I had all but forgotten how to play. I even looked it up in the dictionary once. It was defined as “time spent doing something enjoyable or amusing.” Most of my life has been spent being sick or chasing a cure. There was little time for having fun.
While the rest of the world was enjoying leisure time, I was struggling with health issues. I was either in pain or lacking energy. When the situation became intolerable, I spent decades being examined and tested to find out what was wrong with me.
After I was finally diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I devoted my spare time to research and experimentation. I tried to find the right doctor and the right medication. I struggled to care for my family while working full time at a demanding job and attending college at night. There was no time for play.
Many years later, my body finally said, “No can do.” The state of my physical and mental health had reached an all-time low and work was no longer an option. I’ll never know whether a lack of fun contributed to the decline of my health, but I suspect that it played a role.
My first month of unemployment I did little besides sleep. Not that I had a choice. I fell asleep sitting in a chair. Once, I nodded off while standing at the stove.
An occasional trip to the grocery store was the only reason I left the house. Of the therapies I’d tried over the years, this period of rest was the most curative. In time, I attempted activities recommended for fibromyalgia patients: swimming in a warm-water pool and yoga. Because it was such an effort, I considered those therapy, not fun.
It took nearly two years for me to feel like a human being again. About that time, my disability insurance company decided I was no longer disabled. My doctors and I vehemently disagreed. The next three years were a nightmare of appeals and attorneys. It caused more stress than my career in corporate finance. By the time my case was finally settled, my body felt broken again. I was back in bed in recovery mode. Still no fun in my life.
I had utilized every medical option available and experienced little improvement. Determined not to spend the rest of my life in bed, I devoted every ounce of energy I had to exploring alternative/complementary medicine. I consulted acupuncturists, reflexologists, massage therapists, nutritionists, and psychotherapists. The list of supplements and devices I tried was endless, and the cost was considerable. Again, there was no time — or energy — for play.
I finally realized that prevention is easier than cure. I now use all I’ve learned to live my life in a manner that works for me. My philosophy is that if it feels good, do it. That is, I do only what my body says I can do, and I avoid all things that cause me to feel bad.
For the first time in my life, I’m devoting time to play. This is a concept that differs greatly from person to person and is influenced by age and physical limitations. In my life, play has evolved from physical activities like swimming and sailing to more sedentary pursuits. A simple card game, a visit to the dog park, or a competitive game of Trivial Pursuit qualify as play for me.
Unlike the overachieving peers of my youth, people my age are understanding of physical limitations. Disabilities are more likely to be cause for raucous laughter than a source of serious concern. While not documented in any clinical study, I’m certain that having fun is a contributing factor to my feeling better than I have in years.
I know how difficult it is to squeeze time for play out of a busy and often symptom-filled life. But I urge you to make the effort whenever possible. It might be your most effective form of therapy.
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.