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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