Fabulous Fibro Weekend

Originally posted www.ProHealth.com • November 10, 2017

People who suffer from chronic illnesses like fibromyalgia are just like everyone else. We want and need friendships that offer someone who will listen, support us, and help us to feel – and be – better.

However, living with a chronic illness makes it difficult to maintain friendships, and no matter how tough we think we are, we can’t do it alone. And we really don’t want to.

I understand how difficult it must be as a friend of someone living with fibromyalgia. I seldom make plans in advance because I don’t know how I will feel on any given day. I am that friend who cancels at the last minute – even when I really want to enjoy the time together. I often feel the need to explain why I can’t do something that I really want to do, and that can be exhausting as well.

Facebook and other means of online friendship that can be enjoyed from the comfort of home are a true blessing.  Indeed, online was the first place I met others who truly understand or “get” what it is to live my life. It was through Facebook that I met some of the most important people in my life. We celebrate each other’s successes and are there to support one other through the dark days.

In addition, I belong to an “in-person” support group, which offers a different experience compared to my online friendships. In the support group, we actually see how others are feeling, how slow they may be walking, the fatigue and pain in their eyes, and tears of joy being with others who understand.

I have been trying to connect with others outside of Facebook and the support group because I know that meeting fellow fibromites helps me not to feel so alone in my illness. I recently spent the weekend with a group of ladies who totally “get” what it’s like to live my life. Before the weekend, I knew only two of the ladies, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was being around others who not only understood, but could also empathize.

Our friendship began with us already having a lot in common. During the weekend, we did as much – and as little – as we each wanted. The freedom was exhilarating!  It was wonderful to be around others without having to pretend or explain. It was okay when we changed into our pajamas at 5:30 p.m. on the first night. It was perfectly acceptable when I lay down for an afternoon nap. We enjoyed the warmth of the water park, the time in the water and the really good tropical drinks. We may have looked perfectly healthy, but our “day” at the water park consisted of about two hours. Those two hours were enough. We each felt comfortable acknowledging our personal limits and no shame in admitting them. We enjoyed great food and wonderful conversation and developed new fibro friendships. It was truly a Fabulous Fibro Weekend.

I encourage you to join an in-person support group or an online forum that meets your needs and to get to know other Fibro Warriors ~ Living Life. I know I just made some new lifetime friends.

Seasonal Affective Disorder & Fibromyalgia

Originally posted on www.ProHealth.com • November 18, 2017

It is that time of year again:  the onset of fall and the change of daylight hours. For as long as I can remember, each year as the days grew shorter, the nights grew longer, and the weather got colder, I would begin to struggle with lower energy levels, craving carbs, weight gain, increased fatigue and depression. My mom always called it feeling “down-in-the-dumps” or “the winter blues.”

As an adult, I began to notice the pattern. Every year I would be in the doctor’s office, an emotional mess reporting the same feelings.  I finally received the diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is described as a type of major depression linked to the changing seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer.

Those with SAD often experience depression, lethargy, sleep problems, anxiety, withdrawal, loss of libido and craving carbohydrates and sweet foods leading to weight gain.

SAD is quite prevalent in Fibromyalgia and CFS/ME. More than 50% of fibromyalgia sufferers report symptoms of SAD during the winter months.

Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder can range from mild to severe and, in some cases, the illness can become debilitating. It can complicate fibromyalgia by causing increased muscle stiffness, anxiety and disturbed sleep. 

“In nature, winter is a season for saving energy for spring and re-growth. For humans, winter is a time to reflect. The sun’s energy is in high demand for those who have seasonal affect disorder. In other words, it is a time when our energy may not be easily supported.” Celeste Cooper, Broken Body, Wounded Spirit: Balancing the SeeSaw of Chronic Pain – Winter Devotions edition

I live in Northern Wisconsin and even before I was sick, I was not a cold weather person. Now, on weekends when I do not have to get dressed and leave the house for work, I don’t. That kind of isolation is not good for anyone fighting depression.  I have found that I need to start my combat against the symptoms of SAD as early as September and continue until May.

Battling the Sadness
In addition to exercise, getting enough sleep, eating a well-balanced diet, and reducing stress, there are a range of treatments to help combat SAD.

Let the Sunshine In:  Open the curtains & blinds.  It is especially important to get the morning light. In addition, I light spring-scented candles to help give me the feeling of spring/summer.

Stay Active: Spending time outdoors helps ease symptoms of SAD. Go for a walk. Even if it is a bit gray outdoors, you will still get some much needed Vitamin D.

Supplements for SAD: Take a multi-vitamin every day. Additional supplements include:

  • Vitamin D
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  • 5-HTP
  • Melatonin

Light Therapy: Doctors may prescribe light therapy to help reduce SAD symptoms. There are several devices available – from portable light boxes, full spectrum light bulbs, to dawn simulators. 

“I was prescribed by a psychiatrist my SAD light over 15 years ago and it has really made a difference in my depression. I start using it in September through April each year. Sit approximately 16″ from light 30 minutes per day before daylight if possible. Helps with the time changes a little. I don’t feel so irritated by things, no energy, blue most of the time … I shouldn’t be feeling like that. It is a serious disorder and is treatable, so don’t hesitate to ask for help.” says Beth H.

Winter Get-Away
I laughed when my doctor suggested I go to someplace warm for a week or two each winter.

“Sure, can I have a prescription for that?”

I did have an opportunity to spend 5 days in Arizona and was amazed at how fantastic I felt while I was there. You can read about that experience here.

In a perfect world, we would all have the money to spend a week or two somewhere warm soaking up some vitamin D. Until that dream becomes a reality, making these changes a regular part of your routine beginning in the fall may help lessen the effects of SAD.

Always talk to your doctor concerning the treatment of depression of any kind.