Fibromyalgia and the Heatwave

Just in case you hadn’t noticed, we are in the middle of a heatwave.

It’s not even 11 am and it’s 21 degrees! That’s, like, CRAZY! Well, it is for England, anyway.

People are walking around semi-naked (not always a good thing) and if I see one more f**king fly, I will scream!

‘Bastard’. Also Known as the Common House Fly.

Every year (around this time) we get a maggot infestation in the bins, because no matter how fast I am in putting our rotting food into the compost bin, those bastards are quicker. They are Ninja fast and reproduce just as quickly. Our bin becomes a maggot utopia. That is, until I theatrically snap on the rubber gloves and introduce the maggot-massive to my friend, Dom Estos!

Anyway, enough about flies.

Are you still there?

Have you gone to vomit, or check your bins?

Back to the weather..

Heatwaves make me feel shit. This is because my body can no longer regulate temperature. Have I mentioned that my body hates me?

For healthy people – hot weather equals sunbathing, fun, eating charcoaled sausages, collapsing chairs, sunbathing and copious amounts of alcohol.

For me, it’s migraines, sinusitis, brain fog, palpitations, fatigue and IBS.

Not exactly Club Tropicana, is it?

The magic temperature that suits me is ‘mild’. Whenever I hear the weatherperson say ‘mild’, I want to kiss the TV/radio/whatever. On hearing the words, ‘cold front’ or ‘heatwave’, I take myself off into my room and adopt the fetal position.

Please, don’t start me on rain!

There’s no scientific proof that weather affects fibromyalgia, but those who suffer with the condition will verify that their bodies are like barometers when it comes to the weather.

Slight diversion: We had a barometer when I was a little girl back in the 1970s – it was a reindeer with the barometer bit where it’s chest should have been.

I’ll let you into a little secret: I was worried that Father Christmas was missing a reindeer!

Or was this what happened to them when they got too old to fly?

Worse, I had to say goodnight to ‘Rudolph’ every night as I passed him on my way up to bed!

‘N’ night decapitated Rudolph with the glassy staring eyes. Please don’t kill me in my sleep!’.

Childhood trauma aside, I was fascinated how the dial swung from rain to fair etc. These days, I don’t need any atmospheric pressure measuring instrument (antlered or not) to let me know when the weather is going to change because my body tells me when the weather is going to be bad. Or good.

Mine has three weather terms: Good. Changeable. Shite.

Thanks to the heatwave my barometer is firmly in the shite zone. I feel ill. I’m miserable. Even the dog is giving me a wide-birth! Mind you, she’s fairly miserable herself. She just lies about on the floor looking pathetic, not that I blame her.

However, that cool kitchen floor sure looks inviting, no?

Anyway, here are some gratuitous tips of how not to die in the heatwave.

  • Stay indoors. (obvs)
  • Fill your home with fans. (log onto Argos and buy their entire stock)
  • Drink water. LOTS of water. (Dehydration will make you feel even crapper than you already do) (Fact)
  • Stand under a pleasantly cool (not cold) shower and refuse to move. (until someone needs a poo)
  • Do your outside activities in the morning or evening.
  • Live on salads.
  • Keep your clothing lightweight and floaty.
  • Go bra-less if you’re confident you won’t fall over your own nipples.
  • Go commando. (Women suffering from post-menopausal ‘drip’ might want to skip this one)
  • Find a nice north facing room and live in it until the weather breaks.
  • Borrow the washing-up bowl. Fill it with cool (not cold) water and stick your feet in it.
  • Lie down on the cool kitchen floor (with or without the dog) If you have an old one like mine (dog, not floor) leave plenty of space between you as geriatric dog breath could put you into a coma – leading to possible death and you’ll decompose a hell of a lot faster in this heat! (think of the smell!)
  • If all else fails, lie on the floor in your undies.

If you’re suffering in this heat, I wearily raise my fist to you in a show of sweaty solidarity.

If you saw a heat wave, would you wave back? ~ Steven Wright

Fibromyalgia and Guilt

It’s a few weeks since I got my fibromyalgia diagnosis and I’m struggling to adjust to being fibromyalgic. Is that’s even a thing? WordPress thinks not. It wants to correct it to ‘fibrillation’.

I’m struggling to adjust with the limitations. Of fibromyalgia, that is, not fibrillation.

I’m also struggling with guilt.

One problem is that people can’t see pain. They see the effects of my pain, which may come across as me being miserable. Or they might notice that I’m having a lot of sofa time. I don’t ‘look’ ill (not with make-up on, anyway) so I must be lazy?

Anyone who knows me in RL will no that this is not the case.

I know that having this condition isn’t my fault. I’ve always struggled with anxiety, therefore it was inevitable that one day there would be one trauma too many and the proverbial shit would hit the fan. I’m now wondering if the ‘nervous breakdown’ I had last year was in fact a severe fibromyagia flare up and the fear of what was wrong with me contributed to the severity of the symptoms? At the time, I told my GP that I felt something physical was driving the anxiety and not the other way around. It also explains why I couldn’t tolerate any medication because fibromyalgia can make you sensitive (or intolerant) to drugs, even simple painkillers.

The way I look at it is that I have three things to cope with: Pain, fatigue and guilt.

I get that it’s not my fault and yet, I feel guilty.

I feel guilty for having to rely on others.

I feel guilty about cancelling on people, not that I get out much.

I feel guilty about the stuff that gets postponed until I have a good day.

I feel guilty about being a miserable git because I’m in pain.

I feel guilty that I constantly complain about the pain from a condition that won’t kill me.

I worry that people won’t take my pain seriously.

This was one day last week.

Situation: Shopping.

I woke up after a good night’s insomnia. I scanned my body for pain levels. It was a 2. So I decided to go and grace the supermarket with my presence, instead of doing it online.

I sat in a well known coffee establishment and drank my decaf cappuccino (with coconut milk) feeling quite positive with life. Maybe, just maybe, today was going to be a good day?

At that point, the universe farted in my face.

My body protested the second I walked out into the humid car-park. It protested even further when I walked into the refrigerated section of the supermarket. This is because I can no longer handle sudden changes in temperature. My neck/ shoulder pain kicked in. However, the token was already in the trolley, so I pushed on – literally!

Pushing trollies these days feels like I am pushing a car, especially if I get one with a wonky wheel – which I inevitably do. Turning those corners with my dodgy neck and a set of four wheels that want to go the other way is an absolute joy. NOT.

Then, there’s the checkout experience..

On this occasion, I was in a supermarket where the checkout operators are trained to rapid-fire your goods at you at finger-breaking speed. You know the one where your fingers are in danger of being trapped between a can of sardines and a two-man tent? You see people limbering up as they queue, or power-lunging by the cat food. It’s more of a cardiovascular workout, than shopping. Also, there’s no help with packing here. If you’re slow (like me) you risk angering the fifty or so people behind you. However, it’s cheap, so you learn to ignore the glares and fists being slammed repeatedly into bags of frozen peas.

Heading back out of the chilly supermarket into the stifling heat of the car-park, I felt what little energy I had drain away from me. My battery went from 30% straight to PLUG ME THE HELL IN I’M ABOUT TO DIE!!!

I needed some energy, but I can’t ingest sugary things because my body is a bastard, so I had to make do with Linkin Park on full-volume.

What track did my my car ‘randomly’ chose to play?

I’ve Given Up.

The screamed lyrics, ‘Put me out of my fucking misery’ certainly raised a few eyebrows as I cruised past a well known bargain store (flogs 100 tea-lights for 99p) but I didn’t care because I needed the adrenaline blast to get myself home safely.

Anyhoo, by the time I got home and had taken my shopping bags inside the house – my muscles were basically on fire and it was all I could do NOT to slump onto the sofa there and then, but the ice-cream point-blank refused to put itself into the freezer – so I pushed on through the fatigue and pain.

Some days I wake up feeling crap. My pain levels are up or I have brain-fog and actual shopping is a no-no. Virtual shopping is a big enough ask on days like these. On other days I wake up feeling OK, but the pain kicks in when I’m out. Fibromyalgia’s be tricky that way. Hence, this particular situation.

Once I’d put my shopping away, I saw that my basket of washing needed pegging out and as soon as the ‘sod it’ thought entered my head, the ghost of my mother-in-law appeared (not really) saying, ‘It’s too good a day not to get that washing out, girl’ so I pushed on some more, promising myself faithfully that I would rest afterwards.

As soon as I stepped outside into my ‘sun-trap’ backyard, my head started to throb and my body ached as if I had the flu, but, still I refused to give in. Why? Because I’m an idiot!

I was only pegging some washing out. It wasn’t as if I was doing hardcore housework, but with each action of raising my arms, I felt as weak as a kitten – only less cute. I snapped a few pegs (that’ll teach me to buy cheap crap) and fought the urge to launch the peg-bag over the fence. Not that it would have gone very far. No strength, see?

My body was saying, ‘Oi. Oi. Oi. Moron. Step away from the classy rotary airier. YOU NEED TO REST!’, but my brain ignored it because it’s a stubborn tw@t and there was no way it was going to let a basket of washing defeat me! So, with a peg between my teeth, I soldiered on.

Having completed the task, I collapsed onto the sofa. I remained horizontal until I regained enough energy to prepare tea, which was three hours later. Alas, the migraine which had been threatening since the supermarket finally got the better of me and by 6pm I was in bed with ‘Coco’ and ‘Coolio’. That’s Co-codamol and Cool Strips, to you!

This was one day and by no means the worst. I just wanted to demonstrate how something menial, like shopping, can be such a pain in the arse – or whatever part of my anatomy my fibro happens to be manifesting itself in at the time.

The symptoms change, but pain and fatigue are constant.

The thing that bothers me the most is those hours when I am lying on the sofa. It bothers me that I can’t do what I want to do, when I want to do it. Or, sometimes, not at all. It drives the control freak in me up the wall! Then, because I feel guilty (and frustrated) I overdo things as soon as I regain some energy and find myself in this cycle of exhaustion, pain and guilt.

A little research shows me that the guilt trip isn’t uncommon with fibromyalgia sufferers, so I know that people will understand this post. I want them to tell me that the guilt doesn’t last forever. Or maybe that the guilt will push me when I need to be pushed because depression is getting the better of me? FWIW. I really don’t like crying. It makes me look like a psychotic panda. For this reason alone, I should have my tear-ducts removed.

I feel guilty for writing this post because there are people a lot worse off than myself. There is no termination point. I can walk. I can function, of sorts. This won’t kill me, but knowing I won’t die from this doesn’t lessen my pain. Or the exhaustion. Or even stop me whinging. It just makes me feel even more guilty than I already do.

To end this post, I will leave you with one of the oldest cliches in the book, but also one of the truest. Print it off. Stick it on your fridge, cupboard or forehead and absorb it’s message.

Appreciate your health: It’s a gift that’s not appreciated until it’s gone.

All images via Creative Commons

 

 

Anxiety: All Aboard The Crazy Train

 

It’s normal to have aches and pains in middle-age. The problem with minor aches and pains when you have a fearful and sleep deprived mind is that you start to overthink them until they turn into something terminal, like cancer.

This is health anxiety.

Since my late 30s there has always been a part of my body playing me up. This week it’s neck pain and I’m having another IBS flare up. I’m constipated and there is a niggling pain in my lower bowel region. A few months back I would have Googled my symptoms, come up with bowel cancer and scared the metaphorical crap out of myself.

This is what I now call ‘climbing aboard the crazy train’.

The crazy train is the runaway thoughts train. It’s a scary ride. Scarier than ANYTHING you have ever ridden on in any theme park.

Or ever will.

It’s fulled by your catastrophic thoughts. There is no driver. There are no passengers. There is only YOU.

These are just some of my anxiety symptoms over the past six years.

  • Allergies
  • Back pain, stiffness
  • Breathing problems
  • Blanching (pale face)
  • Body Aches
  • Body Jolts
  • Body Zaps
  • Body shakes
  • Body Tremors
  • Blurred vision/sensitivity to light
  • Body Temperature (going from very hot to very cold)
  • Bloating
  • Brain zaps
  • Brain fog
  • Burning sensation on skin
  • Buzzing in hands, arms and feet.
  • Chest pain
  • Chest tightness
  • Chills
  • Constipation
  • Craving sugar
  • Crazy thoughts
  • Difficulty speaking (slow speech)
  • Diarrhoea
  • Depersonalisation
  • Difficulty thinking/concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dry mouth
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Fear of dying, of losing control and going crazy
  • Feelings of unreality
  • Feeling that the tongue is swollen
  • Frequent urination
  • Hair loss
  • Headaches/migraine
  • Heart palpitations
  • Hot flashes
  • Hyperactivity
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mouth (burning tongue and clicking jaw)
  • Memory loss
  • Muscles (vibrating, tremors, weakness and wastage)
  • Nausea (retching and vomiting)
  • Neck (shoulder and neck tension and stiffness)
  • Nervous stomach
  • Night sweats
  • Numbness in fingers, feet and arms
  • Rapid/irregular heartbeat
  • Pulsing sensation
  • Sensitivity to foods and medication
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Shooting and stabbing pains
  • Skipped heart beats
  • Soreness on scalp (like bruising)
  • Twitching
  • Tinny taste in mouth
  • Tinnitus
  • Lightheaded
  • Weak limbs
  • Weight loss

To list ALL my symptoms would obliterate my word count but you will see that my anxiety symptoms have affected me literally from my head to my feet and I have multiple symptoms at any one time. In my case, being menopausal and autistic means that there are overlaps but the anxiety makes things profoundly worse. For instance, my Tinnitus isn’t an anxiety symptom per se but it is worsened by the anxiety.

The most comprehensive list of anxiety symptoms I know of is here.

The next time you say, ‘THERE’S ABSOLUTELY NO WAY THIS SYMPTOM CAN BE DUE TO ANXIETY!’

Have another read through the list!

All these symptoms and the ones listed in the above link are symptoms of stress.

Heart symptoms are classic anxiety symptoms but you should ALWAYS get them checked out if they are new for you. I underwent tests on my heart and the doctors concluded that my ticker was doing everything that it should, it was just beating faster than it should because my body constantly thinks it’s in danger.

I have generalized anxiety with health anxiety that is now in ‘remission’ cos I got myself some therapy, innit? I’m also autistic which is where the roots of my life-long anxiety problems lie. A lot of autistic people have mental health issues. Most, I’d say. This is because it’s stressful living in a world that you don’t understand and which doesn’t understand you. I also have OCD with sporadic bouts of depression. Not forgetting the good old menopause which means I am lacking in the hormones which kept me sane (ish) for 30 years – discounting one week out of every month where I went psycho and would have willingly stabbed somebody for their Mars Bar..

Over these past six years, I have been UTTERLY convinced that I have having a heart attack or that one is imminent. Or that I am riddled with cancer or some other insidious disease. Yet, ALL the tests keep coming back clear. The horrors that I have tortured myself exist only in my imagination. Whoever said that autistic people don’t have imagination? I have a fabulous imagination. Ask my GP!

Everybody is different when it comes to anxiety. My symptoms may not be your symptoms but the one thing I have learned about anxiety is that it affects your WHOLE body. Symptoms are transient. They stick around for a few days or a few months but then they go to be replaced by something else. To the exhausted mind – new symptoms equals fear.

‘THIS time, I’m really ill.’

Yes you are, but the illness is mental not physical. Dear.

A few months ago I would have been hyperventilating in my GP’s surgery at the onset of a new symptom but I have been there, done that and the t shirt is a mangled mess. Now, I calmly remind myself to acknowledge the symptom but not to Google it. If it lasts longer than two weeks, I see my GP.

It is important that I don’t CATASTROPHISE.

Yesterday it was neck-pain to the point where I needed painkillers but instead of allowing my mind to start shitting me. CANCER? OMG AM GONNA DIE kind of thing, I thought it through logically..

Last week, I’d been decorating, as in, climbing up ladders and looking up. I was working muscles that I hadn’t used in a while. Plus, I have arthritis. When you look at it rationally it’s easy to see why my neck would be giving me gyp. Simple isn’t it? IBS symptoms? I’ve been back on the beans and onions. To the exhausted mind – ANY pain – fires up the stress response. It has to be an illness, right?

Nope.

Don’t believe everything you think.

I didn’t allow my thoughts to run away with me. I took painkillers and each time the ‘what if?’ Gremlin wandered into my mind, I acknowledged it for what it was – A THOUGHT – and carried on binge watching Benidorm. Today, there is no pain and I had a decent night’s sleep because I didn’t climb aboard the crazy train.

Way to go, me.

The point of this post is to help you to understand that anxiety affects the entire body. Often there will be no explanation other than stress hormones affecting your body. I wouldn’t have thought that my scalp feeling bruised was an anxiety symptom but it is. Or a clicking jaw. The good news is that your symptoms will start to fade away as your stress levels recede. If you need the reassurance of your GP, by all means go and get your ten minutes worth.

Then ACCEPT it when they tell you it’s anxiety, especially when tests come back clear.

The crazy train will come for you.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO CLIMB ABOARD.