Never in my life have I ever exercised every. single. day. I have had long stretches of time in my life where I have exercised a great deal, but I would always allow myself at least one day off every week to rest. Yesterday I reached 75 days in a row in my goal to #move365 days this year for at least 30 minutes to help me stave off the symptoms of my fibromyalgia.
75 days. In a row.
It was around Day 60 that my symptoms decreased dramatically. And I mean dramatically. As in, I woke up one morning, and poof! I felt like myself again. The self that has energy. And not just bursts of energy, but long-lasting energy. You know, like normal people who run errands all day, come home and do some cleaning, workout, and then make lasagna for dinner.
The self that isn’t overwhelmed by the tiniest little thing, like going downstairs to let the dog out. Because going down our 15 stairs to the basement is painful, and it can take an unbelievable amount of energy, and if you only have so many spoons to use up in a day, is that how you really want to be spending them?
Because spoons. Spoon Theory is a great metaphor that this lupus sufferer came up with to explain to a friend what it was like to live with a chronic illness. The two friends were sitting in a diner, and the lupus sufferer grabbed all the spoons she could find on the tables. She handed them to her friend and said, “Here, you now have lupus, and for each thing you do in a day, you have to give me a spoon.” She proceeded to talk about all the challenges someone with lupus faces throughout the day, and gradually, one by one, the spoons disappear. If you’re lucky, you end up with leftover spoons. Maybe you’ll choose to spend those leftover spoons doing something with a friend or family member, or maybe you’ll do something relaxing for yourself. But more than likely, you will save those precious spoons for the next day, because you never know how many extra spoons you might need to get you through.
The idea is that most healthy people wake up every day with a limitless supply of spoons. Young people have more spoons than older people, but people who are ill or have challenges have a very limited supply of spoons. And I’ll tell you what, once you have a chronic illness, you become an expert at protecting those spoons.
The best part about Spoon Theory is that it provides you with a way to talk about, or quantify, energy in ways that healthy people in your life can understand. As soon as I shared Spoon Theory with my family, they immediately started asking me questions like, Do you have enough spoons to do XYZ today? or How many spoons do you have left? or How are you doing? Are you running out of spoons? Or I would say, I’m running out of spoons and I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get to XYZ today, is this something you can help me with? Or I can’t believe it’s only noon and I’m already completely out of spoons! through all kinds of blurry, blubbery sobs.
Speaking of which, that magical day when I woke up feeling like myself again for the first time since June of 2015? That self also became the self that doesn’t cry all. the. time. Now, those of you who know me well are thinking, Doesn’t she already cry all the time? And yes, this is very true. My meditation teacher says that the reason I cry so easily is because I am very sensitive to the world around me—that, and the fact that my water table is very high. Haha! But fibro? Believe it or not, it puts my normal waterworks on a whole other level, friends. Poor Mark. He can tell you that I’ve given a whole new meaning to the phrase cry me a river, because rivers I have cried—most likely from the depression that comes as a result of fibro, or because of fibro, or probably both.
Since that magical day, I have felt inspired, like I can deal, and that I can work an 8-hour day rather than a 4, 5, or 6-hour day followed by immediate collapse. I have laughed more. I have enjoyed more. I have lived more.
For the first few days after I started feeling better, I didn’t trust it. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. I thought I might just be going through a good phase. And maybe I am. But when I think back on the last couple of weeks, I realize that that fear has started to dissipate. It resurfaced when I had a bad day a couple of Sundays ago, one in which I was paralyzed with pain and a lack of energy so deep that I really didn’t move from my couch the entire day. I worried that my honeymoon with my core self might be over, and I was angry at how cruel it was to have been given a glimpse at my old life only to have it stripped away once again.
And yet. It also reminded me that just because exercising every day had helped me feel better, it certainly hadn’t cured me. I still have fibromyalgia, and it’s not ever going to go away. I still wake up with a lot of pain, my body is still sore when I’m not moving or if I move too much. And I still have to take really good care of myself which means eating healthy meals (more on that in another post), getting plenty of sleep (another crucial aspect to my self care), and making sure that I don’t allow outside forces to interfere with my emotional health, which I work on through meditation. All of which takes a lot of time and even more of that all-precious energy.
And I still haven’t gotten back my creative spark. I’d pretty much kill to be inspired to create a new papercut.
I’m coming up to a year now since my “official” diagnosis, and it’s been an incredibly rough ride. Between coming to terms with the fact that I have a chronic illness and trying to find the right meds and dosages to treat it, I’ve experienced the gamut of emotions that one would expect. And while I don’t know how long this “good phase” is truly going to last, I do know that I’ll be damned if I’m going to jeopardize it by not continuing with my exercise goals.
So today is Day #76. Whether I spend some time on the elliptical, go for a walk, do some strength training, yoga, or stretching, I’ll be joyfully embracing the fact that there’s something I can do to help myself that is in my control, and I thank my lucky stars every day for that incredible blessing of a gift.
Thanks for listening,