

Fortunately, there is much more awareness of Fibromyalgia nowadays – in particular since Lady Gaga revealed she developed it, following a serious injury to her hip.  Whilst there is ongoing research and therefore lots of new theories around it’s development; medical professionals do concur that the condition often starts following an infection or major injury to the skeletal structure.

 

So, if you’ve been diagnosed with Fibro – or another chronic pain based condition – don’t panic, help is out there.  The Internet is awash with information and updates and critically, the medical profession is much more understanding.  Here’s what I’ve learned about managing Fibromyalgia for myself.

  1. Listen to your body – be aware of what your body is telling you.  Where is your pain?  Does anything seem to make it worse?  Do you feel better in the mornings or at night?  Being in tune with what’s going on, will ultimately help you manage it.  For example, I need to get big jobs done during the daytime – after 8pm my concentration levels are really poor, so I avoid major projects.
  2. Get plenty of rest – we live in an age where everyone purports to be an Entrepreneur and sleep three hours a night to go on and kill it each day.  Let me tell you that is total and utter crap.  It is very well medical researched that most humans need 7-8 hours per night of sleep. Sure, there are exceptions but that’s precisely what they are.  The rule is very well documented and researched.  Ariana Huffington has done some amazing research on sleep and her book The Sleep Revolution is worth a read. Given it’s written by an actual Entrepreneur, you can reliably take her word for it.
  3. Limit your alcohol intake – I love a glass of red wine or a cold gin and tonic but I rarely drink now.  And if I do, I know my limits.  Booze is known to exacerbate symptoms of chronic pain conditions (believe me it’s true, if I over-indulge I suffer with pain for two to three days afterwards), so try and avoid it if you can.
  4. Research your condition…..but avoid forums – I would encourage anyone to avidly read up on their condition.  Advice on diet, exercise and lifestyle are all really helpful in enabling you to manage your pain, however I personally avoid forums. Why?  Undeniably there are helpful threads on there but all too often I find them a bit of a breeding ground for people to just bitch and moan about how awful they feel.  Sorry but there it is.  When you feel like crap anyway, the last thing you need is negativity.
  5. Exercise – I have three dogs, so not getting any exercise is not an option.  I walk in excess of five miles each day, more on working from home days.  Sure, each morning when I put my feet on the floor for the first five minutes of walking, my feet and legs feel unbelievably stiff and painful – but if I don’t get out each day in the fresh air, I feel so much worse.

Your ability to deal with a chronic pain disorder will boil down to your awareness of your experience and willingness to try new approaches…. and that may take some time. It took me several years to get my Fibromyalgia under control and even now I still have flare ups and every day I have pain.  The difference is that I now feel I have the tools to deal with it.

So don’t lose heart and please, if you suffer from a pain condition, please leave your comments in the thread.

 

LIFE SKILLS (WHAT I WISH THEY’D TAUGHT ME AT SCHOOL) – Part 6: Don’t “settle”

by , on
7th August 2017

A lot of poor behaviour is linked into (what life coaches would call) “limiting beliefs” – be it around money, self-worth, relationships – whatever.  This (another life coach term) “poverty mentality” often starts early on in life and becomes deeply ingrained within our (more powerful) subconscious mind.   So, although we might not be aware that we consciously have these perceptions; a deeply internalised notion may be constantly impinging upon our ability to truly thrive.

Throughout our emerging years – and with the best of intentions – adults consistently impart various nuggets of wisdom.  The problem is, that sometimes these “nuggets” really aren’t that golden.  Phrases such as “money is the root of all evil,” “make do with what you have” or “you’re just not a fast learner” all serve to plant a seed or belief around a certain facet of our lives.  Beliefs that for one aren’t necessarily true and for another, definitely aren’t helpful.  The problem is that when the message is on repeat enough; it becomes more deeply rooted within our psyche and much more difficult to reverse.

Whilst I have many concerns around some of the social messages we give young people in today’s society; the scope to carve out an individual, meaningful and wonderful life has never been more strongly celebrated than it is today.  We have inspiration all around us and source materials right at the touch of a button. It has never been easier to learn and explore but yet, as the old saying goes , many choose to “make do with what we have”.  Why?

Well …….not everyone is wired to be super-ambitious and nor should they feel that they have to be either.  We are, after all, creatures of habit.  This post is not about suggesting everyone has to be an entrepreneur or chase the dollar relentlessly in life. For some of us, that simply isn’t our purpose. What I’m talking about here is living an authentic life and that is a: knowing what your purpose is and b: having standards that meet it.   Standards around your self-worth, standards around relationships, standards around the jobs you take – standards, full stop.  For some people, this will be just too much like hard work.  But if you can’t (or won’t) put the hard work in around what you want out of life, no-one else is going to do it for you.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news but there is a possibility for many of us that Prince Charming just won’t show up, so it’s best to realise this early on and be architects of our own lives, where possible.

Of course, this doesn’t always make life easier in the short term but in the longer term it saves a great deal of pain, not to mention your valuable time.  Just last Christmas I had a big bust-up with a male friend who I called out (quite harshly it has to be said) on what I considered to be really disrespectful and shoddy behaviour.  His response was that he refused to be judged by my unreasonable standards (that’s fair enough; he’s entitled to his opinion) and that basically he’d treated me the way he treats everyone, close family included.  As I wasn’t happy about the way I imparted my message,  I apologised for that but I did tell him that I was never going to apologise for caring/having standards and that if I wasn’t happy in a situation, I’d always say.

And that’s just the way I have to operate nowadays.  It’s not that I think I’m better than others or that they’re wrong. Far from it…. but I have way too many years biting my lip, not wanting to offend and being miserable in the process.  In other words settling.  And I just won’t live my life like that anymore.   Sadly, the upshot of this situation was that I had to wish this person well but explain to him that I couldn’t be close friends with him.  His behaviour just pushes my buttons and ultimately we’re just too different in aspects of our personalities that really count.  As one of the most bright, intelligent and talented people I know, I wish him nothing but the best.  Am I sad this person isn’t in my life?  Absolutely. You bet.  However, I know that this is easier than being in a situation where I couldn’t be honest with him for fear of offending and unfortunately, that is what a close relationship with him would mean.  Essentially, I wouldn’t be able to be my authentic self and sooner or later that would manifest itself in my reaching boiling point, unable to keep a lid of things and behaving in a way I didn’t like.

As I’ve said before, if you don’t like the person you become in a relationship; that’s a massive red flag.  It’s exactly the same if you’re in a job that you hate, where you’re underpaid or maybe undervalued or in a relationship of convenience, simply going through the motions and slowly dying inside.  Chances are that in any such situation your levels of self respect will be pretty diminished…….

How many times have you heard a friend talk about the “check list” of what they want in a man (incidentally, very often this isn’t what they actually need in a partner) but not considered what they don’t want – i.e. the true “deal breakers”.  For me, these attributes are far more important than someone’s height, age, profession or whatnot. Likewise, how many women do you know who are with a man purely for financial reasons, in a relationship where there’s no passion or worse still, respect?  And out of these women, how many of them do you know actually pursued the man because of what they could offer financially, as opposed to all of the other ways that a partner might enrich their lives?

I’m certain you’re aware of at least a few and I’m certain that you know, deep down these women are not happy.  That’s all because they settled.  Despite outward appearances, no amount of money is going to save a lifeless relationship. So unless you’re both on the same page about what you’re expecting out of the union – and it truly is one of convenience – this for me, is where a very important line gets crossed.  Anyone – male or female – who chooses a partner because they’re offering things that they’re too lazy to pursue; is not only setting themselves up for failure but messing with the emotions of another.

It’s about getting your own house in order, keeping your own side of the street tidy and it applies to everything in life.  So be the custodian of your own story and never, ever hand the keys to someone else.  Dust settles. You don’t.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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