Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pacing Yourself in the Race of Life

I've had a lot of people comment on my energy.  "Kim, slow down!  You are making the rest of us look bad."  "How do you do it?  I don't have all that energy."  "You did a lot!"  I don't hear these as much as I used to, but when I do, it's hard not to take it as a compliment. 

Energy was something that I had always had when I was younger.  Looking back, some might say I took my energy for granted, "You're young, enjoy it now.", I'd hear.  I don't really think I took my energy for granted.  I just knew I had a lot to do on any given day, and only 24 hours to complete it.  My old catch phrase when people said I looked tired was that sleep was over rated, and I'd get enough of it when I was dead... that was when I was in my twenties in college...

Now?  Well, I still have energy, but not as much as I used to.  It can be amazing what fibromyalgia and 10 years of abuse will do to a body.  The big difference between then and now is that I need to pace myself.  The word pace was never in my vocabulary before, especially when I did stock work in the home improvement and home appliance sections of a major retailer.  Not much thought went into lifting compact dryers on top of washers.  I just did it because I had too-- it was part of my job.  The only thing that ever crossed my mind back then was to relish in the fact that little 100 pound me could lift heavy objects.  Looking back, perhaps I should not have taken so much pride in that fact.

I can still lift things, walk quite a few miles, and even do strenuous exercise like aerobics, but only on my good days, and even then, I have to pace myself and not overdue it.  This may be great when it comes to living day- to- day, because you can always close the shower curtain so you don't see how much of a cleaning it needs, but what about meeting deadlines?  Is it possible to meet deadlines, or even go to celebrations when you have a chronic invisible illness like fibromyalgia?

The answer to that question is yes and no.  Sometimes deadlines at work can be met, and other times, you may need a little help meeting that deadline.  Some people think that because I'm a writer, I have all the flexibility in the world and can meet deadlines all the time, every time, and that's just not true.  There are many times when life gets in the way of creativity and I have to put my writing on hold so I can live through life.  I've missed out on writing many fun topics and even a contest or two (or thirty) because I was just too tired to look at the keyboard.  Parties and celebrations can be tough too.  I have missed out on a few girls night out fests, along with birthday parties that were throne for me.

It can happen, and when it does, there is usually a very good reason for it.  I tend to find that the week before an event or deadline, is very intense.  I am very detail oriented and I get very worked up about having very little time to accomplish the mundane before a big event.  For instance, when I know I'm going to have Christmas dinner over at my house, I will go crazy the week before cleaning and re-cleaning everything that has a surface, just to make sure I leave a good impression on my guests.  I am very much like Monk in that I like order and cleanliness, but you'd never know that because my kids and husband are the exact opposite.

Just looking at things out of order can send a cringe down my spine and this is not good because I become stressed, overwhelmed, and then eventually, I get a flare.  My flares can either be excessive pain, excessive tiredness, anxiety, or a combination of any of these.  When this starts to happen, I can kiss the celebration or deadline goodbye.

Having said all of this, how does one with fibro overcome enough stress so they can meet their deadlines in as pain free as possible way?  Well, you have to pace yourself.  For me, I have to start planning an event at least a month in advance.  I will start to clean up the house very early by taking care of the things one does not normally do on a day-to-day basis.  I'll vacuum the heater vents, dust, and get rid of all of the cat hair from every nook and cranny that I can find about a month ahead of time.  I then clean the curtains and windows and also make sure that everything that's out of place is put back in its place.  Once that is all done, I start to prepare the hors d'oeuvres and desserts.  Once they are cooked and baked, they go into the freezer until I need to take them out for the big day.  If I am cooking a turkey, I will even start to cook that a day ahead of time, just to make sure that I get it done on time.

Doing all of these things in advance has helped me over the years.  Pacing myself and my time has even helped me to enjoy the holiday in an upright position, instead of in my bed.  This won't help with everything, especially when there are other people involved with your deadline, but it can help out in most cases. 

Pacing yourself can even work when you have an outing planned with your friends and family.  For instance, I knew that I would be going to the sunflower maze and picking apples with my kids this past weekend.  This was going to be an all day event because picking your own apples can take a little bit of time and pacing myself was crucial in order to get through the day.

I prepared by taking extra clothing for the children, drinks, and food, just in case we needed to take short break from the picking.  I also took a bag that had extra shoulder support and the baby carriage to make sure I had something to transport the bag, the toddler, and the apples if I tired from carrying any of it.  I also invited several people along with us to aide in carrying the load.  This worked out fairly well for me because when I needed to stop and take a break from carrying little Olivia or the carriage, my brother or mother-in-law was right there to help.

Having fibro means that even the fun days need a little extra planning, but with a little thought, some experience of past ventures, and patience with pacing yourself, you can have a life outside of your condition.  And that is just fabulous!

Stay fabulous!
Love and friendship,

Kimberley
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