So... I continued my "working like a crazy" streak during the last week of my 3 week staycation, albeit pacing myself a little better decorating at my mum's and sticking with my wellbeing appointments... and now I feel absolutely whacked. Commuting back to the office for work at the weekend also required a big shift in gears.
I think all in all, I accomplished a lot and I feel really good about that, but I'm interested to see how much I crash, bang and wallop this coming week. The fatigue is already kicking my butt - tiredness on top of tiredness despite trying to get to bed a little earlier and I am nervous about depression creeping up on me again.
Did I tell you Fibromyalgia is rubbish?
Just a quick post this week to say I failed miserably this past 7 days in pacing the jobs I planned and I will update next week if the trade off was worth it!
I got loads done, but will it come at a price?
In its simplest form, behavioural activation is splitting up your day into Morning, Afternoon and Evening and putting one thing in each section of your day that you would enjoy doing to motivate yourself gently out of depression. I did a lot of this part of CBT in hospital and it was really helpful. I desperately needed to get back in touch with my values and rediscover why life was worth living.
Now my depression is lifting and I feel as if my grief is getting under control, I want to revisit ba, but in a slightly different way. I find I get too absorbed in having to get everything done at once, starting many jobs and never being able to finish them because of time, lack of experience, energy.. This hamster on a wheel thing gets me down. I drove for 5 days straight this past week due to family commitments and then instead of resting, over the weekend I worked solidly in the garden pushing myself because I always feel like I'm trying to catch up with jobs just to stay level (not even ahead of the game!) I drive myself barmey.
In the pain management program, I learned that this type of yo-yo of activity is not great for Fibro and we covered a lot of groundwork on pacing. I think this is something I will be continually working on! But not just with pacing. I often cram my day with chores upon chores and then have little time for creativity and relaxing my mind. Since my last post, I haven't once used my new creative space to chill out.
Over the coming week, I'm going to use the ba method and see if I can add some fun into my week so I don't feel constantly overwhelmed at being a home owner and having to manage everything on my own. I can't promise any change in my behaviour, but let's see..
As I said to a friend this week, that's why I take holidays so I can escape! Not that I'm bitter about not being in Canada right now..
The pain in my back has been challenging so I was so thankful to finally be able to have a myofascial release massage for two wonderful hours on Tuesday afternoon. How I have missed this treatment! Prior to that I really pushed myself in PT in the morning (we can now have outside sessions) and I kept moving for a whole 12 minutes doing the Coopers Test. It was wonderful to jog/run and not care about anyone or anything. This is something I'd love to have the confidence to do on a regular basis, but with weight gain thanks to medication, I don't feel ready yet.
Thursday early morning (the first time I have got up at 6am for a 7am start in ages) I had a wonderful two hour yoga 1-2-1 session over Zoom. It really set me up for the day. I have forgotten that feeling of being energised ready for a new day since the fatigue of Fibro now clouds most of my mornings / days.
I would love more of this!
And finally, on Friday I was able to have face to face acupuncture and even some little magnets in my ears, which I've kept in so far. Plus more myofascial treatment on my sometimes numb, sometimes weird tingling thigh - again, thanks Fibro. My physio said my chi was really low, not surprisingly. I am having trouble moving emotions through my body at the moment and I've been feeling "stuck". This in turn keeps my mind whirring when I really need to sleep!
So, despite the social distancing, the face masks that steam up my glasses and the not being able to hug friends and family, it is great to be getting back to seeing people face to face as restrictions lift.
So I should be in Beirut now looking at beautiful architecture and enjoying the Paris of the Middle East, and then the plan was to fly on to Istanbul for more of the same with a cheeky side trip to Cappadocia - a place that has forever fascinated me.
Boo to Coronavirus!
However, on the plus side, the sun is shining here.. and with the lack of travel to distract me, I have been making serious progress with the Corona clear out, in order to have a blank canvas to work with for the next chapter in my life. I finally ordered a man with a van, well, actually a very nice couple with a van and they took the big pile of stuff outside the house to the tip and recycling centre for me. I never thought I could get excited about seeing rubbish being cleared! I've got 3 big boxes of books to send to Africa, half the loft is now empty and I've almost put everything I want to sell on eBay. I even have some empty shelves and drawers!
I'm not going to lie, it is exhausting work and difficult doing it all by myself, as the house and garden still need looking after on a daily basis and often it seems that the work just never stops. I battle with my fibro daily and often find myself "trading off". One thing I have been trying this last week is to actually rest when I'm resting and I want to introduce some play and fun into my weekly schedule because I know that's when I really switch my mind off from racing and my whole body will relax. I tried this Wednesday evening. It wasn't a particularly inspiring day at work, so I decided to see if my barbecue would fire up so I could cook some kebabs. I got completely engrossed in cleaning the thing, which hasn't been used for about 4-5 years, cooking my dinner and then scrubbing off the grate afterwards. Let me be clear, that's not my usual definition of fun and play, but just knowing the barbecue still worked - and I could actually use it without Colin's help! - was empowering enough to feel like fun and play.
It's funny because I'm not feeling overly concerned about self isolating and being home alone during this Covid crisis, but I am getting completely overwhelmed with clearing out stuff! So much for pressing pause on life and slowing down for a while... Usually I love having a good tidy up and giving to charity sesh, but this time I'm not just dealing with my things and that's where it gets complicated - well, for me at least. I don't want to dispose / give away anything of Colin's that I might regret further down the line, which means I have this need to go through everything in great detail. Hello anxiety.
The thing I have noticed with Fibro, is that I am often wired yet tired.. I love that because it rhymes, but what I actually want to say is that I'm wired yet exhausted, completely and utterly and no amount of right and left nostril breathing, guided meditation or mindfulness is helping at the moment.
I am making progress with clearing the decks in the house and garden, but it feels like I'm a dredge and I'm forever wading through sludge. I know it's going to be amazing once I've finally sorted out all the stuff, but I'm not enjoying the stuffocation in the meantime! I also have this terrible habit of opening one box, getting distracted, and then opening another and another, until I'm surrounded and completely overwhelmed. I know to break the task down into manageable chunks, but my brain does not want to function that way. It just wants to rush to the finish line and move on to the next thing.
I do like the idea of picking up an object and seeing how it makes me feel. Does this item bring me joy? For me, this works best with my own things especially books for some strange reason. I've been using it a lot this past week.
So I will keep on with the task at hand, keep dredging, but I'm hoping to gain some perspective and Be Still and Be Calm-er over the coming week...
Self isolating is hard, even if you do enjoy your own company and have many activities to keep you occupied - as I do. And the weather has been decidedly off.
This week has been a struggle, so I'm posting fun stuff I did a week prior, to remind myself that a little light relief goes a long way!
Quizzing with friends, creativity and family fun
I am devouring wonderful TV at the moment during Lockdown - The Nest, Call the Midwife, Shrill, The Split, Gameface, King Gary, Line of Duty, Killing Eve, Last Tango in Halifax, Unforgotten, Marcella, Black Mirror, This Country, Liar, Our Girl, Friday Night Dinner, Flack, Bosch, All Round to Mrs Brown's Boys and Luther. As you can see, my tastes range from absolute silliness to beautiful comedy drama to deep despair and darkness. I think this is why I'm currently really enjoying and connecting with the wave of tragicomedy from the likes of Dead to me, Fleabag and Ricky Gervais's After Life because it blends all three of these things into one, big emotional punch. It's raw and unfettered and a ballsy way to address the delicate subject of grief.
It has taken me 6 months to pluck up the courage to watch After Life after friends recommended it. They warned me I needed to make sure I was in the right headspace because of its subject matter. So now, I've almost finished Series 1 and its sheer brilliance is bringing me to my knees and I am in awe, so much so that I had to write about it on today's post. I said to my sisters that if they want to know what life was like for me when I was having my break down, please watch this. The portrayal of grief in all its many crucifying forms stomping on my heart daily and causing the greatest of pain I have ever felt, the absurdity and randomness of life when I truly believed I'd lost the only thing that really mattered to me, and the beauty of Gervais's writing that makes me laugh and cry and gasp for air simultaneously - this is the brilliance I am talking about.
Because the pain of losing your best friend and soul mate is undeniably one of the worse pains of all, powerful enough to crush your body and turn your mind to insanity and you will do anything, anything to eliminate it. And how do you tell that story without making your whole audience suicidal as well? Humour. Injecting just enough lightheartedness in whatever form you choose - romantic, tragic, dramatic - to warm the soul, whilst simultaneously feeling the pain and despair. This is such a fine balance that I would love to be able to portray in my own writing one day.
Like Tony, I remember feeling like a suicidal, invincible superhero (as paradoxical as that sounds) - the worse thing had happened to me so nothing else was ever going to be as bad. I remember looking at suicide as my "get out of jail free" card and the odd sense of peace and comfort it gave me. I remember seriously wanting to try heroin. All of a sudden I could see very clearly how people become addicts. I remember the countless times on my commute home how I almost stepped off the platform as an incoming train rushed through. I remember standing at the tops of buildings, looking down, weighing up the pros and cons of smashing my body into the concrete below. I googled methods of suicide whist on my lunch break, looking at comparison charts rating effectiveness, reading case studies of overdose patients to work out how much I needed of each type of medication, arguing with doctors to give me more sleeping pills, plotting how I could get my hands on benzos and opiods from all over the world, watching videos to educate myself on how to tie a hangman's noose, testing out the dark web to see if I could buy a gun and then, when I realised I wouldn't be able to shoot myself because I read a story about a woman who tried to and all she did was blow her face off, I looked at hiring someone to do it for me. I even considered a euthanasia clinic to end my suffering.
It was a dark, despairing, hopeless place to be in, but, unlike Tony, I kept it to myself. And to this day, I don't know which is worse because the burden he is putting on the people around him is exactly what I didn't want to do. Yet looking back, I would also say that talking about my grief and everything else it was bringing up for me was the best thing I ever did.
When I was in hospital, in the early part of my stay, one of the nurses said to me that I frightened her because she witnessed me laughing and joking around on the ward trying to cheer up the other patients, but my notes said, if I was allowed leave, I would immediately go out and try and kill myself again. It took me a long time to realise that the extent I was going to to hide my pain was not the best of coping mechanisms and I didn't have to smile and laugh and joke my way through this crisis. And the fact I wasn't going to be discharged until I did some real work in the form of CBT, DBT and ACT - all very useful therapies when your crisis has gone beyond the spiralling stage and you've hit your rock bottom - meant I needed to be there to get myself back on track because I'd proved I couldn't do it on my own. Another nurse said to me that it wasn't just about me and happiness is everywhere if I look hard enough and that made me think too. Just like Tony, I had lost myself in my grief and it was exhausting.
I think this is why I can connect so completely and fully with the heart wrenching tragedy, bubble wrapped in the silliness and fierceness of brash and brazen "on the nose" comedy portrayed in the likes of Fleabag and After Life. In my mind, it is a way of tackling those difficult, despairing issues and talking about my own experiences so I can educate people whilst also entertaining them, or, maybe that should read "engaging them" because what has happened to me is not a joke. It was a real and painful, tangible experience which has changed me forever. And now I am thinking about boundaries and how I am still trying to find that line I decide I won't cross, which I know is somewhere in between being the shy, reserved, emotionally stunted child I was to the overly extrovert introvert person I have become. Neither of which sit well with me. But I am working on that!
I was supposed to be flying to Bucharest today - the first trip of 2020 - but that's obviously not happening, as we now know lockdown is on for at least another 3 weeks and no one is going anywhere.
I'm keeping all of the details though because I know I will be taking this trip at some point...
I do have plenty of things to keep me occupied, there is never a shortage. I went full pelt last Tuesday and rightly or wrongly pushed myself physically for most of the day. I chopped up an old bench with a rather heavy axe and then dug, raked and added manure to the garden. I was exhausted by the end of it, but in the Fibro pain management programme hosted by the NHS - more to come on this - I did learn to weigh up the pros and cons of doing extended periods of physical work - and in this instance, the pain and fatigue I had afterwards was worth it because of what I'd achieved. This is not always the case though, so we have to be careful. I knew I had a yoga nidra class (via Zoom) that evening, so I knew I was going to be able to wholly relax both mind and body and, having done this before, I knew it would help the after effects of pushing myself. Such a fine line though and we are all very, very different, with different symptoms and different pain levels and there is no "one size fits all" fix to Fibromyalgia.
Fatigue and the loss of core strength and flexibility are the two things that eat me up with Fibro. The fatigue continues to baffle me and I liken my body core to a crane which doesn't want to work properly - no strength to lift and no flexibility to move smoothly. Through physio, yoga, working with my PT and my counsellor, medication, diet, nutrition and supplements (and it does take all of these things and often feels overwhelming, confusing and exhausting!) I am trying to un-trap my mind and body from both depression and Fibro. It's like learning to drive a car all over again as currently I'm stuck thinking about every move and thought.
Thank goodness for the sunshine, as we enter the third week of lockdown, and being able to keep active and get some natural vitamin D. I've been doing loads of gardening (as well as continuing with the mass decluttering inside the house) - pruning, digging, raking in manure, sowing wild flower seeds, re-designing borders and building up damaged areas of the lawns, all to get everything ready for planting in about 6-7 weeks time. I did realise on Good Friday that I'd overlooked one vital part of all this - buying compost - so I went online (probably not the best day..), but with the horrific virtual queues, I ended up spending about 4x as much as I would in an ordinary, sane year. But needs must! I've got about 400 plant plugs arriving over the next few weeks and they will require bringing on in trays.
We are all adapting, some better than others, in these strange and uncertain times. Technology is a godsend though. Good Friday evening I had a "video watch party" with my older sister and nephew as Amazon Prime were showing the theatre version of Fleabag for £4 and all monies were going to key workers. It was so lovely to be virtually with some of my family at a time when we would naturally all be together for Easter. I did feel a real boost afterwards, just having some social contact. Then the weekend was quite busy with clients rebooking for 2021 - also a boost, as I now know my trip in May to Beirut and Istanbul has been cancelled and I am feeling weird about having no travels to look forward to.
It's funny (and somewhat predictable) how I am still trying to manage all of the different things in my life - even after writing this very same thing when I started this blog back in 2011 - and now living with Fibro and all the issues that raises. I am constantly battling against the To Do list that just keeps going and another long acceptance journey for me is to come to terms with the fact that we are never "done". This week I was trying to put my exercise, stretching and diet plan into an easy to remember format because, at the moment, the stuff I do independent of my sessions is a little haphazard. It is so easy to get sidetracked and my brain has definitely become more "foggy". I have to keep reminding myself each little step forward is progress because Fibromyalgia only allows a certain amount of spoon activity and then we need to rest and recoup and start again the next day.
Blogging is an amazing concept so here I am giving it a whirl. You'll get words. You'll get pics. Sometimes a vid or two. You'll get tongue in cheek, the odd humble opinion and an honest insight into my travels and writing life. Maybe even a few gems along the way. I'll be musing on home turf as I see more and more of the UK and sharing my experiences further afield on holidays and adventurous trips across the globe.