Friday, February 26, 2016

Getting Things Done When You Have a Chronic Illness

If you are like me, you rarely have energy to do much of anything. The day is over, and your to-do list does not have much of anything crossed off. It can be frustrating and disheartening.

I no longer make daily to-do lists. Instead, I have created a chart in my bullet journal (bujo) and a list of routine things.

Used colored pencils, so lighter than usual.
(If you follow me on Instagram, this is the 6th iteration of the graph. I will make further changes as I discover what is working, not working, or missing.)

I added "Weather" and "Sleep" to see if either, or both, are affecting what I do in a day. The chart is on the right-hand page – I note any appointments or other information on the left-hand page.

Example of a left-hand page
I created a bookmark list of signifiers to use with the chart. As I accomplish a task, I put an “x” or the initial(s) in the appropriate column. (Now that it is as perfect as I need it to be, I will laminate it to keep it clean and tidy.)

This graph paper is from a Passion Planner.
Since using this method for the last five weeks, I am less stressed over what I am not doing, because I can see what I am getting done.

Note: I am using a Miquel Rius quad-ruled 600-page notebook. I really like using graph paper, but I will change brands when this notebook is finished – the paper is too thin and I am getting a lot of bleed-through.  


Saturday, February 20, 2016

16 Ways to Reduce Stress

At the end of last Friday's post, I promised this week I would write about ways to reduce stress, primarily to reduce fatigue and fibromyalgia symptoms. And now I am late because I slept 14.5 hours on Friday. Not straight through, but I could not seem to wake up completely, so I went back to sleep. Has anyone else woken up to thinking someone was at your door? I swear, it has happened to me three times in the last six weeks.
So, let's get to it. Many of these can be Googled to find free sources to get started doing them.
  • Meditate. This is, admittedly, not something I do. Yet. I bought something to get started, though. Writing this might be the kick in the pants to doing so.
  • T'ai Chi. This gentle form of exercise and stretching also includes meditation. There is a great article, "Tai chi: A gentle way to fight stress" at (my favorite site for all things medical). 
  • Yoga. Another gentle stretching and meditation form of exercise. One benefit is becoming more flexible and move more fluidly. 
  • Shrugging. When I am in pain, I have a bad habit of tensing my shoulders, neck and upper back. A way to release the stress is shrugging. Here are two videos that demonstrate the technique I use: 
  • Music. "Musick hath charms to soothe a savage breast." - William Congreve (Yes, it's "breast," not "beast.") I listen to the Enya station on Pandora with my earbuds in. I live alone, so it is not necessary for quietude, but the earbuds are part of my process. 
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation. I did not know the name of it until now, but I have been doing this for more than 20 years. I could write it out for you, but I found a source that already has: Progressive Muscle Relaxation Script. I found this, aptly, at The Guided Meditation Site, where there are many meditation exercises and downloads.
  • Journal. Write it down! Get it out of your head! Whatever is bothering you, write about it. If desired, write solutions to whatever the problem is that is causing you stress.
  • SCREAM! If you are alone in your house, great; if not, go into your car, turn up the music, and let it out. (The music is to cover the scream in case someone is walking by and thinks they should call 9-1-1.)
  • Laugh. Watch funny movies, listen to comedians, find funny YouTube videos, etc.
  • Take a bubble bath. With or without wine, candles, or books. Tell your family members to use the bathroom before climbing into the nice, hot water, and then stay in there until the water is too cold or you are too prune-like.
  • Aromatherapy. Personally, I find the scent of lavender to be very calming. I have it in a lotion, combined with chamomile, which I rub on my chest and between my nose and upper lip.
  • Eat dark chocolate. It stimulates the release of endorphins, the feel-good chemical in the brain.  
  • Drink chamomile tea. This is a great herbal tea to drink before bedtime.
  • Get a massage. For some people with fibromyalgia, this would be torture, but for many, it helps reduce muscle tension. Every massage I have had has been accompanied by soothing music. I particularly like having aromatherapy oils used. The therapist can help you with the decision on which oils should be used. 
  • Read. A funny or romantic novel is probably better than a mystery or suspense book. 
  • Sleep. Easier said than done, right? Getting enough sleep helps ease stress, but stress impedes sleep. Reading in bed is better than watching television when it comes to sleep. There should not be any lights on, either - turn your digital alarm clock away from you so the glowing numbers do not disrupt your sleep.
I hope some, or all, of these methods of handling stress are helpful for you.


Monday, February 15, 2016

Male Menopause is Real

I hear a noise and think the garage door is opening, my husband is home. However, it clicks just as quickly that it is the heat, that he has not opened that garage door in almost nine years. That garage door does not belong to either one of us anymore.

Male menopause is real. Just like a woman's hormonal makeup changes, so does a man's. Yes, a man can continue to have children, but that does not mean there are not changes.

According to the Mayo Clinic:

If the man in your life, or you, has a personality change, starts to have mood swings, withdraws, gains weight or gets flabby quickly, or loses interest in things that had been of high interest, get him to a doctor. There are things that can be done: dietary changes, hormone-replacement therapy, and counseling. My ex has said if he had gotten counseling, we would still be together. (By the way, that makes it harder, not easier, to accept.)

The middle-aged men who leave their middle-aged wives for the much younger women is such a cliché. I never thought I would be one of the women left behind, but I was. It is still hard for me, but I think it is so hard because I never saw it coming.

Valentine's Day in 2007 was a horrible snowstorm where we lived, but that is the only reason he spent it with me. He could not pretend to go to work, but go spend the day with her instead. 

On St. Patrick's Day, he will be turning 60 - 10 years after his brain chemistry convinced his that his whole world was wrong. The wrong job, the wrong house, the wrong woman. None of those things are his anymore - he left the wife, the house has since been sold, and he lost the job. 

It is lucky(?) that my children were adults when it happened to us. Lucky, because it did not affect them financially. Lucky, because they did not have to see the destruction. Unlucky, because, it might have been easier if there was still the routine of going to games and plays, cooking them meals, etc.

I can honestly say that I hope turning 60 is easier for him than turning 50 was. Or the year when he was 29 and convinced himself he would be dead before his 30th birthday - he should never have watched "Logan's Run" with Michael York. The year he was 40 was life-changing in a different way - he had a new job in a new state, so a new house, we got new furniture and a dog. It was like starting over again, but with the same cast of characters.


P.S. If you have a friend who has been through what I have been through, realize that holidays, her birthday, his birthday, and the date that was their anniversary can be difficult. Give them a card, send them a funny card, just something to let them know you care.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Stress and Fatigue in Fibromyalgia

Do you have fibromyalgia? If so, you are probably tired. Very tired. You may even be exhausted. 

And stress! Why would you not be stressed when one thing after another seems to be diagnosed as wrong with your body.

Here is a chart I created showing symptoms in common between fibromyalgia, stress, and fatigue (exhaustion):

Stress and fatigue are symptoms of fibromyalgia, but you can see that they each have symptoms that are listed separately as fibro symptoms. Anxiety and fatigue also share many symptoms. 

If we could reduce our stress levels, would it also reduce our fibromyalgia symptoms? I found multiple websites that say "yes."

If we could reduce our stress levels, would it also reduce fatigue? Again, the answer I found is "yes."

Next Friday: Ways to Reduce Stress

Friday, February 5, 2016

Strange Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Fibromyalgia. What a strange chronic syndrome! No wonder it is a diagnosis of exclusion! There is just so much to it. Have you ever written down all your symptoms, all your miscellaneous conditions/illnesses, and wondered how could one person have so many things wrong? I have. It has been frustrating looking at the list and more frustrating when I have to add to it. This post contains symptoms I have, but also some others I will provide links for.

Runny Nose/Nosebleeds:

It is winter in the Northeastern United States, albeit a mild one. I am used to my minor winter nosebleeds and my chronic running allergy nose. This morning, however, when I blew my nose, it started bleeding profusely. It took 10 minutes, or so, to get it to stop.

Source: Osborne Head and Neck Institute
Hours later, it happened again just like this morning. I decided I would check to see if nosebleeds are a fibromyalgia symptom. They are! They and hemorrhoids (ugh!) are considered miscellaneous fibro symptoms.

Pronounced Nail Ridges:

I have had nail ridges for years! Many, many years. As in, my children were little when I overheard a doctor dictating his visit to me, and he said I was malnourished. In my research for this post, it sounds like my vertical nail ridges from back then are actually nothing to worry about. If they had been horizontal, that would have been something to worry about. The ridges are more pronounced and widespread since I was diagnosed with fibro. (On my own behalf, I will say that I ate a fabulously healthy diet for more than 15 years, and those ridges did not go away.)  

Night Driving Difficulty:

I never used to have a problem driving at night! I even had a job where I had to drive 45-60 minutes each way with few streetlights and no problems. I had a rural paper route during the night (papers available by 2 p.m. and had to be delivered by 6 a.m.) in the winter - it was a test of a new style, so it was a temporary, two-week job that lasted six weeks. Now, I dread driving at night. I am not sure if it is eye changes or anxiety issues, or both.

Tendency to Cry Easily:

Seriously? Maybe I have had fibro my whole life! I have always been hypersensitive and cry very easily. I was accused of crying to make someone feel guilty not too long ago; I was surprised to hear that, because I was crying due to a feeling of being overwhelmed.

Ringing in the Ears:

When I would go to school dances, my head ears would ring for hours afterwards. Many years later, they started ringing as a side effect of medication I was on. Fast forward another 10 years, and they started ringing constantly. Sometimes, I listen to music using my earbuds if the ringing is too loud at bedtime. (There is a ridiculous amount of noise in my head right now.)

Costochondritis - "an inflammation of the cartilage that connects your ribs to your breast bone." Please follow the link to read up on this one.

Low Body Temperature - I was surprised to find other people with fibro had LBT. Now, if the doctors would only understand that it is a serious issue.

Sensitivity to Odors - I am not the only one? Good to know.

Skin Problems - It is not bad enough that we have tender/trigger points, but we have to get rashes, dry skin, and mottled skin , too.

Reference sites:

That is all for today. Is there anything related to fibromyalgia you would like me to write about? Please comment below.