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Daily Routine With Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS

My daily routine is far from what it used to be before I became unwell. I can’t do most of my hobbies now (gardening/baking/long walks/running) because they are just too painful and exhausting. I work part time, have had to give up my studies with The Open University, rarely cook a decent meal, and spend most of my time at home resting with a cup of tea, a pile of unread magazines and books (in the hope I will be able to muster up some mental energy to read them) and cups of Pukka Ginger Tea being frustrated about the pile of washing up in the kitchen and the clutter that surrounds me. So I thought I’d write out my routine for work days and days off just to put into perspective what life is really like, even though I’m only thirty (almost thirty one ahhhhh!) and look relatively well.
Work Days – Mon/Tue/Thur/Fri
7:15am: The alarm goes off, I snooze endlessly as I usually haven’t been asleep long.

7:40am: Finally drag myself out of bed, stretch, creak and crunch and stagger over to wherever my cat is sleeping for a morning cuddle. I let her out, change her water, poopie scoop her litter tray and top up her biscuits. She comes first as she is totally reliant on people to care for her. Tea, breakfast and medication, you get the idea…

8:30am: Leave the house to either get my bus right by my house which drops me outside work (its quicker to walk but that’s out the question) or get picked up by colleagues. I have a special pass for the bus that allows me to sit in the priority seats. The bus journey usually involves some funny looks from people who see my pass.

9am-3pm (5pm on Mondays): Work. By early afternoon I’m clock watching as I am struggling so much. Exhaustion set in a while ago and the pain creeps in behind it (and this is on a good day). A lot of the time I get a lift home from colleagues. Absolute life savers!

3:30pm I’m in bed having drunk a glass of water, taken tramadol and the kitty is usually sitting on me purring. Pyjama time has begun.

7pm: Out of bed (later on Mondays) and make the sort walk to the sofa. Still exhausted I’m in great need of a cup of tea. I’ll probably burn myself on the steam or spill some hot water.

8pm: Dinner time. Far later than I would like, and I definitely don’t have the energy to cook. Probably a ready meal, something out of the freezer chucked onto a tray or a tin of soup. Yep, I’ll burn myself again at some point during this short process of heating up crap food.

9:30-10pm; Shower. I leave it as late as possible as it is surprisingly hard work. Getting dry and dressed is exhausting. Take a handful of medication and more painkillers if I know I will be in (increased) pain all night.

11:30pm: Back to bed. I read, sometimes listen to meditation and hope for a good nights sleep.

1am: Still awake…. I can’t get comfortable from pain, my mind is racing but I’m too exhausted to get up. Sometimes I end up dragging myself to the sofa for a cuddle with my wife if she’s not working or getting up for an early shift.

2am: Probably still awake.

3am: Hopefully asleep. But often not.

Days Off:

No routine. I let my body do what it wants. It’ll sleep, snooze and rest, tell me it needs pain relief, when it’s peckish and make sure I leave the laundry, washing up and cleaning for another time (we really need to get our amazing cleaner back but at fortnightly visits it was still so expensive). These days involve endless cups of tea, a chance to flick through the pile of magazines, watch YouTube and stay in my pyjamas all day. I probably won’t go out and if I do, it’s been planned down to the very last details, and I’m probably terrified of the exhaustion that will come with it. These days are all about saving enough energy to work and earn a living. Sadly life is ruled by the need to pay bills and not look after my body and mind.

Picture credit: Meowingtons 

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The Ups and Downs of Being ‘A Part-Timer’

People say how lucky I am to only work 26 hours per week. And I guess I am in a way, who really wants to spend 40 hours plus a week at work? Well, I’d quite like to go back to a full-time nine to five actually.

I work so few hours because I really can’t work any more right now. I do this over a four day period with a mid week break which works quite well for me, but I’m still utterly exhausted and riddled with pain after every day, especially my one eight hour day at the beginning of the week.

Working part time doesn’t allow me to spend my time off gallivanting, skipping through meadows, or reliving my raving days. I don’t come home and cook up a daily feast at 3pm every day, or take myself off shopping for something I ‘need’ such as another large pile of books (although I quite fancy doing all of those). It allows me to rest, rest, rest and take additional painkillers so I have more time to deal with the side effects, then have another rest. On Fridays I come home and sleep for the entire evening, because I just can’t function in any other way.

At weekends I’m not bursting with energy after all that rest, I’m ready for more rest. Which is really bloody boring at times might I add. I’m a bookworm, someone who loves to continually learn, I love going for walks or discovering new places (especially now I live on the coast), I’m a gardener and a baker. But I don’t do much, if any, of that, because brain fog makes it difficult to read much more than short magazine articles, and I can’t walk far because I’ll be so exhausted by the end of the road and my body hurts too much to be able to support myself with a stick or crutches. I can’t bake because I don’t have the energy to do the big clean up afterwards (I’m quite messy – think Selasi in the GBBO) and my gardening consists of keeping my lemon verbena plant alive through the winter.

Amongst all of this I’m half way through getting an Open University Degree. I’ve had to defer twice, and it’s taking me far longer than ever expected, but somehow I’m doing it. I’ll be honest, I can’t really remember a thing I’ve learnt along the way when put on the spot, but I’m getting good at answering University Challenge questions with my parents so it’s in there somewhere. I’m dreading the exam next spring, but what will be will be. If it doesn’t work out I’ll just try another module without an exam.

Then there is the financial freedom that working full time could bring. My wife currently earns considerably more than me and the is some  pressure on her to keep it that way, much to my dismay. But I’m lucky to be in a job I love and earn enough to pay my half of the bills and buy all the boring household groceries (she gets the fun tasty food and treats) and still be able to afford to treat myself to a few subscription boxes a month.

So, while working part time isn’t all doom and gloom as it means I actually get to see my wife on her incredibly unsocial shift pattern, and I get extra cuddles with kitty, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be when you work less due to health reasons.

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Pyjama days and kitty cuddles

Karen xx

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Trying to take a break

I haven’t blogged in a while. I’ve had so many thoughts and ideas jumbled up in my head, I’ve wanted to, but it’s been to difficult to put it on paper. I’ve been attempting to make some dramatic changes to my life. I realise now I took on too much, wanting to do more, be more, make use of myself. But it backfired, and all got too overwhelming. I sadly had to stop working for FibroAction, which is such a shame as I loved it, but it was beginning to feel such a chore, replying to emails late in the evening through blurred eyes, yawning and a complete lack of interest. It’s a bad time to leave the charity as they are going through an exciting time that I don’t really want to miss out on, but sadly it’s a sacrifice that had to be made. What’s lovely though is that I have made friends, especially the lovely Sian who runs the FibroFlutters blog and support group.

I have also taken up regular resting, planned days in bed after a long day, or two hour naps after work so I can function and hopefully spend some coherent time with my wife in the evening.

But trying to ease up on my workload hasn’t been all that easy. I recently had booked in to a business conference at the Bafta House in London, it was something essential for my business that I didn’t want to miss. Walking past The RItz and a number of shops that probably wouldn’t let me through the door was exciting, and the Bafta House itself was quite an amazing place. There were lots of speakers including Claudia Winkleman, Jack Monroe, Trish Halpin and other Marie Claire editors along with lots of people who have started their own business from scratch. I learnt so much and was having an amazing day. Until about 2pm. I hit my wall and needed urgently to get a break and sit down, or infact get home as soon as possible and lie down. But the conference didn’t finish till 5pm, and there was lots of standing around to contend with first. I cannot tell you how I got through the last few hours as I honestly don’t know. The train journey back to Brighton was one of the most uncomfortable painful journeys ever, and I spent the night on Tramadol hoping for some relief, and the following day in bed.

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I celebrated my birthday last week and another action packed day was planned, shopping, lunch with friends, dinner, lots of fun and a movie with my wife. I woke at 8am and got home after 11pm. I felt fine until the final bus journey home as I was enjoying myself so much I refused to let fibro join in. But the next day was spent in bed and I struggled through the weekend that followed. Just sitting in the sandpit playing Cool Auntie Karen to my friend’s gorgeous little girl on the Saturday knocked me out for the rest of the weekend. But I had fun, and I have to make sacrifices in order to experience these things.

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I recently saw a pain specialist after 3 years of waiting for a referral. He was amazing, so understanding, listened to me and knew what he was talking about. He’s writing to my GP to ensure I’m kept on the right medication (my GPs are generally quite useless and tell me off for taking pain relief) and referring me to a physiotherapist who can help with gentle stretching and getting my life back on track using pacing.

I have previously tried yoga, and loved it, as a form of relaxation and stretching, but it’s just too painful, my joints can’t take the pressure. And I’ve stopped using mindfulness and meditation too. I’m not sure why, I just can’t get into it any more. I used to find it so relaxing but now I find it stressful as I feel I have to force myself to relax which just increases my anxiety and pain.

Another move we’ve taken is getting a cleaner to come to the flat once every two weeks to give a thorough clean and change the sheets. This takes a lot of pressure off me as my role of a housewife, which is a role I gave myself and feel pressured to keep up, even though I’m not expected to.

So all of the above is a rather long ramble, probably doesn’t make any sense, and is just an outlet for the jumble of things in my head at the moment. But I feel better for getting it out there sometimes. And sometimes reading other peoples blogs and Instagram accounts makes me realise I am not alone. I have made a couple of lovely fibro friends recently and sharing things with them, and being there for them too, is a really wonderful thing.

Karen xx

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My Pain Story

My pain story began when I was about 14 or 15. My wrists and thumbs were causing me agony, my joints would click out of place and lock and I had pressure points on my forearm that we incredibly painful to the touch. I was sent for physiotherapy and ultrasound treatment. It didn’t work and made it worse. They gave up. I struggled through hours of GSCEs with horrendous writing and somehow still did quite well.

My memory fades a little after that until I was 16 and an office junior. My shoulders became so painful I felt sick. They too would lock and click, I could barely lift my arms up and working at a desk made it worse. The GPs said it was psychological and sent me on my way with big pink painkillers.

A few years later I was in more agony than before, and it hurt to put pressure on my hips. The GPs decided because I was so underweight (not through choice, I ate anything in sight, including my families leftovers from dinner!) my joints weren’t supported and they were blistering. I was sent on my merry way again, this time without painkillers.

By the time I was 25 I was living in Brighton and working in the most depressing job possible. I often went into my own world on my walk home from work as an escape from the draining experience that was every day. It was North Road, I looked twice, the traffic had stopped, nothing was coming, I stepped out into the road, next thing I know I was lying on my front looking at my glasses that had been thrown down the street, and my shopping underneath a big white van. I had been hit by a high speed bicycle who had no intention of stopping at the red lights 10 meters away. The bike and it’s rider landed on top of me. The bike was bent and ruined and I was lying in the middle of the road with traffic moving around me and a huddle of wonderful strangers – off duty nurses, The British Transport Police and lots of lovely passers by. They got my glasses for me and called an ambulance. I could hear the sirens for what felt like half an hour while the ambulance was stuck in traffic.

I was the third person that day to be hit by a bicycle in Brighton and attended to by that crew. They told me it was a miracle nothing had been broken. They checked me out, told me I’d feel like I’d lost in a rugby match the next day and sent me home in a police car. There was nothing a hospital could do. The injuries came out of the next couple of days and I still have scars from the massive bruises around my pelvis. I had tyre marks down my entire leg, my elbows and knees were cut and swollen, I was in shock and I felt incredibly awful.

I assumed within a few days I’d be better. But the pain never went away. That was three and a half years ago. Now,  my pelvis cannot take any pressure at all, my shoulders are constantly in agony and as the years have passed my knees have started popping out of place, my back has given up and I am exhausted, weak and very unwell.

It took 6 months to diagnose fibromyalgia, and I realise this is quite quick in the fibro world, but that 6 months of testing and ruling out a large number of awful degenerative conditions was a scary time. In the end my rheumatologist told me as I did not have a degenerative condition, he had more important people in his waiting room to attend to and discharged me back to my GP. I’ve seen about 12 GPs since then, few of them know what to do, or really seem to care.

I finally saw an on call GP a few weeks ago who prescribed me pregabalin. While my sleep has dramatically improved, the pain has not. Another on call GP this week referred me to pain management. I’m sad it’s taken over three years for this referral, but overjoyed someone listened to me after all this time.

I have dabbled with mindfulness and meditation and recently starting practicing about 5 times a week to help me relax and cope with the pain and exhaustion. I’ve also taken up yoga which helps ease the tension in my muscles and is slowly building up my fitness again.

I used to run 5k and 10k races for Cancer Research, I was accepted into the Territorial Army, I spent hours on the running track at the gym and I walked everywhere at high speed. Now I have a bus pass and take the bus for just one or two stops.

I now volunteer for FibroAction as an admin assistant. I also work 30 hours per week and I am half way through a degree in politics with the Open University. I;ve written some of my best assignments from my bed! I can’t garden any more so I bring home fresh flowers from the market every week. I couldn’t mix cake mixture so I bought a pink mixer. I can’t always cook so I ordered in some meals. I’m slowly but surely finding ways around my illness despite it worsening.

My latest project is an online stationery shop http://www.trinnys.co.uk, and this will also feature at Brighton Open market during warmer months. This may be the key to working from home, in my fluffy pjs, cats by my side and laptop in hand. So even if it’s a bad day, I can still get to work.

So there you have it. My pain journey has probably only just begun, it’s ever changing, and I remain ever hopeful.

Karen xx