Hi I’m Alexandra, a new Ambassador for Dorset Mind – and here’s my story about living with fibromyalgia.
What is Fibromyalgia…
For me, it’s extreme fatigue, lack of mental and physical energy, aches and pains throughout my body, heavy muscles (where it’s hard to move), brain fog and generally a small amount of capacity.
Sounds horrible doesn’t it? Honestly I still don’t really understand what it is, nor do doctors to be honest. It’s something that is diagnosed after everything else has been ruled out and if you fit the ‘Fibromyalgia’ criteria. There’s something about that that feels rather inhumane.
Where/when it all started…
I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in September 2018 and on some days I was bed/house bound or I was too weak to feed myself. I became very depressed and anxious. I went from having a successful career in dog grooming to not being able to have any sort of independence. I became reliant on help from others, help into the car and even help to have fun.
This affected my mental health enormously! I didn’t hold much hope for getting better because every day was as painful as the last. The doctors barely knew what it was, let alone had the recipe for recovery. I would dream of driving, socialising and working again. I thought that my life was long gone.
But, there is still hope…
I am living proof! 4 years later, I barely notice my Fibro symptoms, they only crop up occasionally.
So how did I do it?
I don’t think I ever realised quite how well the body and mind is connected. If one part of the body isn’t working, it can affect your mental health, your digestion, your appetite, your quality of sleep etc. I started taking Sertraline (an anti-depressant) and that helped keep my mood up a bit, which in turn helped me in facing the ups and downs that came with recovery.
Here is a list of things I did over a long period of time that I believe helped my recovery:
- Hydrotherapary (Exercise in a warm pool)
- I cut out gluten and dairy to help settle my stomach (I was later diagnosed with IBS), help my fatigue and see whether the muscle inflammation would improve
- I had Counselling, CBT and Life Coaching to improve my mental health- It taught me how not to be scared of the pain and it’s okay to acknowledge that it’s there. This really helped me to continue living life and exercising.
- I went for very short and slow walks and carefully built up my stamina.
- I rested and practiced not feeling guilty for it.
- I attended Chiropractic appointments.
- I had NHS and private Physiotherapy.
- I committed to doing daily stretches.
- I went for private Myofascial release therapy – It’s a beautiful gentle massage that works the fascia (tissue), known to be very good for Fibromyalgia.
- I tried to drink 2 litres of water a day.
- Talking to friends and family, educating them about what I was going through.
- I tried to commit to going out and having fun when I could.
Don’t be overwhelmed by this list, you can pick and choose things you would like to try and figure out what works for you. This is what worked for me – and not everyone is the same.
Learn to become more in tune to what your body wants and needs. My best remedies now are continuous exercise, seeing friends, seeing therapists when I need to and taking time out to relax.
The turning point in my attitude…
I eventually accepted my Fibromyalgia, which meant I stopped fighting everything that it brought. This changed everything because instead of succumbing to all the aches, pains, tiredness and frustration, I started to see that I do have some control. I don’t need to be scared of the pain. I started to listen to my body and was then able to establish when and whether I needed to push past small amounts of pain, or whether it was a day to rest.
I began to adopt some good habits. I exercised little and often, and this helped build muscular strength and capacity again!
I hope you find this helpful, inspiring and hope giving.
Our Guest Blogger:
Huge thanks to new Dorset Mind ambassador Alexandra for writing so candidly about her experience of living with Fibromyalgia.
Dorset Mind offers group support that can also help with your wellbeing. The group offers peer support and helps to reduce stigma by normalizing conversations about mental health. You can also check out further support for stress and mental health here.