THE Plan and the flare up

I have good news and bad news. Since asking which one you’d like to read first is pointless, I’ll start with the bad news that way we can end on a high note!

Ok, the bad:

As predicted in my last post, I am in the middle of a fibro flare. I was really hoping that it was just a fluke or a rough patch, but since it’s gone well past the week mark and shows no sign of stopping, I’m officially calling it a flare up. My trigger points are seriously unhappy lately, to the point that some of them are actually visible to the untrained eye. They look (and feel) like marbles under my skin. Thankfully, they tend to come and go, so they’re not constantly exposed, but they are unpredictable.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with trigger points, here’s an overview.

Trigger points (some times called tender points) are one of the main ways doctors diagnose fibromyalgia; they stand you up and literally poke specific spots on your body to see if they cause an unusual amount of pain. There are 18 points doctors look for and if 11 or more them cause pain, congratulations, you have fibro. Here’s a picture to show the official 18 points they check:

The number of spots that actually hurt can vary widely from person to person and time to time. For me personally, I generally have 16 out the 18 active at any given time. Usually, these trigger points are only painful when you touch them, if you’re really lucky, only when you apply a bit of pressure.

During a flare up, all bets are off. Like I said earlier, my trigger points become inflamed and actually stick up out of my skin, when they’re particularly pissed off, even wearing a t-shirt can be extremely painful. It feels as though I’m being stabbed in the back with a white-hot poker, complete with that radiating pain you get from a nasty burn.

The only thing that I’ve found thus far that helps with trigger point pain like this is having trigger point injections. Basically, a doctor jabs a needle into the offending spot injecting a tiny amount of anesthetic. Even with the anesthetic, it’s a breathtakingly painful experience, so it’s only something I do as a last resort. Let’s just say that right now, I’m seriously considering it. 😦

Along with my trigger points being angry, my sleep is all kinds of messed up. The issue is that I’m having trouble falling asleep and when I do finally pass out, I tend to sleep so heavily that I don’t move and wake up feeling stiff and disoriented. It’s also taking a lot longer to shake the morning fog. Usually, I wake up, take my morning meds and I’m good to go in about 20-30 minutes; lately, however, it’s taking 45 minutes to an hour, even after taking my meds with a full glass of cool water. For the record, I’m not complaining. I’ve suffered through days at a time with no sleep whatsoever, so I’ll happily take the sleep I can get even if it’s not great.

On the plus side, I’m still breathing! 🙂 That is always a good thing, because it means there’s still hope for things to get better. (I know, sometimes I’m so optimistic I make my own teeth hurt.)

I did take a few days off from exercising, but since it made absolutely no difference in my pain levels, I started up again. Before the flare up, I had started doing Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred every other day. I’ve thus far done 10 days of level one, and I am amazed at the results. Not because I’ve lost any weight, but because of how quickly my endurance has been improving. Last week, I astounded myself by jogging 2/3 of a mile. Yesterday, I jogged a full mile, 1.1 miles, to be exact. Again, I didn’t jog all of it at once, I broke it up into segments of about 1/4 mile at a time. As if that wasn’t amazing enough, all the jogging brought my 5k time down by about 5 minutes! Back in June, I was thrilled because I walked 5k in 50 minutes, now, just over a month later, I can do it in 45:05. I’ve met my interim goal, now on to the next phase: 5k in 40 minutes.

Do I feel terrible? Yes. Does that mean I give up on my goals? No. Absolutely not.

 

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THE Plan, update #5

Toot! Toot!

Yeah, that’s me, tooting my own horn, again. 🙂 I’m afraid that I have to brag for a minute or two- yesterday, I actually jogged for 2/3 of a mile. Not all in one go, I did 1/3, walked for a bit and managed to do another 1/3. I know that there are tons of people out there who run 5 or miles in a shot, so I’m sure to some, my 2/3mi isn’t all that impressive. It’s impressive to me though!

If you had actually known me before I started on this fitness kick, you would know that movement of any sort was just not something I did. To put it bluntly, I was a lazy slug. I made it a point not to do anything more that I absolutely had to. I’m not proud of that, as a matter of fact, it’s down right embarrassing for me to admit. However, I am incredibly proud that over the course of three months, I went from being a lazy slug to being able to walk three miles a day just because I can.

All that walking has also helped me lose weight. I’ve dropped another 4lbs, bringing my total to 20lbs lost over the last three months. Woo hoo! 🙂

I am having to re-evaluate my program a bit, since I’ve hit a minor plateau over the last few weeks. Part of that plateau is due to the fact that I sort of tell off of my diet wagon for a bit, but I’m back on it. No more cheating!

I’m also pushing myself to work out a bit harder; instead of a 30 minute walk, I’ve upped it to 45 minutes or an hour if I feel up to it. I wasn’t kidding about doing a 5k in October. I’m really going to do it, and I’d really like to do it in a reasonable amount of time. Jogging for a full 2/3 of a mile, (in 90+ degree heat!), is a pretty good start. I’ve got about 2 months left to work up to it. Do I really think I’ll be able to jog the full 5k..? No, I don’t. I hope that I’ll be able to, but realistically, I don’t think I’ll be able to jog the whole thing. That’s ok, maybe I can jog the next one!

THE Plan, update #4

I have a confession to make. Over the holiday weekend, my diet got thrown overboard. No calorie counting, no walks, none of it. Believe it or not, by the time Monday rolled around, I was actually missing my routine.

My last workout was Wednesday and by Sunday I noticed a serious increase in my pain levels. It started out with a headache, but by the start of the afternoon the random pain spikes had started: my hands, my arms, my legs.. all over the place. Ugh. I hate days like that and I totally didn’t miss them.

I don’t know if it was the lack of exercise, the sudden change in diet or maybe just a random bad fibro day, but it was miserable. Needless to say, it’s back to the routine for me!

I’ve decided to try adding some basic yoga to my weekly routine, I just ordered Yoga for Beginners from amazon.com. It should be here by the end of the week, so hopefully by the time I post my next update, I’ll be able to say whether I like it or not.

I’ve tried taking actual yoga classes, but they were an epic fail. I made sure to talk to the instructor before I signed up, I told her I had fibro and that I was an absolute beginner to yoga; she assured me that her class would be perfect for me. It was, in fact a total nightmare. The class was mostly made up of advanced beginners and the instructor moved so quickly from position to position that I couldn’t keep up. Thankfully, my mom had decided to take the class with me, so I wasn’t the only one struggling. I think we gave up after only 3 or 4 classes, even though we paid for 8.

Needless to say, that experience left me with a bad taste for anything resembling yoga. I’ve decided to give it another go now only because I need to change up my workout routine and  I could use some guidance as far as stretching. Improving my flexibility probably won’t hurt either. If I try this and still hate it, I may give pilates a shot. True, yoga and pilates are similar, but they’re definitely not the same thing.

I’m really looking forward to trying something different, so here goes!

THE Plan, update #3!

never-give-up-inspirational-quotes

I know I say this about just about every quote I post, but I love this one. It’s one of those fabulous quotes that can be applied to a variety of situations, both profound and mundane. At the moment, I’m using it to help me stick to my diet… very mundane. I want a brownie NOW, but I have to remind myself that what I want most is to lose the weight and be the healthiest me possible.

In an effort to distract myself from my chocolate craving, I thought I’d post an update about how the whole diet and exercise thing has been going. Since my last update, I’ve managed to shed another 2.5 pounds, bringing me to a total of 16.5! I did a Google search the other day for things that weigh around 16.5 pounds, and came up with this:

bowling

Yep. I’ve lost a bowling ball. How awesome is that? With that in mind, suddenly that brownie doesn’t sound quite so awesome… Hooray for distractions!

The other thing that helps keep the cravings at bay is looking at the calorie count. It takes me a good 30-45 minutes of walking at a fairly brisk pace to burn 300 calories, that’s a lot of work to make up for a snack. Knowing how hard I’ll have to work to make room in my calorie budget for something makes it so much easier to turn down all those evil, yummy goodies. 🙂

As for the exercise part of my plan, I started Week 2 of the Couch-to-5K program this afternoon. Some of you may remember that I mentioned this program back when I first started writing, but I had to stop because of a knee injury. It took me about 6 weeks to get back into the program, but today I not only managed to complete the recommended workout, I didn’t feel like I was going to die doing it! I’ve never been a big fan of exercise, so being able to complete the entire workout without having to stop is a pretty big deal for me. Hopefully, I won’t end up giving up a bunch of my spoons for it tomorrow… Wish me luck!

It’s a diet, not torture!

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about my weight loss plan, so rather than try to respond to each of them individually, I thought it would be easier to answer them all at once :).

I’ve been using the My Fitness Pal app to keep track of my daily calorie count. The app is amazingly easy to use, you can use a bar code scanner to enter foods and the app keeps track of everything for you. You enter in your height and weight, then the app calculates your daily calorie goal based on how much you want to lose and how quickly.

The hard part is watching what I eat. It’s true that I have given up some things, but I don’t feel like I’m starving all the time or that I can’t treat myself every now and then. If I know that I’m going to go out to eat, I try to make room in my calorie budget ahead of time, this way, I can enjoy my meal without feeling guilty about breaking my diet. I am proud to say that I’ve successfully managed to stay at or under my calorie goal for the last 50 days!

I have had to cut back on sweets, which is tough, since I’m a serious chocoholic, but I adore dark chocolate and it doesn’t take much of it to cure a craving. Other than that, I haven’t really given up anything major. I’ve been studying several different light/healthy cookbooks and amazingly, they’re not all full of bizarre ingredients. The Hungry Girl books by Lisa Lillien are amazing! Some of the recipes are a bit odd, but she offers a ton of advice on healthy and low calorie substitutions that help to make a serious dent in the calorie counts for many meals. I even managed to make a super yummy shepherd’s pie that came out to have only 290 calories in a very generous serving. The other book I like is The Biggest Loser Family Cookbook; it’s hard to fault a cookbook that offers a healthy version of a meatball sub, without using some weird meat substitute!

Healthy eating isn’t all salads and tofu and you certainly don’t have to starve. It does help to increase the amount of fiber and protein in your diet, but you don’t have to eat a bunch of things you don’t like. I have to say, I’m really enjoying the challenge of re-learning how to cook. I’m still able to make (and eat!) the things I love, and I love that they’re healthier for me to enjoy.

As proof, here’s a look at a typical day’s menu:

Breakfast:

2/3 cup Special K Oats & Honey 100 calories

1/4 cup Craisins 130 calories

Cup of tea, sweetened with Splenda and 2 tsp Benefiber 15 calories
__________
Lunch:

Ham Sandwich (Sandwich Rounds, 2 oz deli ham, lettuce) 170 calories

1/2 cup cottage cheese 90 calories

Celery Sticks 18 calories
__________
Dinner:

Grilled Chicken Parmesan 307 calories

2 ounces spaghetti noodles 180 calories
__________
Snacks:

Yoplait Light Yogurt 90 calories

This day came to a total of 1100 calories and since my daily budget is 1430, I came in 330 calories under my allowance, without exercising at all! Even if I’m having a bad day and can’t exercise, I can still work towards my goal weight. Obviously, exercise helps tremendously with weight loss and it does give me some wiggle room in my diet if I absolutely cannot resist those chocolate chip cookies, but it’s not something that has to be done every single day.

I know that exercise is pretty much a “bad” word for most of us with fibromyalgia, so for those of you who would like to lose some weight and are unable to get much exercise there is still hope.

THE Plan, update #2

inspirational-quotes-adjust-your-sails

I love this quote, because it describes exactly what it is that I am working towards. I know that there are many obstacles in my life that I simply cannot change, so instead, I’m working to change how I get around them. It sounds simple enough, but sometimes it takes a tremendous amount of effort to react to situations the I want to rather than the way I’m used to reacting to them. Some habits are hard to break, but they can be broken.

With that in mind, it’s time to take a look at the plan I came up with to help me deal with being chronically ill. Just to recap, here’s a brief overview of my actual plan:

  • Get Happy: This is kind of a mind over matter approach, I’m learning to change the way I react to situations. I’m learning to control my temper and to always look at the brighter side of things. I’m seeing a therapist, who’s helping me learn to deal with stress and the depression that comes with fibromyalgia.
  • Get Healthy: I’m using a combination of diet and exercise to improve my overall health. My goal is to lose a total of 45 pounds.

It’s that simple.

I’ve been working on these things for just over six weeks now, and while I’m nowhere near saying “I’m done!”, I am making tangible progress. I’ve been counting my calories religiously and have actually managed to stay at or under my daily calorie budget every day for the last 45 days. I’ve also been able to stick to a low impact exercise plan. I’m not able to exercise every single day, but I do average about 4 times a week.

I’ve now lost a total of 14 pounds. 🙂

One of the other benefits that I’ve noticed since I’ve been exercising regularly is my mood. My depressive episodes have decreased dramatically and it’s getting easier for me  to keep control of my temper. I’m not having crazy mood swings either. Yesterday, I noticed that I was actually completely content for no apparent reason. Today, I’m still inexplicably happy. For me, that’s a pretty big deal.

My pain levels are down, but the pain isn’t completely gone. Prior to starting my new routine, my average pain level was an 8 out of 10. Now, it’s about a 4-5. I still have the debilitating flare ups, but they don’t seem to last quite as long. Last night, for instance, my right hand/arm got so bad that I literally couldn’t use it; we’re talking an 11 out of 10. I’ve had many, many instances like this before, but thankfully, they have become less frequent.

The fibro fog is still a major issue; I’m having difficulty concentrating on conversations, I forget what I’m doing in the middle of tasks, words get jumbled when I speak… yeah. The fog is pretty frustrating, but given the choice, I’ll take the fog over the pain any day.

I really can’t complain, life is good. The best part is, I know that as long as I keep fighting, things will only get better.

Exercise and Fibro

This article goes hand in hand with my own personal experience, I thought I would share it to show that I’m not entirely crazy. 🙂 I know some fellow fibro sufferers are quite rightly skeptical of my plan and even some of my family and friends think I might be overreaching on this one. I truly believe that with the right attitude along with the desire and the will to change will do more to help me live a normal life with disease than any drug or treatment ever will. Part of why I write this blog is because of the strength of my belief; I want to show people that this disease doesn’t have to destroy your life.

—UPDATE—

I just received a message in regard to this last post. It said “I keep hearing about how exercise can help, but it’s not a cure. It’s just another treatment, you can’t stop. If you stop, the disease just comes back, we need a cure, not another cover up for the symptoms.”

Well, it’s true. My plan is not a cure, it is just the way that I am choosing to deal with my invisible foe.  Yes, if I stop exercising, stop trying, the disease will come back, full force. The question I have to ask is: why would I stop? If it’s working, if I feel better, why in the world would I stop doing the very thing that’s helping me?

If it was a pill that was helping, would you stop taking it, (assuming it has no horrible side effects), just because it wasn’t a cure?

I wouldn’t. The only difference is, this isn’t a pill, it’s something that I am doing. A daunting task, yes, but I can not sit idly by waiting for some miracle cure that may never come.

This is my life we’re talking about. I won’t let it go to waste just because I’d rather wait for a cure than use a treatment that works.

Thank you for that e-mail. Responding to it brought my passion back to the surface and reminded me why I’m doing what I’m doing. You don’t have to give any credit to what I say, but I will do it, whether you believe me or not.

Link

The Plan in Action, Update

Item number 7 on my list of things to do today was to report back on how my day went, so here I am! I’m feeling much better than I was this morning; my pain levels are a considerably more manageable 4-5 at the moment and I’m still in a great mood. I am, however, utterly exhausted. I didn’t get a chance to take a nap, so I’ve decided to go to bed early instead.

As for the rest of my list, I have to admit that I didn’t stick to it very well. Obviously, I completed number one this morning and I did get to relax with a cup of tea and my book. After that, things didn’t go exactly as planned. Instead of lounging outside, I spent a good chunk of my morning following the stock market. My dad is trying to teach me a thing or two about day trading, so I figured the least I could do was put some effort into it. 🙂 No, it’s not the most exciting, (or relaxing), thing to do, but I did learn some new things and hopefully, someday I’ll be able to make some money doing it.

I did make it to item number four, I spent a very pleasant afternoon chatting with my mom and dad in law. It’s the first time since I started this project of mine that I’ve actually sat down and talked to them for more than a few minutes. Sadly, they were among the group of people who I previously pushed away from myself, today’s visit was my first step towards truly letting them be involved in my life.

You know what? It was awesome and I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect since I’ve never really spent much time with them when my husband wasn’t around. I know, that probably seems odd, but I really did spend entirely too much energy keeping people away from me.

Regardless, it was a great afternoon, for the first time ever, I opened up and actually talked to them. I told them about my plan to heal myself and invited them to follow my blog. I cried my eyes out while my second mom held my hand as I explained how truly miserable I had been and how ashamed I was of my behavior.

Not only had they already forgiven me, they understood why things had been the way they were and all this time had just been giving me space to do what I needed to do. Seriously, I could not ask for a better family than the one I have; I have four fabulous parents who, whether I was aware of it or not, have been behind me every step of the way and continue to support my efforts as I work towards putting my life back together.

Since I know they’re all reading this, I just want to say: thank you, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

I spent the entire afternoon and part of the early evening with my in laws, which is why I didn’t get around to that nap. After such an emotional, (but profoundly amazing), afternoon, I was too wiped out to take the walk I had planned either. Seriously, it’s just about bed time.

Even though my day started out utterly miserable, and didn’t go exactly as planned, I’m going to call this experiment a total success. I was able to get past the pain and fatigue without hiding in bed all day. I may have been short several spoons, but I was able to carry on with my plan to bring the people I love back into my life.

Today, I won.

The Plan in Action…

inspirational-quotes-its-impossible-said-pride

Why is it that the pain is always the worst at night? It can’t just be me who experiences this obnoxious phenomenon, right? I lie down, exhausted from a long and trying day; I am just about asleep when the little fibro gnomes in my body decide to declare war on me.

I think I must have laid there for about three hours trying to fall asleep while the evil gnomes pulled the muscles from my bones one fiber at a time… Sorry if that’s a bit too graphic this early in the morning, but to be honest, it amuses me to come up with new and disturbing ways to describe my pain to people who don’t have fibro. I’ve got to find the bright side somewhere! 🙂

Considering the multi-hued handful of pills that I have to take at night in order to get to sleep, it’s pretty scary that the gnomes are able to keep me awake. Just so we’re clear, I’m not up early to make this post, I just haven’t gone to sleep yet. Ugh, it’s going to be a long day.

However, there’s still a sort of bright side to it; this is a perfect day to test out my theory concerning changing how I react to my illness. Just as a quick recap, my plan is to change the way I react to the fibromyalgia in order to stop it running my life. That being said, I’m going to come up with a basic plan for how I’d like today to go, even though I’m in serious pain.  Here’s my plan for today:

  1. I’m not hiding my pain. Instead, here I sit, putting it out there for the world to see.
  2. Enjoy a nice, relaxing cup of tea, while I read a good book. I’m currently reading Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card.
  3. Once it warms up a bit, I’m going to, (get ready for this!), go outside. Granted, it’s not like I’m going to go out there to do yard work or anything, but I think soaking up some sunshine will be good for me.
  4. Shower. With any luck, that will help relieve some of my discomfort.
  5. Assuming that I’m not in too much pain, (or too tired), to take a short drive, I’m going to go visit my in-laws for a little while. Luckily, they’re not far, so it should be feasible.
  6. Honestly, I’m probably going to need a nap right about now.
  7. I’m going to try to get in a little bit of exercise. I’m not going to go crazy, but if I can get in a trip around the block, I’ll be happy.
  8. Report back on how the day actually went, and be totally honest about it. I know that to most of the population out there, that’s probably a pretty lame plan for an entire day, but remember, I’m running on zero sleep and right now, my pain level is bouncing between 7 and 10. I’m a bit short on spoons today, so I’ve got to be realistic about what I can actually do.

The truly amazing thing is that, even though my pain levels are through the roof right now, my mood is great. True, this could be due to lack of sleep, but I’m going to be optimistic and say that maybe, just maybe, my plan to change how I react to my pain is actually working.

Logic and reason are definitely telling me that this is impossible, but if I don’t at least try, I’ll never know.

I’ll check back in later tonight to record my results, in the meantime, I hope everyone has a fabulous day!

THE Plan, Update #1

It’s time for an update on THE plan!

Let me start by saying that I am thus far, totally thrilled with the results! If I seem like I’m bouncing off the walls, its because I am. 😀
It’s been about four weeks since I started this little experiment of mine and I truly couldn’t be happier. I’ve lost 10 pounds so far, as well as, (drum roll please!), one jeans size!! Holy crap, Batman!

I’ve successfully managed to exercise at least four times a week, even with my previously injured knee, although that has been something of a struggle for me. Overall, my mood has been much better, but I still have at least one or two days a week where I feel totally overwhelmed and/or depressed. It takes a major amount of effort, but so far, I have been able to stop myself from giving into those moods, most of the time. Quite honestly, while the weight loss is amazing, it’s knowledge that I don’t have to feel miserable that’s really making the difference for me.

I know I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say many more times in the future, but if the only variable in this situation that I can change is me, by God, I’m going to change it. I WILL NOT allow myself to become surrounded by hopelessness and misery ever again.

So, now that I’ve gotten my little affirmation out-of-the-way, here are some of the things I’ve noticed since I started this experiment.

My pain levels have dramatically decreased. I’ve had fewer instances of debilitating pain. I’m still in pain, but rather than being at 9-10, it’s been a more manageable 6-7. I have actually had at least one, if not two days over the last few weeks that have been completely pain-free. It’s kind of strange, I’m going through my day, doing whatever it is I’m doing, and I suddenly stop, because I have that feeling like I’ve forgotten something major. Anyone who’s ever suffered from fibro fog knows that feeling; it usually means you’ve forgotten to feed the cat, to pay the electric bill or worst case scenario, you forgot to put pants on before going out to get the mail. After a few confused moments of trying to figure it out, I realized that I wasn’t in pain. I’m so used to the “background noise” of my own pain that it actually startled me when it wasn’t there. It was like someone handed me a whole box of brand new spoons, (If you haven’t read The Spoon Theory, you totally should)!

Unfortunately, as with everything in life, there is a bit of a downside. While my pain levels have decreased, for some reason, the fibro fog has gotten worse. My best guess is that because I’m being more physically active and draining what little energy I usually have, my brain is being forced to conserve energy and is making cut backs. I’m forgetting even more words than usual, losing my train of thought in mid sentence, and stuttering and stumbling over words when I speak. My attention span has also gotten shorter (it’s taken me two days to write this post). It’s really very annoying.
I’m used to having these things happen on a regular basis, much like I’m used to dealing with a certain level of pain at all times, but the increased frequency is just downright embarrassing. Especially when in the space of a 5 minute conversation, I have to say “you know, that thing that does the…” 10 different times.

Overall though, I couldn’t be happier. If the fog issues continue to be a problem, I might see if a medication adjustment might help. Hopefully, it won’t come to that, I hate changing my meds around; I hate having to get used to new side effects. For now, though, I’m going to focus on the amazing results that I’ve achieved, and put the worrying aside for another day.

Until next time!

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