Picture this…

What if you just pretended you were beautiful.  Even if you didn’t believe it.  Just acted on the assumption that your body and face were beautiful to look at and everyone loved it. How free would life feel?

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My attempt at beach pin-up. Feels pretty freeing to pretend I am beautiful.

 

I tried that. Not intentionally really…I just kind of gave up worrying because I’m old. I’m sick with fibro and I am tired. I’m tired of pulling at my clothes and swimsuits to cover my fat etc. I’m tired of being hot when I go out in the sun because I’ve covered my fat so much. I’m exhausted at a beauty regimen that is sort of simple compared to most of my friends. I am pretty much exhausted at life most of the time. So, I just gave up over vacation.  I took a vacation from caring about fat or my double chin or my red face or any other perceived faults.

I think I was encouraged by my sister a bit. She oozes beauty out of her pores. She is young, blond, vibrant with dazzling blue eyes that are unusually shaped. It gives her an allure I can’t describe.  She is so unbelievably beautiful and I’m all the time being told she looks like me. That reflection, seeing her sometimes when I make a certain face in the mirror, has made me feel beautiful and young. Having her close really makes that connection hum for me.

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Isn’t she the stuff of magic?

I’ve always thought highly of myself, a relatively good self-esteem, but I’ve always been a really good fat person too. I covered myself so not to offend someone, from even before I was truly fat. I made sure my “faults” were covered. I never wore stripes. I covered my legs for the most part. My belly hasn’t seen the light of day since I was fourteen. I wear a skirt with my one-piece swim suit, and usually wear a cover up until I can slink into a pool unnoticed. When I read about the body positive movement I was behind it all! I was like “You go girl! Wear that bikini!!! That woman is a badass, but I could never do it.” I would look down at my fat belly and think “No, not my belly, my belly is not for public consumption.” I believe that I should be free to wear what I like. I believe anyone should be free to wear what makes them feel good. I just didn’t think I was at the place where I could put that belief into practice.

 

The body positivity movement is inspiring, but also defending it can be exhausting. There are people who just don’t understand how horrible it is to hate yourself, or maybe they do? I like to think that they truly believe they are trying to help, even if what they do can harm the fat people in their lives. I like to think the best of people. In my own life, I try to not discuss weight with my loved ones. I get so angry and upset. I am tired of explaining that I have to be in control of my body. I have to feel good about my body in order to provide self-care. Why would I care for myself if I felt my body was not worth the time? We want women to care for themselves, don’t we? I want the women in my life to care for themselves, especially my sister. She is so young and energetic. I want her to think of her body as the beautiful miracle it is. To do that, I want her to see me loving and caring for my body. It may not affect her self-esteem seeing me love myself, but I can always hope. As an older, plus size woman I have learned to actively love myself. I take time to maintain my body and I am learning to cast off all those social conventions that have made me feel uncomfortable with certain pants, stripes or swim suits.

This week between learning about the body positive movement, my sisters influence, and the fact that my fibromyalgia flared I decided to love myself. I decided to cast away all self-doubt and just swim, walk, and laugh with abandon. My sister helped me pick out shorts. I wore shorts in public for the first time in years. My mayonnaise legs basked in the sunlight while looking for whales in the Atlantic Ocean. I ran in with my fat arms waving in the breeze and didn’t care. I was too tired with my body aches to pull down my swimsuit over my thick thighs. Did we get shunned? Made fun off? No. Actually, a woman came over and offered to take pictures of us. She said she was enjoying watching us laugh and looking like we were having so much fun. She wanted to help us commemorate these moments. It was a pretty amazing day at the beach.

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Don’t we look beautiful happy?

The last day we were there my sister was kind of bummed we didn’t get to swim in the ocean again and we usually try to do something a little crazy and life affirming when we get together, so I suggested we get into the ocean with our full clothes on. I was wearing leggings, an exercise bra and kind of a fancy shirt. Right up until we got to the water, I was going to wear my shirt because I had always said, “Never my belly.” At the last minute after placing my purse on a rock, and giving my husband my phone to take pictures, I triumphantly whipped off my shirt and bared my belly in my exercise bra. I just dove in and laughed at the wildness of running into the ocean almost fully clothed. I was having too much fun splashing and laughing with my husband and sister to care about how my white fat belly looked in the sun. Again was I laughed at? Pointed at? I don’t think so. I wasn’t paying attention. Frankly, I didn’t care one last bit.

I felt triumphant. I was bonding with my family and I was not ashamed. It has made me want to take care of my body even more. I was exhausted and sore after. I don’t want to be exhausted and sore while on vacation anymore so I am working even harder. It isn’t shame that works, it is capability that inspires me. Please listen, if you feel like only shame works. It doesn’t. Living is a pretty magnificent carrot. It’s hard living when you’re shrouded in shame.

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That’s right! That’s my beautiful belly.

Get It Together Doctors

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One of the bad days.

I have become a member of an online Facebook group for fibromyalgia sufferers. I started exploring the different avenues for support for people with fibro. We don’t have a support group in the Philadelphia area that I could find. I wanted to be around other people who know what I am going through. I was hoping that I would feel less alone on those days that I am in pain and can’t leave the house. I also was hoping to learn what those women and men who deal with fibromyalgia on a day to day basis did to ease their symptoms. I was looking for comraderie, sisters in arms, people fighting a fight together. That isn’t really what I found, yet.

Sometimes these chats seem like only people who are suffering together. They are encouraging, sympathetic, and lovely. We are all suffering. The thing about fibro is that we’d have a pretty pitiful march if we were going to battle. Most of us can’t walk very far at all. Most of us are in constant pain and feel nauseous and feverish. We feel like we are hung over AND have the flu. It’s not like we can usually muster up a rallying cry. It would come out like a sigh more likely. But I am still looking for a way to cope.

I’m not ready to be couch bound. I want to walk for hours-down streets I’ve never seen. I want to be able to fly without pain. I want to be able to do yoga for an hour without taking a two day break to recover, because Philly has free yoga on the pier. To do yoga by the water would be a dream.

I am not ready to give up on those dreams. I need to continually feel like I can do it. I need to know in my brain that it is possible for these things to happen someday-even if it is not true. I need to be able to strive for it. If I believed that it wasn’t possible I would probably curl up in a ball and give up. I desperately and deeply need the motivation.

I guess I am looking for someone to say this is working for me, you can too. Isn’t that such bullshit? No one is going to give me a get well quick story. This isn’t that kind of syndrome. Fibro is forever. I get that. They say that you can live with it. What exactly that looks like isn’t really clear. From the testimonies on so many fibro sites it seems dreary and hopeless. Most of my fibro sisters have spouses that don’t care enough to find out about their wives’ condition so they complain about their inability to perform tasks, their inevitable weight gain and they belittle the pain they’re in. Most of them have kids who are ungrateful, and employers that could care less. It is a sea of harshness in a world of people who should be treated with kid gloves. These people are in pain constantly, who still have to perform their lives, AND try to figure out how to medicate themselves.

Think about your mother. Everyone in the world who had a good mom, think about that mom. What if she had fibromyalgia. She would have never had time to figure out how to make her life easier. Most moms don’t have time to get their nails done or catch their own movie, less known go to physical therapy or read a book on fibromyalgia.  Fibromyalgia is predominantly a female syndrome so females are too busy building families and running the f*&Oing world to treat themselves to all the doctor’s appointments, or go to physical therapy twice a week, or a trigger therapy masseuse. I am extremely lucky; my partner is the most remarkable partner in the world. He is seriously amazing. Most women don’t have my privilege or my support.

I don’t work right now. It’s my turn to be at home because I worked while Brad went to school. So, I get to follow my dreams now. Part of that dream is to get healthy. I am working on that full time while also trying to get my writing going. It is unusual that any woman has the time I do to do the research, go to doctors and physical therapy, schedule workouts, meal plans, and supplements. Right now, I am extremely lucky for a fibromyalgia sufferer.

It is easy for me to have spunk. It is easier for me to get riled up, throw my fist in the air and say, “I will figure this out. I’m gonna live a good life!”

The big problem is that fibromyalgia has been around in some form since 1904 according to a government web site. They knew about it since then, but didn’t do an official study until 1981. The AMA didn’t recognize it until 1987. Do you think that it is a coincidence it took so long to get acknowledged on a disease that mostly affects women?

So, the medical community hasn’t done that great for these women. Most doctors don’t really give these patients a lot of options. I’ve been going to the doctors and physical therapists for over a year and it wasn’t until I picked up a book by Dr. Ginerva Liptan called The Fibromanual that I found out some information that is really helping me. No one else has explained the disease to me so clearly or why I need to do the things I do. Of course, The Fibromanual was written by a woman who also has fibromyalgia. That is how we get things done, right?

I’ve only been following her advice for two weeks and already I feel a little better. See these chats I have been observing on Facebook and other support group web sites only make me mad. It is another way that women are neglected in this society. I can forgive their partners for not knowing what fibromyalgia is, because I am still figuring it out and I am a dogged opponent even without a medical degree. I can forgive kids for being little ungrateful shits, because that’s what they are supposed to be, but I can not forgive doctors who get paid more than most of the population for not taking enough time to truly give these women relief. I recommend every doctor who has a general practice to read The Fibromanual and other books. Give the women who are sixty percent of the work force, and seventy percent of the home care, some attention please. Give them a fighting chance to get out of bed without pain.

To all my fellow sufferers,

I know your life is busy. I know sometimes this seems hopeless. It sucks. I feel it everyday. There is hope. Read up as much as you can and press your doctor to read up too. It is there job. Don’t let them get away with not knowing how to help you. That sucks. My first book recommendation is The Fibromanual. It even has a section you can hand your doctor. Know your body, and know that there is some relief out there. Try if you can to prioritize your health for a little while so that you can get a system down that will provide you with happy pain free days. Get help. The people that love you will realize you are worth the time you need to figure it out.

Danielle

And So It Goes…

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Isn’t he cute? He is super supportive and the reason I can take days off to recover in my pajamas. 

I am admonishing myself today because I am in my special soft pajamas and my softest sweater because I over did it yesterday. I did my yoga, my writing, and then I cleaned the kitchen and deep cleaned the refrigerator. I took out three trash bags from all the cleaning I did yesterday. I also washed the bathroom floor by hand because my hair just doesn’t come up with a mop. I was extremely excited when husband got home, but by the time we went to bed I could not move my head without groaning.

I am extremely lucky because my amazingly patient husband gave me a massage to loosen me up enough to go to sleep, but then this morning I woke up in full -just got hit by a mac truck- fibro mode. If you don’t have fibromyalgia I will remind you that it feels like when you have the flu, but you don’t vomit. You are sore all over, nauseous, and swollen in places. So basically it is like you have the flu but also got beat up last night. It’s a wonderful way to start the day, let me tell you.

So today I am sitting here watching Monday’s Dancing with the Stars and the fog in my head is coming and going. Right now, in a moment of mental clarity, I am wondering how long it will be before I learn my lesson. I want to manage my energy better. I feel like I make progress and then get excited and do too much. I get a little encouragement, and say I GOT THIS!!! I got this all the way to the couch. Dang it to hell. It is so frustrating. Now I have lost a whole day. I have lost an entire day to sitting around without any progress. I know I shouldn’t let it, but it pisses me off and makes me feel guilty. I know it shouldn’t but I keep going over where I went wrong and how I could have broken up tasks. Maybe I could have eaten better. Would that have made a difference? Should I have split up cleaning the fridge? Two shelves one day, the rest another? These are the questions I feel like all fibro people ask, am I wrong?

Managing your activities can be tedious. These are base activities that most humans have to do: cook, clean, walk, fold laundry. I have to dose them out like medicine. Too much medicine and I crash. Today is crash day.

Will I ever get it down? Will I ever learn? I doubt it. My mom has had fibromyalgia for years. At least once a month she is telling me about something she over did. This week she mowed the lawn and the next day her back hurt and she was out of commission. She hasn’t learned.

Also, hopefully my baseline for what I can do will improve if I keep working at it. I have to keep chipping at that line that I am not supposed to cross. I have to keep trying to move it forward. So, I guess that I will be having more days like this. By that logic, perhaps these days aren’t that bad.

I keep trying over and over to be more capable. I keep trying to push the limits of my abilities. That is a good thing. So maybe it was stupid to do too much too fast, to be excited when I feel good, and to fall for it again. This excitement (like look what I can do!) is contagious and insatiable sometimes. I want to feel normal, that is natural. I want to reach out to all those people with fibromyalgia and tell them not to feel bad when you make a mistake like this.

Fibromyalgia should be called baby steps. (Please excuse the What about Bob reference Bill Murray.) Baby steps to a clean kitchen, baby steps to a clean bathroom, baby steps to a vacuumed floor and baby steps to a rewarding life. I should make it a mantra. I should add it to my morning meditations so that I don’t forget.

It can be hard to always live a mindful life down to the most minute activity, but that is the new regime with fibromyalgia. I will always struggle with being guilty because I’ve done too much. As a fat person, I’ve always felt guilty for not doing enough, for not loving exercise. Now in my forties I am finally loving exercise and I have to put a cap on it. I struggle not to feel guilty at all anymore because it helps no one. If you have fibro or some other chronic illness, or even if you don’t – how do you stop the guilt train? It has to stop. It helps no one. How do you stop the guilt train? We have to put an end to it for our collective health. We have to band together and be encouraging to ourselves. Not just because guilt, shame, and stress can cause not just mental anguish but physical pain in fibromyalgia. I don’t think those things are good for any human.

In addendum: My husband read this before posting. He said that it would probably help for caregivers and spouses to read this. He said it helped understand better. I know if you have fibro you understand this push and pull with your abilities, but maybe your partners don’t. My husband is truly the greatest husband in all of the world. He dotes on my like I am his “precious.” So, if he is still figuring it out then I am guessing education is needed for more partners in this world. I hope this that this essay helps, but I would also recommend: https://butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/

 

Self-conscious about Selfcare

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I have learned something very important lately. There is a value in what some people might call “selfishness.” I don’t advocate loving yourself above the love of others. I would just advocate taking care of your mind and body so that you can help others more consistently and powerfully. I grew up in a Christian household in a bible belt state. There is a stigma against anything that could be considered “selfish” especially for women. Mothers are supposed to give up all for their families. This is an underlying rule. This is something ingrained in every woman. Women and especially mom’s sacrifice. They’re the ones who cook, clean, and the last ones to eat dinner. Last Thanksgiving, I was home I watched most of the mothers be the last ones to get dinner and then they stood around eating it because there were no more chairs left. Why is it always the women left standing? This is just one example of many I saw growing up that said being a mother/woman meant being selfless, wanting less than. It’s not just the Midwest, I’ve read that families where both parents work across the US women still do seventy percent of the house work. I don’t think it is just my Midwestern roots cleaning their way into heaven.

When I quit my job to move to Philly because husband got a new job, we decided that I would pursue my writing and try to build a career. Two things happened that made that a difficult venture. First, my health went wonky. The pain I had been dealing with got steadily worse, as documented on this blog. Second, I got too caught up in taking care of my house. That sounds silly doesn’t it, but it’s true. With fibromyalgia I only get so many “spoons” of energy to do things. I would get up make breakfast, and then clean something draining all my spoons and then have no energy to do anything else. It was ridiculous how long this went on. I would clean like a mad woman and inflame my fibro and then maybe be out of commission for a few days. I was getting less and less done. Sadly with fibro, I have had no choice but to be “selfish.”

My mom says the bible doesn’t advocate selfishness, but I venture that the bible doesn’t say anything about cleaning your house, doing laundry, or being the last one to eat Thanksgiving dinner. It does tell us that we should take care of our bodies like a temple because the holy spirit resides there (paraphrasing.) This has been my new goal, my new focus. It is hard, years of ingrained guilt is hard to buck but I am doing it.

I kept reading about women in the wellness industry who put their health first. There was a reoccurring theme on the website well+good.com where women explain their daily morning rituals. https://www.wellandgood.com/tag/my-morning-routine/   These women are yoga instructors, nutritionists, and healthcare gurus. They are also wives and mothers. I was always reading what they do every morning, their indulgent rituals, and feeling extremely jealous. They usually start their day with hot lemon water, yoga or some other exercise, cuddles and conversation. They also usually do something else indulgent like art, journaling, or hanging out in the park. It seemed to me they had a relaxing Saturday before their work day. All of these women make an insane amount of money, claim to feel good and satisfied every day. Those aren’t the only signs of success but I still couldn’t see how they were doing it. So, emboldened by these articles, I decided to put my health first.

Does that just mean exercising? Shouldn’t health also include my mind and soul? Instead of cleaning first thing in the morning, I am doing my yoga, meditation and prayer, and then I am writing. Afterwards I am getting what cleaning I can done before starting dinner. Even then, sometimes if I clean enough I am taking a little hot tea break mid-afternoon. By doing this, giving to my soul and mind, I am getting more done than ever before.  Another product of my Midwestern upbringing, I like being useful. When I accomplish things, it helps my self-esteem. This is probably one of the traits that makes me the proudest of my heritage. While my productivity really makes me feel good about my new plan, it’s not the only thing. I feel better. I am getting my yoga in, and my quiet time and my writing which is something that has always made me feel whole. I am doing that corny thing they always talk about: filling my cup before helping someone else. I am putting my oxygen mask on before putting one on anyone else.

You know who is happiest with my new plan? My husband. I am making dinner every night. The house is more consistently clean. I am in a good mood. I may actually make money on my writing someday if I can keep up with this consistency. This “selfishness” turns out not to be so selfish, and maybe it could pay off even further in the future.

Losing the Incessant Weight Loss Narrative

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Sweating even before physical therapy!

I met with my physical therapist this week and was bragging to her about doing my stomach and hip exercises and actually asked for more. Can you believe I asked for more exercise? I used to hate exercise. I actually asked her for more. She told me no. She said to stay at this level for another month. She doesn’t want me to do too much too fast. With fibromyalgia, you have to work out at low impact and build up slowly. So, I can’t add exercises willy-nilly. I have to be methodical.

But I was pumped, man! She put me on the exercise bike and I was bragging about how well I am doing. I love physical therapy and I love yoga. I have been doing so well. I am forty-one and for the first time in my life I have an exercise habit. A habit.

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More sweating, out and about

The amazing part is that it’s working. I haven’t lost weight. This isn’t that blog. I’ve never in my adult life seriously put effort into losing weight. I was told over and over that I needed to lose weight for my health. I was told over and over exercise will help me lose weight. That really didn’t resonate with me because I’ve always been fabulous even plus size. I’ve seen people lose weight, it takes over their whole life and in my experience, they always gain the weight back. Somewhere in the back of my mind that always seemed fruitless.

So here I am on this exercise bike telling my physical therapist how wonderful I’m doing, like a five-year-old explaining stuff to her momma. With just six months of these exercises I have not only gotten the pain down to a measly two or three days of my cycle, I’ve also fixed my knee and can walk upstairs normally. I am freaking wolverine! I have healed myself in six freaking months. That, my friends, is astounding. I am not just being hyperbolic because I was in so much pain that I thought my life was officially a deep pit of despair.

While I am sweating on the bike talking about how awesome it is, the conversation turns (like it usually does) to how I wish I had known how all this worked before. Then I talked myself into being frustrated again. Why did I not know that this would be so easy to get the other, I feel more important, benefits of exercise.

People can’t stop talking about losing weight. Lose weight for better health. Exercise to lose weight. Oh my goodness people can’t shut up about it. In magazines, books, newspapers, on TV, in school, at home, all I have ever heard about exercise is that it helps you lose weight and it’s good for your health. That’s great but extremely, excruciatingly vague.

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Sweating while fabulous

You know what happens when I read? I learn something. It is a very specific something. If I read a book about snakes I learn about snakes.  For the fast six months, I have been walking a mile – two maybe three times a week depending on my fibromyalgia and every day I have been doing warrior pose. In just six months, I have healed a knee that has been unable to do stairs for years. The only reason I have found this out is because I had to start exercising to fix my pelvic pain. So doing these things, these small exercises fixed my knee. Do this specific exercise to strengthen where you are weak and in this much time you will have this capability? I don’t know the specifics but I am sure athletic people and physical therapists do.

Why don’t we talk more about capability based goals? Why aren’t we talking about how easy it is to build up muscle. I feel like this physical therapy is voodoo it’s so amazing. I have followed my therapist’s instruction religiously, and that is the reason it is working. It is small things. I haven’t been doing super aerobics. I am not working out two hours a day or anything. I’m not running up stadium bleachers to Chariots of Fire, or running down the road pulling an old man to Eye of the Tiger. I am just walking and doing light yoga.

Our body is an amazing thing. As a child, my ankles always turned me off exercise. Even now I have to worry about turning them if I don’t concentrate. I am working on them with my yoga. I am working on my arches too because I have some super flat feet. As a child, if I complained about my ankles I was told I was just lazy. As a chubby little fourth grader that is all people saw in me. What if someone had saw a little girl with bad ankles and taught me how to strengthen them? Could I have become that BMX trick biker I wanted to be? Probably not, but at least I might have had a regular exercise practice all these years.

If we worried more about our bodies capabilities than what they looked like on the outside, maybe someone would have helped me with my ankles. I’m not abdicating guilt in my weight. I am just saying that now that I know what I can do, I have been working very hard for the first time in my life. If it hadn’t always been about my weight, if it hadn’t always seemed so insurmountable, perhaps I could have started this earlier. Maybe I would love other types of exercise besides yoga and swimming, or maybe not. I just think this is another reason why the weight issue needs to be discussed differently.

Can Fibro be funny?

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It is really cold here. I have to bundle up to go to the Physical Therapists office.

This morning I was heading out to the physical therapist’s office for my noon appointment when I got a phone call. I had already done the necessary checklist: appliances turned off, clothes in their proper places, face made up, hair done, keys, vapes, phone etc. I double checked all of those things because my brain was feeling asleep. You know that feeling where you haven’t gotten enough sleep or you haven’t eaten? When you have fibromyalgia, they call it fibro fog and it can happen even after eight hours and a full protein filled breakfast. So, it’s sort of random.

Then I got the phone call. While talking to this person I closed up the apartment and walked to the elevator. When we got off the phone I ran back to the door and checked. I hadn’t locked the apartment door. I locked it and then walked two blocks to the bus stop. As I was walking up, I panicked. I thought Did I bring the bus tokens? I walked quickly to the bus and took off my backpack and put it on the bench to search. As I removed it, I noticed my shoulder felt weird. I reached up and there was a zip lock baggie underneath my bra strap.

Okay I know that sounds weird, like I was rolling on a bed of zippies and one just got stuck, but no. I have an icepack that started leaking so we put it in two ziplock bags. I stick it under my bra strap because my shoulder swells up for no reason. So I have to put on an icepack every morning. I asked my doc about it, they have no idea. So I took off the ziplock and found the tokens in my book bag. I have no clue how they got in there. I mean I must of put them there but I don’t remember. I sighed in relief and slumped down to wait for the bus, but I couldn’t remember which one so I asked the next two buses, “Do you go to thirty seventh?” Finally one guys said, “No you want the twenty one.” After I was on the bus I remembered I could have just looked it up on my phone and I was going to thirty eighth.

Just as I was coming to this revelation, husband texted me, “Did you eat?” I said, “Ummmm….no…I forgot.” Then I was thinking, dang it, I wasn’t hungry until he said something, but my appointment was at noon so I had no time to get anything.

I reached my appointment desk and said, “I have an appointment with Melody. My name is Danielle Toone.”

She replied, “Her name is Melinda, right?”

I said, “Yeah, what did I say?”

“Melody.”

“Oh, sorry.”

“Also, your appointment is at 1:00.”

Once I was down in the restaurant sitting at the table free from any more decisions I thought about the fact that before fibro I would have beaten myself up for days about all of these mistakes. I just thought I was ditsy. Nope, I just have episodes of dits, do to that fickle bitch fibro. Don’t get me wrong Melinda has been the most amazing medical professional to me so I feel bad about messing up her name, but I know why it happened and it’s a relief. I’m not mean spirited or an idiot. That is a relief. Sometimes I can make people laugh with my stories and that is fun too (comic relief.)

I am just now getting into fibromyalgia social media to notice the influx of other people who suffer from this phenomenon. I am an intelligent women who is struck with momentary loss of brain. That’s all. It is horribly inconvenient, and mildly embarrassing, but at least I know what to call it and it’s only temporary. I think we should call it #fibrofunny instead of #fibrofog. I much more prefer to think of it as something that doesn’t change me. Fibro fog sounds like something that is debilitating and blinding. I want to be able to say Well this just happens and laugh it off. So, I have fibro funnies. That’s it. Then the next day, or even later that day I am back to be the smart, sexy friend you know and love.

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If I knew anything about street artists, I would tell you who did this, but I love it.

 

Reaching for Stability Inside

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The sign at my new favorite coffee shop

 

In Boise I was surrounded by people who were more introspective than myself. I loved listening to them talk about their beliefs, convictions, rituals and practices. I grew up in the church. I believe in God with all of my being but I don’t practice my beliefs that much. I mean I pray. In the evenings I thank God for my loving husband, family, and friends. I then talk to him about what’s going on with me, like I would a friend. That is as far as I have gone in the past twenty years.

I am a Christian but I have been disillusioned with Christians lately and I think that has made me resistant to the rituals surrounding my faith, like going to church and listening to preaching. It’s been absent in my life for a long time. I think that I have been missing it without realizing how much.

Lately I have adopted some new spiritual practices that I have been finding comfort in and I believe have strengthened my belief in a loving God. I am protecting those parts of myself that I had given away to other goals. I have realized a need to pray deeper and to experience more calm and stability that a spiritual practice can provide. The interesting part is that most of the ways I am practicing, while also give glory to God, don’t come from the church or the bible. These are things anyone can do, and they could possibly help anyone feel more stable and grounded in these tenuous times.

I first learned about mindfulness from the book “Living Buddha, Living Christ” by Thich Nhat Hanh. The book was an interesting read because there are so many similarities between the Christian belief and Buddhism.  I recommend it to anyone because it is a good read and not too touchy feely. It is interesting. Of course, the western world is embracing mindfulness by the droves now. I have been submersing myself in it while doing yoga and meditating. I have been listening to my breath and trying not to think of anything else for at least thirty minutes a day. I have never been one to be mindful before. I am known for doing several things at once. I enjoy multitasking for the most part because my mind moves that fast naturally. I didn’t say it thought great things, just that I think fast. It is my gift. However, even cheetahs rest sometimes.

There are so many articles on the health benefits of meditation that I won’t talk about them here; They claim everything short of growing a new brain. I can only tell you what it does for me. It helps me to slow my body down. The connection between my body and my emotions is strong. So if I can calm my breath down. It moves throughout my body. Taking deep breaths involves using all of my thoughts and it really does translate to all my limbs. Seriously, try it for like three minutes. I know that I didn’t believe it, but it really does calm me down.

It also calms my mind because I focus on just my breath, and ignore everything else. If a new thought comes I just ignore it. I don’t think of nothing because that would drive me crazy. I haven’t gotten that good yet. I have just been concentrating on my breath, and this thing they talk about where you breathe through your limbs. I know, it sounds hanky right? It really works though. You take an inbreath and picture it going to your arm (I know that isn’t how biology works, but just picture it.) Then when you breath out, you imagine that arm relaxing. If you do that for your entire body. I promise you, you will be goo. Complete and utter blissful goo where ever you are. Sometimes I do it before bed, after I pray and I am telling you it is so relaxing I just fall asleep.

There are meditations on a free ap called insight timer. All of them are good but look for the ones that are described as a body scan to walk you through what I am talking about.

The other practice I am adding to my life is to use affirmations every morning. I’ve found it is really helping me with my life because I have been so down lately. I don’t know how it will work during my dark days because I haven’t had any since adopting this practice, but so far it is helping me to be more focused. Affirmations or Intentions can be anything but I have been using three so far.

  1. I will honor God with how I care for my body because it is the temple of the Holy Spirit. — That one is from 1 Corinthians 6:19. I like it because it motivates me to take care of my body and my mind. It reminds me that taking care of me is important enough to make a priority. I, like most women, usually put myself last on the list of to do’s for the day.
  2. I will have the courage and tenacity to create art — I have been doing this so I will be fierce in my writing. I think any kind of art takes courage because it is hard to put your ideas out there. I need to have more tenacity and not get discouraged when I get something wrong. So, this intention is important to me, to get me to the computer.
  3. I will strive to love actively and deeply — This one I believe is the most important because I want to constantly show the people I love how I feel. I want to fill my heart with love always and I cling to that right now, because there is so much hate out there. I will not let it infect me. I want to love even those who want to harm me and those I hold dear. The last part is the hardest. Even though I try to be loving, it is difficult not to harden my heart to the people who want to hurt people I care about. Because I know nothing gets accomplished by my heart going to the dark side, I decided I needed a daily reminder to keep my eye on my soul. I will have the courage to love deeply and I encourage everyone to use that one right now. If everyone woke up and put love first, boy wouldn’t this be a better world.

These are a couple of ways I am trying to keep my mind, body, and soul this year. I encourage anyone to try to find something that grounds you, if you haven’t found it already. I’ve learned that I can’t control politics, religion, or other humans, but I can control how I react to all that. So, these small things, setting myself on a path every morning, are helping me stay the course. I need to be reminded every day to live my life fully, mindfully, and with love. This is how I am going to ground myself and keep my head.