Life with fibro, or any chronic illness, is hard. Living each day with a plethora of symptoms and no end in sight, unpleasant comments from others who don’t understand our condition and a feeling of missing out on what life has to offer.
If former work patterns have been forced to change, we may find that we have more time but less money than we did in pre-chronic illness days and that physically we can no longer do what we used to, so lifestyle adjustments are needed. In my case, out went frequent foreign travel, attending live football matches and going to the theatre, and in came slower, lower key and cheaper activities, which is the topic of this blog post.
Of course, it is hard not to be negative about how life changes thanks to chronic illness comparing our lives with the “normal” lives of our friends and peers. Acceptance can take a long time (at least 4 years for me) but now that I am more comfortable with it, I can stand back and look at things differently. And I’m fairly certain that there are many things I’d never have tried without fibro.
As an aside, I’ve just finished reading Kate Humble’s book, A Year of Living Simply, the central tenet of which is that there is immense life satisfaction to be found in slowing down and taking time to make, mend, grow, and live more harmoniously with nature. For me at least, an unintended consequence of chronic illness has been the adoption of a slower way of life involving fibro-adapted versions of many of the activities described within the book. And I can honestly say that now I have come to accept living with chronic illness, a simple life is just fine by me.
Anyway, here goes with some of the activities I have tried during my fibro years…
1 – Crafting
Let me start by saying that I am absolutely not an arty, creative type and crafting doesn’t come naturally to me. But, in the early days of fibro, when I found myself stuck at home, blighted by fatigue and brain fog, it seemed like an obvious thing to try. I’ve had a go at a range of different things such as loom weaving, soap making and rag-rugging (nothing too intricate as fibro does affect my dexterity). I’ve enjoyed all of them and the feeling of being immersed in the moment and the satisfaction of having made something at the end. My favourite craft has been (and still is) card making – it’s something that can be quick and is easy to pick up and put down depending on symptoms, as well as being nice to send hand made cards for birthdays and Christmas.
2 – Open Water Swimming
I took up swimming again after being advised to do so by my physio around the time that I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. After months of swimming in an indoor pool, I wanted to expand my horizons a little, so decided to try swimming in open water. It was daunting at first, swimming in black/brown/green water, not being able to see or touch the bottom and with no lane ropes to guide me, but once I got used it it, I grew to love it. The feeling of being so close to nature and having to fully concentrate on what I’m doing and where I’m going helps to calm my mind and I still feel a real sense of achievement after every swim.
3 – Meditation
Monkey mind doesn’t even come close to describing my mind, but I have been practicing mindfulness mediation with the Headspace app for just over a year now. I still find calming my racing thoughts tricky, but perhaps not a difficult as it once was. The biggest change has been that I now no longer believe everything I think, as mediating has enabled me to create distance between me and my thoughts – definitely a useful life skill!
4 – Exploring What’s on the Doorstep
Fibro has meant that I don’t travel anywhere near as much as I used to do. These days I stay much closer to home, due to a combination of financial and physical constraints. But this has opened my eyes to exploring my local area and have discovered places I didn’t know about before. I’m also trying to learn about the nature I see every day noting down what I see on my daily walks and observing seasonal changes. Aside from learning about local places of interest, flora and fauna, I’ve also come to realise that stuff is no less interesting just because we live near it!
5 – Writing and Blogging
I’ve always loved writing since I was a kid but, as with many hobbies of yesteryear, it fell by the wayside. I doubt that I would ever have had the time to rekindle my love of writing had I not been diagnosed with chronic illness.
When I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia, all I could see was a life of doom and gloom and it did take me a long time to come to terms with how my life had changed. But over the years, I’ve managed to accept that my life has taken a different direction from where I was originally headed. It’s only now that I look at the things that I have been able to do, which might not have been doable before, that I see it is possible to stretch our boundaries, find new passions, learn new things and ultimately find fulfilment, even with a chronic illness.