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Steph: My experience of fatigue

The article below was written by Steph and sent in to us about her experience with fatigue.

"Everyone gets tired. Pain is a part of life. Your forgetfulness might be age or stress related. Funny how everyone seems to have fibromyalgia these days....

Are these sentences ones you’ve heard since your diagnosis? Do you struggle to explain your symptoms to people? If so - me too. I think it’s easy for people to discredit a pain they’ve never felt, or assume tiredness is a natural occurrence. Fatigue and being tired aren’t the same thing, but that’s not always easy to explain, is it?

As a mum, I try to liken my chronic fatigue to that of pregnancy fatigue, it’s the only analogy that seems to do it any justice, however if you’re trying to explain this to someone who’s never experienced pregnancy, that won’t resonate either. So here’s another depiction. Imagine your limbs are laden down with lead, then imagine trying to run through treacle with said limbs, imagine living your life in slow motion and no matter how much rest you get, you’ll never get enough to speed up. Does that sound more accurate?

I find fatigue one of my most crippling symptoms, because it’s not easy to explain, it’s not maskable with pain killers, or dulled down with mobility aids. It’s pure exhaustion, and the only thing for it is sleep, and sleep is hard to come by when you’re in pain often, so fatigue can be a very real problem for fibromyalgia sufferers.

I can’t offer you cures and I won’t insult you by suggesting under researched or overpriced gimmicks. What I will do though, is tell you how I manage my fatigue. It doesn’t always work, and somedays it will beat me regardless, but if these tips help just one person for one day then they will be successful.

I’m lucky enough to be working from home at the moment and that means on my lunch break I have the option of doing housework, but housework won’t help my fatigue. Popping to the supermarket won’t help me relax. Of course exercise has many benefits but so do power naps. Sometimes I will climb into bed on my lunch break for 30 minutes and feel able to get through the afternoon much better. Power naps have proven benefits of boosting alertness and motor learning skills, which is perfect if like me, you do a lot of typing. As I said I’m not offering cures here but sometimes just 30-40 minutes of shut eye can see me through until bedtime.

Take days out to sleep. Again, not always practical I know, but hear me out. On Monday’s and Tuesday’s I don’t work but my daughter still goes to school. I make it my mission to use one of these days for complete rest. For example I’ll come back from the school run make a cup of tea and cosy back up in bed with a book. I don’t always sleep the whole time but I try and at least have a day that requires little physical activity. Not only does this help my fatigue it helps my pain, and it also helps my mood. If a whole day isn’t optional for you, try setting yourself an evening a week where you go to bed after tea, turn off the tv, put your phone down and actually get some rest.

Go for a walk. I know, it’s the absolute last thing you want to do when you feel exhausted, but sometimes it’s exactly what you need. Don’t exert yourself, just get outside in the fresh air, breath it in, feed the ducks or walk the dog for 20 minutes on your lunch break. Then come back and put that kettle on.

I personally find with fatigue that I can be really drawn to eating rubbish when I’m bone weary. It doesn’t help, but I don’t believe in beating yourself up for your chosen survival methods. What I do advise is try swapping family size bars of chocolate for a low sugar hot chocolate alternative. Another tip I swear by for everything fibro related is turmeric milk. It’s my go to comforter and it never fails to at least keep my tastebuds happy.

For the perfect milky comfort drink heat 300ml milk in a saucepan, add 1tsp turmeric, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 grind of black pepper and a tsp of honey. It’s the most delicious, creamy, warming drink and turmeric has super immune boosting benefits. It’s said to be great for joint pain, arthritis and it’s a potent anti inflammatory and antioxidant. Ignore how you think it’ll taste because I promise you it’s delicious. But if you’re definitely anti turmeric milk then try adding some to a hot chocolate or latte, but remember to watch your caffeine intake as that can have an adverse negative effect on FMS related pain and the opposite of the desired effect for fatigue.

I’ve had to tweak my fatigue survival toolkit plenty over the years, and like I said it won’t always work, some days your illness will win but what I have learned is no amount of guilt or self admonishment will change that. Self loathing is not your ticket to better health. Learning what works for you and listening to your body will allow you to make the best of the low pain days and accept the bad ones. You’re unwell and that’s never your fault."

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