It’s Not Been All Bad

Dealing with a chronic illness can take up so much energy and command so much of our attention throughout the day that it is easy to get lost in the trees blocking our path. But every now and then, I like to be able to take a step back and look at the forest through the trees, the big picture of my life. . . and then, things don’t seem nearly as bad as they do on a day-to-day basis. So I thought it was high time that I started thinking of some of the better things that fibromyalgia has brought in my life.

Featured painting: Forest Through The Trees-II (16X20, oil on canvas)

Here are my top 5!

1. Ability to notice and be grateful for the tiniest little pleasures in my life.

This is the perhaps the biggest and most important gift that I have been given by a chronic pain condition. Here’s an example that illustrates my point:

A few days ago, I had taken enough tramadol before going to bed that I had little sensation of pain even upon waking. That feeling, of waking without pain, is such a distant memory that, at first, I thought I was dreaming and not really awake! And then it occurred to me that I had woken up most of my life like this – not in pain – and I had never noticed what a pleasure that was; I had taken it completely for granted. Well, not anymore! I can count on one hand the number of days in the last year that I have woken up with practically no pain or stiffness, and I am immensely grateful for each of them.

2. Reconnecting with my husband in a very special way.

I think this is right up there, sharing the #1 spot. For some time now, I have had a difficult time balancing my work with my life, and it took a strong turn of events for me to prioritize him again over all else. I had taken him so much for granted that I had forgotten how special he was to me. My struggle with fibromyalgia has served to bring us closer than we have ever been. He has been my pillar of strength and a rock for me to lean on (both figurativelyΒ and literally, I might add) in my roughest times. I cannot begin to express how grateful I am to have him in my life!

3. Realizing that work doesn’t have to be my life.

For the better part of the last half-decade, I have been a bit of a workaholic. A large part of that was because I actually enjoyed my work (and still do), but because I spent so much time working, I was starting to invest too many of my identity-eggs in that one basket. Fibromyalgia forced me to take time off from work and made me realize that I am more than just a biologist; I am more than just my work. My identity as a scientist and a teacher is just one aspect of me, but I have many other interests as well. I also learned to be more flexible with both my commitment to my work, as well as my career choices in the future, knowing that however things turn out, I will still have other identity-eggs in other baskets.

4. Reconnecting with the “other side” of me.

Another consequence of spending a long time working in a left-brain oriented manner was that I was feeling “lefted-out,” i.e. feeling locked in the left side of my brain, incapable of connecting with the more spontaneous, free-flowing, right side of my brain. Pure reasoning is an exercise in frustration when it comes to making sense of chronic pain, especially at a young age. That kind of approach is not conducive to being able to accept the current condition and “roll with it.” As I engaged more in art and meditation, I felt more capable of connecting with the right side of my brain. In doing so, I have been able to feel moreΒ whole as a person, and was able to embrace a lot more than what the solely analytical part of my mind could handle.

5. Learning to prioritize and delegate.

iceberg_2Compared to the top 4, this one might seem a small one. In truth, however, “prioritizing and delegating” is just the top of the iceberg. There is much more to it underneath, as depicted in the image to the right, in order for that approach to work. In short, fibromyalgia has taught me more lessons in mentoring than any workshop I have ever attended!

I guess this just goes to show that every cloud does have a silver lining, though sometimes I may have to look for it a little harder. Once I find it though, it brings me much hope and happiness, and often when I need it the most!



17 thoughts on “It’s Not Been All Bad

  1. Thanks so much for sharing! I’m really interested to know more about how you cope with processing information. Also, I love your art! you’ve actually encouraged me to get back to it (I’ve had some challenges that barred me from my childhood dreams of being an artist so I gave up on it long ago) but I do miss it sometimes. Have you always painted? tell, tell, tell! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad you enjoyed the painting and the blog post! πŸ™‚ I took some watercolor lessons as a child, but then took a long hiatus from any kind of art. Always wanted to try oil paints, so my husband got a Bob Ross starter kit for me the Christmas before last – this was when it was becoming clear that I would have to do something to cut stresses and find ways to cope with fibromyalgia – and that’s how I got started! It’s been an amazing outlet for me to be able to paint what I feel and write about it here. I am so glad that I may have encouraged you to start painting again! I would love to see more of your work!! πŸ™‚

      I am not sure I completely understand what you mean by coping with processing information, but I am guessing you are asking about coping with brain fog. Honestly, I am not sure I really have a good way around this one. I am lucky in that fibro spared my brain for the most part, but sometimes I do feel very mentally tired and feel like I cannot think. Then if I have to do something, I try to take careful notes, read the protocol twice, even thrice, before doing it. But often I still end up screwing it up. So I try to avoid doing anything critical during that period. Reading with a foggy brain is hard for me too, so I will try to make schematics from what I am reading or take short notes to try and use different parts of my brain, so hopefully I retain something from what I read! That’s about all I’ve got here. I hope you find at least some of this useful!! πŸ™‚

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      1. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer! I need to look into that Bob Ross starter kit! I’ve never really used paints before except in my early secondary school years and tat was shortlived, sadly. But Id love to learn.

        So brain fog causes all sorts of issues for us, varies with each patient, for me I forget quite alot but also have had alot of issues with processing my thought patterns. sometimes very simple information gets very confusing for me and I fid it hard to retain anything or remember what I should know! :(IM glad you sound like you’re managing well so far.

        I hope to post that award piece over the weekend. Thanks so much again for everything! x πŸ™‚

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      2. I do tend to forget things occasionally too, and have found it helpful to write things down a lot more than I used to. It is more difficult to solve the jumbled thought pattern problem. I have only faced that once in a while, but can definitely relate to your frustration with regards to that. Sometimes I will need people to repeat things, and I repeat it after them to help solidify it, or jot notes/schematics as a memory aid. Have you tried any mind/memory-enhancing games? A friend of mine tried some for chemo-brain I think (which sounded similar to brain fog associated with fibro) and thought they were useful. Not sure how useful I am being here, but it’s just an idea.

        I will be looking forward to learning more about you through the creative blogger award post!! πŸ™‚


  2. AMAZING! Love reading you post and seeing what you are grateful for, I particularly like the bit about reconnecting with the other side of your brain and becoming whole again through that as well as the delegating and prioritizing section. Something I hadn’t really thought about when considering my own illnesses but I will definitely look into it and apply this too myself. Great to hear new and different ways to learn how to live and love myself with these illnesses.

    A fantastic read, as always plus I love the art work at the beginning πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for the encouraging words! πŸ™‚ I am really glad you enjoyed the post and that it may have given you new ideas about your relationship with your own illness. I find that prioritizing is very critical with fibromyalgia, because not everything can always get done all at once, so I do the most important things first, just in case I run out of energy later. The delegating is a blessing when I can do it, but often, as I tried to show in the little iceberg diagram, it takes more patience than just doing it myself! But that’s just the woes of a Type A mentor, LOL! And something that is worth getting over as well! πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post! Live life! Love life! So inspiring. It makes me want to leave work early and spend some extra time with my wife and kids. And that painting is my favorite right now. You have a way with paint and words. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

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