I don’t know if it’s the changing weather, my increase in stress, my ever expanding calendar, or all of the above, but I feel as if I’ve been having a lot of FMS/CFS flare ups lately. Anyone else with chronic conditions feeling me on this? It’s not just my usual pain-hyper-aware-of-every-cell-on-my-body kind of symptoms.
My brain fog is incredibly thick. Every day if someone asks me if I’m free on such-and-such a day I go “Oh. I think I have something planned? But there’s nothing in my calendar?” You know what I have planned? NOTHING. But my brain is just trying to comprehend being alive on that day, and that’s a lot.
My entire back is stiff and sore, not just my bum discs (and I have four of those lousy suckers).
My hands. I can’t even. Holding things? Gripping? That’s a joke on most days right now. Typing is exhausting. On Saturday, I painted the set with the kids and my hands still haven’t recovered from gripping the rollers.
My stomach? Hahahaha it’s so angry that I don’t even think that we’re on speaking terms right now. My stomach speaks whale.
AND I have had a cold for a week now. Let me just tell you that Puffs Plus Lotion with Vicks tissues have been my saving grace this week. Totally unsolicited, I just happened to pick them up at CVS when I was looking for lip balm. They make me feel like I can breathe for at least a hot second, and have saved my nose from getting chapped and sore. Not that they helped me feel less flu-like, but still, I’ll take what I can get.
And the list goes on and on.
So how do I make myself feel better on these flare-ful days/weeks? Here are my favorite ways to cope, and this list can be applied to any illness, chronic or not. From a cold to fibromyalgia and beyond, everyone needs to feel better when they’re unwell.
- Grab that heating pad and never let it go. I crank my Cara electric heating pad up to 165 and we hang out together all evening, sometimes all day. We are best pals. It helps relax my tense muscles and even though it won’t heal my discs, the heat therapy at least feels good for the time being. I’m also always cold, so this is a little bonus.
- Sleep late and nap. Hey, I have CFS, so that’s not too hard to do. I always sleep late. Heck, maybe I’ll sleep even later! My rheumy always tells me that there is no shame in taking naps, and that I need to listen to my body. Even if all I’ve done so far in the day is shower, I may feel that I need to go back to sleep, and that’s ok. His words, not mine. I swear! This is hard when I have to go to work, but it’s ok to come home from work and power nap, or spend the weekends sleeping/vegging out instead of feeling obligated to keep a full social calendar. I know I’m a party pooper, but I’m ok with that.
- Indulge. You know what makes me feel warm, cozy, and happy inside, no matter how I’m feeling? Hot chocolate. It’s kind of a treat for me, but I’ll make it if I know it will lift my spirits. Got a favorite food that’s usually on the no-no list? Who cares? Make it, or ask someone to help you if you’re having trouble. It’s worth it.
- Cuddle. With pets, of course.
- Read. Ok. I’m exhausted, and I can’t really keep my eyes open, and sometimes I have trouble gripping the book. Whatever. Prop it up (e-reader fans might have an easier time with this), and read whatever you can. I enjoy reading about some other world or life because it helps me keep my mind off of mine.
- YouTube. (Here come a lot of links!) How about this video of my future Savannah cat running and playing or a fierce serval cat (also in my future) looking fly and jumping? Do you like Patti LuPone? I do. She’s kind of the queen of everything. Try not to feel obligated to stand when she yells at you to “RISE!” and then throws her drink during this video. How about watching Sabrina run away with Harvey Kinkle? That always makes me happy. How about watching a kid get stuck in a pool of oobleck? So entertaining. And then you start to spiral into a series of fun, science-y videos for kids omg what is Squishy Baff? … What? A dry ice bubble? … What happens when you microwave gummy bears? Before you know it, hours have passed by and I’ve been really too distracted to feel so miserable.
- Music. Ipod, Youtube, or iTunes, wherever you get your music from, just listen. Showtunes, country, rock, classic rock, piano concertos, Mumford and Sons to Backstreet Boys, whatever it is, listen to it. Just sit and listen. In bed. In your favorite comfy chair. Under a blanket. With your hot chocolate, with your pets, whatever. Music, like a good book, can transport you up and away. Enjoy.
- Movie marathon! The Great Mouse Detective is of course my go to sad or sick day movie. Maybe find something new on Netflix or, my own personal poison, Amazon Prime? Is it time to catch up on Hulu or On Demand with the shows you’ve missed recently? How many chick flicks can I watch in a row? Is it possible to watch Baby Mama too many times (the answer here is no, and I watched it Saturday night when I was miserable and it hit all the right spots)? And it’s all mindless. I’m not watching any documentaries during flare weeks. I’ll save those for when my brain is working. Right now I need things that are easy to digest and won’t have me thinking. I need a complete brain break during flares.
- Say No. Don’t feel like going out? Can’t do that extra, not required assignment for work or school or whathaveyou? Say no. It’s not a crime. If you physically cannot do it, take a rain check. Real friends will still be there when your bad flare is over, I promise. If something isn’t required or doesn’t have a deadline, get to it eventually, or slowly but surely. Stress or excess will only make the flare worse. I love to do my best at work all the time, but I’ve learned over the past two years that sometimes I have to say no. And you know what? My boss is ok with it. My students understand. I can come back the next day and everything is fine and we can proceed as planned. Saying no is not something everyone knows how to do. It takes time to learn how and when, but it’s something that everyone needs to learn. No!
- But… Don’t cut yourself off. Reach out to a good friend who makes you laugh and smile. Even if you don’t talk about your flare (and really, don’t, unless it’s something you need to get off your chest, don’t dwell), just talk about something you saw or heard, or ask about their day. Human interaction is still nice. It makes me feel better. Again, even if I’m just asking someone else about their day, I get to take my mind off of mine.
What do you do when you’re having a sick day or need to be cheered up?