Aging ain't for sissies. Neither is chronic pain.

Archive for the ‘Chronic pain’ Category

Weight a Minute

As a woman of a certain age I struggle with my weight. In the interest of full disclosure I don’t go overboard trying to control it but I’m not a total slacker either. In my attempt to juggle middle age and fibromyalgia I now juggle a third ball and that is weight management or better yet, mismanagement.

In my quest to control my weight without actually having to make an effort I stumbled upon the perfect routine. It’s called “I Forgot What I came In Here for” and it’s the best exercise you will ever get.  All you need to get started are middle age brain cells.  (In my case I have the proper aging cells in addition to fibro fog, a byproduct of fibromyalgia.  It offers a wide array of cognitive difficulties such as short term memory loss, difficulty carrying on conversations, attention problems, misplacing objects (and people and dogs if one is not careful), mental confusion and more.)

The exercise routine works like this: let’s say you’re in the kitchen and realize you need a paper clip from the office which is at the other end of the house. (Why you need a paper clip in the kitchen is beyond me but who am I to judge?)  So off you go and as you enter the office you suddenly realize you can’t remember why you are there in the first place and that your need for something from that room has been replaced with a sizable but empty thought bubble.  Sighing loudly, you go back to the kitchen but upon your return you remember what it was you forgot (aha!) so you head back to the office only to arrive utterly clueless as to why you are there instead of in the kitchen where the spaghetti sauce is boiling over.

Lather, rinse, repeat.  Several times every_single_day.

If you really want to get your heart rate up and burn some carbs try this same exercise when you are upstairs but what you need is actually in the basement.  Thirteen steps and a landing later you cannot remember why you are in the basement.  Try as you might, the something you needed from this little corner of your world is not coming to mind.  Back up you go!  And then back down again because finally you remember what you went down there for in the first place.

In my attempt to not be an over achiever I’ve learned to use the reminder method to prevent too many extra trips in one day.  I repeat out loud exactly what I’m going into the other room for until I get there.  “Paper clip, paper clip, paper clip.”  As long as I go straight to the paper clips I’m fine.  If I deviate one iota of a second from my goal to retrieve what I came in there for I have to turn around, go back where I started and do another set of reps.  It’s all in the planning people.

So if you’re like me and need to let go of a few pounds this summer don’t use your body, use your middle age brain.  It will let you down every time.


Chronic Pain and That In-between Place

I’ve had fibromyalgia for over 20 years. The pain began almost immediately after I received a series of Lupron injections for endometriosis. I was in my mid-30s when it started.  It took two years of specialists, tests, poking, prodding, zapping, biopsies and participating in a study at Johns Hopkins to get my diagnosis.

My pain has progressively gotten worse. In my late thirties into my forties, I would experience plateaus, periods of time where I would have my “daily pain”, a constant but fairly manageable pain that involved severe but less frequent flare ups than I have today.  There would be times back then when I could rest and get some relief but those days are now part of my past.

As I’m hitting middle age the manageable plateaus have become shorter in length and the flare-ups more intense and longer lasting. The pain is often relentless and I have more flare-ups and breakthrough pain than ever before.

This is nothing new.  I’ve been down this road before.  It’s the fork in the road between when things physically worsen permanently and when I finally accept it as my new reality. It’s what I think of as my in-between place, my internal battlefield where I go to war with my thoughts and feelings about what’s happening and how it’s going to affect my life.

I usually start out silently lamenting that things have indeed changed and are not going back to the way they were.  I allow myself to mourn what these changes extract from my life but not without appreciating that I am still upright and capable of doing many things even while in pain.

I also go through a period of feeling worthless and unnecessary but thankfully there is a part of me that acts as a motivator reminding me I can’t let the pain take me down or I won’t get back up.  I don’t know where this part of me comes from but she’s getting older and much more tired.

The internal struggle continues for a while, raging like wildfire in that in-between place, yelling, cursing, crying, bargaining and then, almost without notice, surrendering until finally, exhausted but better equipped to move on, I hit the acceptance stage.

The thing about chronic pain is it’s not just about pain.  It has many offshoots – sadness, frustration, a pinch of self-pity, anger, worry, bad moods and feeling different in every aspect of life.  But wait, there’s more!  People who suffer chronic pain are also brave, resourceful, limit pushers and somewhat chameleon-like in that we learn to quickly change and adjust based on how much pain we are in at any given time.

At the end of the day we do what everyone else does, we keep going because we have to but sometimes it takes a dreaded trip to that in-between place before we can settle in to what we’ve finally accepted.

Surrender and acceptance doesn’t mean giving in, bowing down or giving up.  It means doing the hard soul work, going inward and searching that in-between place and seeing what we are capable of even during our battles.

Illness does not define who we are.  Our strength, stubbornness, courage and cranky warrior attitude does.  Chronic pain may be our weakness but it is also the reason we become stronger.  And with that we fight on.

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