Living a 4-hour Day

Living a 4-hour Day

Christine Tender Points

Fibromyalgia is life-altering. It has prevented me from accomplishing many of the goals I aspired to and always assumed I’d achieve. In the past, I attributed this fact to my wide variety of symptoms. But lately, I’ve begun to realize there’s another factor involved. It’s time — or rather the lack of it. I’m more limited by having only four good hours in my day than I am by any of my symptoms.

My day usually begins around 11 a.m. It’s not that I’m not up earlier than that. My bed is usually made by 8:15. It’s that most days I feel really bad in the morning. It’s never the same kind of bad, though. One thing I do have is variety.

Some mornings I’m stiff and sore all over. Other days my pain is limited to one or two places. When pain is my primary challenge, I employ the tools I know that are likely to help. It may be meditation, a hot shower, yoga stretches, or just moving around the house. Sometimes just getting up and dressed relieves the stiffness. If medication is needed, I take it then.

There are other days when I feel too depressed or anxious to function. Mood alterations like these are far more difficult to overcome for me. I can’t tolerate any of the medications available to help with this issue, so I struggle to get through it on my own. Although I’m not a religious person, I have become quite spiritual lately. Sometimes reading just a few pages by one of my favorite spiritual authors (i.e., Eckhart Tolle, Brené Brown, Wayne Dyer) can lift my mood to the point where I can begin my day.

And then there’s fatigue. Occasionally, I’m just too tired to move. It’s not the tired I feel after physical exertion. This is deep, profound exhaustion that affects every cell of my body. If I can accept this and forgive myself for it, it’s easier to overcome. Giving myself permission to go back to sleep is as productive as getting up. I wouldn’t have done much that day anyway.

Unfortunately, my worst and most frequent morning issue is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This can take several hours to control. I have the IBS variation that causes diarrhea (IBS-D) rather than the one that causes constipation (IBS-C). I suppose they’re both miserable to endure, but IBS-D makes leaving the house totally impossible. Imodium and I are a team. We do work together, but some days it takes longer than others. The most difficult aspect is that I never know in advance when those days are going to be.

After countless cancellations of morning activities, I’ve just resigned myself to starting my day at 11. This change in thinking has removed the stress that worsened the symptoms, so I’m happier with the result overall. I usually can count on functioning well until 3 or 4 p.m. However, once fatigue sets in, I’m done for the day, regardless of the time. Intellectually, I know that pacing (or resting before I’m tired) can extend my productive time, but I’m so determined to use my available time wisely that I have great difficulty doing that.

As a goal-oriented person, for many years I frustrated myself with unattainable to-do lists. I now schedule only one major and a couple of minor items each day. This way I experience a sense of accomplishment more often than I experience failure. I do as much as I can as early as I can. And I give myself plenty of applause for accomplishing as much as I do while living a four-hour day.

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Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.

13 comments

  1. Suzie says:

    What do you consider a big event a day, and minor ones?
    Excellent description of my days, too.
    Big airport trip tomorrow, so anxious. But have to because of family crisis. I hate to have to use wheelchairs….
    💕

  2. Karen says:

    A 4 hour day is a good way to think of it. Mornings are hard for me but I enjoy my coffee & read devotional books for a few hours before I do anything else. I am blessed to be able to retire so it works out for me.

  3. Sally Ferguson says:

    Wow – we’re sisters in fibro. What you describe is exactly what my days are like. Because I teach college I can schedule my classes to start at 1 and end at 4, and squeeze in office hours between 11-1. I have the same morning bowel issues which means at this point that I just have to skip eating in the morning, or else I could be dealing with diarrhea when it’s time to teach. This has meant struggles keeping on weight, and I know it’s not a healthy eating lifestyle, but it’s that or stop working – and I am not ready to do that. Don’t know if I ever will be, as when I don’t have at least those few hours a day where I’m working, I get depressed (and I can’t tolerate antidepressants either.) Although I wouldn’t wish any of this on you, it is comforting to know I’m not the only person in this same situation. I’ve often said that more than anything, more than the pain, the fatigue, etc., the most challenging thing, for me, has been a sort of crisis of values. There was that person I worked so hard to become, a PhD with an active research program, building a body of work of which I could be proud. Most of that is gone now. I can’t keep my research program up. I’m lucky to still be able to keep up teaching, but I honestly don’t know how much longer that will last. I know everyone pretty much reaches a point in their lives when they’re too old to continue with their former careers, etc., but I wasn’t ready for that in my 40s. Coming to terms with the fact that I’m not going to be the person I’d always aimed at becoming is the hardest part for me. I’ve gone on long enough. Thanks for listening, and thanks for your post. I really helped me. ((gentle hugs))

  4. PAMELA BERGMANN-KNEBEL says:

    This article expresses exactly how my days go. My mind still says I can accomplish as much as I used to but my body says no and I have to listen to it. Like you, I don’t start my day before 11 or 12; no morning appointments or work, if I can help it. What I used to accomplish in 1 day now takes me 3-4 days. I suffer from fatigue most days, sleep poorly, go through all of the things that you have discussed. It made me feel a little better reading this and knowing I am not alone.

    • Sherri Tomchesson says:

      I am so grateful to be reading these comments. I have felt so alone for so long before and since my diagnosis five years ago. Trying to describe what this is like became too hard to do most days so I make up other excuses for being late, cancelling appointments, etc. I’ve read here the exact things I’ve said to myself! Like, ‘my mind wants to but my body can’t’. I want to be like everyone else, have a full day and still be able to attend an event with family, etc. All of the planning is tiring in itself. I am 55 and was laid off from my job of 15 years last week. I am trying to see it as a blessing but that is difficult so far. So worried about money and insurance. Again, I am so grateful to those of you that are sharing. I am brought to tears and overwhelmed realizing others out there understand. Thanks and blessings to all.

  5. I feel the same. I just remarked,in a post, that I have 4 hrs. a day,that I consider functioning.Of course its fibro functioning,not normal, by any means.I get very angry about what this illness has done to my life !! I know that I have to accept that this is who I am now, but it SUCKS !!! I never book morning appointments any longer.Mornings are the worst for me. I wake with nausea,anxiety,depression, and pain.I am so thankful for facebook, and this group. It helps me to feel like I’m a part of the world,in a vicarious way. We all learn to cope in different ways.Sharing these skills in this group helps me so much !! We are not alone in this struggle,and for that,I am so grateful !! Onward and upward fibro friends.To war we go,EVERY SINGLE DAY !!!!!

  6. Wow. This is the first article that I have read that describes
    my life. This is so difficult. People remember the old me and don’t believe that I can’t do it all now . My home is so disorganized. I try and just
    get frustrated. I was able to retire in December 2014 and that helped. I can set my own routines. I am as active as possible. I have 3 high maintenance dogs.

  7. Marquita B says:

    Thought I’d add something I learned from an MD Physiatrist, that did an exam in me…. She said IT Band (Illial-Tibial Band SEVERE tightness & pain / burning) are now part of the definition!! I had SEVERE burning /painful fitful nights.. As my outer hips burned & hurt! It was ” NOT in my head!!” It is now included in the bi-lateral pressure points that connote this Fibro definition!!

    Additionally, learned THIS week, on Pintetest, that experts have learned that Fibro may be tied to nerves in our HANDS!! (Which contribute to numbness/ tingling) OMG!! I’ve only had 5!!!!! Carpal Tunnel/ DeQuervain’s Syndrome surgeries on BOTH hands!! Can’t wait for more info on that!! Just need help sleeping!!!! Sooo exhausted!!

    Also, I was in ANOTHER car accident, where the airbag deployed. It resulted in the 200 mph impact on my chest/upper stomach. Since then, I have been nauseated & experienced THE worst stomach pain/ digestion issues!! I was Dx’d w/ GERD/ Haital Hernia w/ healed Esophageal ulcers (cured H Pylori stomach infection way back!!) also.. I try to be careful w/ Anticholernergics: Flexaryl, Benadryl, Prilosec, benzodiazepines ie Xanax Antivert.. Amitriptyline (Elavil) .. Thorazine.. Etc.. (Google the Rxs) That hasten / accelerate Alzheimers!! So.. Take note & ween off (no cold detox!! of these Rxs!! Then be started on an alternate Rx…. I feel so much more redeemed, now I know these things I have been experiencing are “not in my head!!” Like some MDs say!!

  8. Brian Warren says:

    After reading all of your comments and seeing that they are all from the female gender and me just finally getting the answer from a Medical specialist just a couple of days ago and me being a 57 year old male, deep down inside myself I already knew the answer. For 30 years I was I Courier I blamed it on the job wearing me out but, maybe a bit of both. Finally it took me down about two years ago and my story is exactly the same. All I got to say is I am glad my children have grown up, I can not even keep up with my own life but trek on, got to say though my wife knew before I did but at least I have the answer to what is causing all the pain.

  9. Kevin Jiang says:

    Another guy here. Some days I have only 1-hour days outside having a meal or 2 which I don’t cook myself. Some days that 1 hour is used to just take a shower.

    Very well written article! It takes me 1.5 to 3 hours just to get off the bed in the morning. Just cannot start my day before lunchtime.

    Fortunately I retired at end of 2016 when I was 55 years old. I naively thought I’d be a lot better not working. So wrong! Now close to a whole year has passed with me functioning as described above!

  10. Sherri says:

    Well on my ‘good days’ I have five hours. I wish I could sleep until 10 but I am also a caregiver for parents. Sometimes I think that they are in better shape than I am. Family stress has not helped my health problems either.
    I also have SIBO and afraid to take Flagyl because I already have neurological symptoms and heard it can cause nerve problems. I have chest pain and sleep problems on top of the Fibro, which I have had since teen years. In college I had no social life because all my time was spent studying and taking naps. The house is fairly clean, but cluttered, because I simply don’t have enough energy – you get one room clean and then before you can get to the others you have to start all over on that one room! I finally decided that there would be no appointments on Monday and Friday if I can help it. I really need down time.
    I have had people checking on parents who have made comments to others on my housekeeping. I feel that many people just don’t take the disease seriously and think that you are just lazy, and that really makes me angry since I consider all the income that I have lost and the tons of events that I wanted to go to but had to bail out. Hard to have a social life with this illness.

  11. Darlene Lang says:

    I still work full time so I have to be functional in the morning. The mornings are the hardest since sleep is very sporatic. I am happy when I get 2 hours of sleep. I hurt all the time but have to pull through. I am 55 yrs old and hope I can still take care of myself in 5 or 10 years. On the Sat. I am so tired it takes me hours to do the dishes. I end up on the couch for Sat and Sun I manage to get to church and home. Thanks for sharing your comments. It is a big help to know I am not alone in this journey with Fibro.

  12. Amanda Matson says:

    I have learned this year about digestive enzymes. For years I was lactose sensitive. Migraines and sinus infection were regular occurrences. Got rid of dairy problems gone. Later when I was experiencing my journey of fibro diagnosis I started having IBSD symptoms as well as migraines. I found by process of elimination, that gluten was causing these problems. So bye bye gluten. Now, six years later I have been taking digestive enzymes for 6 months. I can have moderate amounts of both with no I’ll effects. I am not going to back to full gluten life but having the option is wonderful. Other family members have found their GI symptoms to be drastically reduced with the enzymes. Not sure if it’s a fibro thing or just seems like it but anything to make life easier without a prescription!! I will take it. Hope this helps someone.

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