Earlier this week, we had two days of unusually dark, drizzly weather, during which I felt bad both physically and psychologically. On the third day, the sun came out. I felt better than I had, so I joined a friend for a walk. Because time was an issue, I didn’t stretch before leaving the house. Then, distracted by conversation, I lost track of time and the distance we had walked. When awareness set in, it was too late. Far from being energized by the experience as I’d hoped to be, I was completely exhausted.
I dragged myself home, curled up in bed, and slept the entire afternoon. A horribly painful muscle spasm the next day reminded me that I’d broken two of the cardinal rules for living well with fibromyalgia. I didn’t listen to my body, and I crossed the line between not doing enough and doing too much.
It’s not that I shouldn’t have walked at all. A short walk after some stretching, especially in the sunshine, would have been very beneficial for me that day. But, clearly, I walked too far, pushing my tight muscles way past their capacity. The result was feeling way worse instead of feeling better.
Human nature being what it is, on days I feel well, I often choose to believe that I am well. If the rest of the population can push past a little pain and fatigue, so can I! Remember Jane Fonda’s advice to “Feel the Burn“? That philosophy might have benefitted the rest of the world — but not those of us with fibromyalgia. For us, the wiser choice is to “Stop Before the Burn.” Unfortunately, I occasionally need to be reminded of that.
I’m not just talking about exercise here. The tasks of daily living can be equally taxing if you’re living with fibromyalgia symptoms. Take cleaning, for instance. I need to remind myself that no house needs to be cleaned all at once, regardless of how dirty it is or how well I might be feeling that day. One room at a time still gets the job done. The result of reining myself in is being able to clean another day. The result of doing the entire job at once can be an increase in symptoms.
On good days, I often go to the grocery store — and regret it later. It’s not that the shopping experience in itself is bad for me. Walking around the store and putting things away later is the amount of activity I can comfortably handle in a day. The problem arises with doing something else that same day. I know I need to refuse any opportunities that may come my way. But given that I don’t have much pleasure in my life, I’m always tempted to accept an invitation for enjoyment. When I occasionally relent on a grocery day, the result is being overtired and paying for it later. Again, I occasionally need reminding.
There’s such a fine line between doing what we need to do to keep ourselves feeling as well as possible and doing too much. The temptation to do more than we should is always greatest when we’re feeling well. It’s easy to believe that if it feels good to do a little, it’ll feel better to do more. But it’s not true. And it’s the most painful lesson fibromyalgia teaches us.
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.