I have fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, degenerative disc disease, chronic migraines, Reynaud’s Syndrome, a herniated disc and probably many more chronic illnesses that I’m forgetting. Oh yes, and I’m a depressed and anxious person. You know, pretty par for the course really, if you have one chronic illness you often have more than one. Not including the depression and anxiety that you get just from having a chronic illness – if you didn’t already have that before you had a chronic illness.
But we all have to live our day to day lives, even if our chronic illness disables us like it did me. We still have dreams and things we want to do, we just have to approach everything differently than we used to. Things are naturally going to take us longer, and that’s okay. Don’t be too hard on yourself, especially in the beginning stages, and especially while you are adjusting to new medications. Take all the time you can to adjust, as some of the medications taken for chronic illnesses are quite strong. That being said, you aren’t required to take medication if you don’t want to, but I’d go with what your doctor suggests before trying to figure it out on your own.
There are some ways to reduce pain levels or allow you to live a better life. Keep in mind that I’m not a doctor, merely someone fighting several illnesses every day. Some quick tips from my own experience and from what doctors have told me:
- Exercise gently. Don’t start a gung-ho workout regime, unless you already know it works for you. With many chronic illnesses, exercise can make us more tired, hurt more or even injure us. So take it gently, with things like stretching, walking and yoga. This will help prevent some weight gain, plus keep our muscles and bones strong. Be gentle with yourself, and only do what you are able to do. Absolutely do not push yourself too far past your comfort zone, but you should push a little bit further every time you exercise.
- Take magnesium on top of your regular multi-vitamin. I take about 250mg a day, over what is in my multi, and it helps keep the pain rather low burning. Talk to your doctor before adding anything even as simple as a vitamin or mineral, as things can have strange side effects or interact with medications you may be taking. This is especially good for those who also suffer chronic headaches of any kind, as studies have shown that chronic headache sufferers tend to be low on magnesium. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure WHY it works, just that it does.
- Eat healthy, especially in a diet high in fruits and veggies. These are full of vitamins and minerals that you might not be getting in your regular diet, unless you eat a high fruit and veggie diet already. I admit to not adhering to this one too much, as I’m flat broke and can barely afford bread, but I would like to add more fruits and veggies into my diet. I felt better when I was able to do this consistently, and was one of the first things my rheumatologist told me.
- Take Vitamin D on top of your regular multi-vitamin as most of us in the Northern climes but in particular in the US are Vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D has been proven to help with so many things, including chronic illness. Talk to your doctor about how much you need to take, he/she may also prescribe you high-dose vitamin D if your levels are really low. I take 2,000IU of vitamin D every day, on top of what is in my multi, but I am chronically low. The only time I was ever even IN the normal range was when I was on high-dose, but I was only one point into the normal range.
- Use a timer to get things done every day. Depending on your level of functioning, you could set it for 5-15 minutes at a time. You will be amazed at what you can do in such a short amount of time, for real. You can do as many sessions as you need or feel comfortable doing, but make sure you take at least one 15 minute break every 45 minutes to drink water, take a walk, or just relax. You can do one 5 minute session, followed by a 15 minute break or whatever it takes for you to get what you want to get done. I’d get a lot less done without my timer! It does take a bit for the timer habit to kick in, but once it does it is awesome.
There are many more things I could write, but this blog post is starting to get long enough. The most important thing is to find what works for you. These tips will help you even if you’ve had a chronic illness for a while, especially fibromyalgia or CFS. What are some things you do to battle your chronic illness? Have you tried any of the above tips? How have they worked for you? Any other tips you can add to this list?