Holidays Fibro Flare

There’s no possible way I’m the only one having a freak flare of fibromyalgia this month. It’s so predictable, and yet I was caught off guard!

It was surprising enough to suddenly feel achy, tired, and like I was hit by a bus, that at first I thought the thought we all think when we have the littlest twinge (or a big hit that feels like the flu, as in this case): COVID??

But after like 3 hours of obsessively pointing my fancy thermometer at my head and having it be like “97, 97, 97,” I remembered

you have fibromyalgia, dummy.

It’s not the flu, it’s not COVID-19, it’s a flare.

And it sucks.

I really do feel like I have the flu, and I can’t believe how achy my body is.

It’s been impossible to exercise, and even though I’ve been eating great, my weight loss has stalled.

Here’s the symptoms I have had for the past week or so:

  • Fatigue that can’t be set aside
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety that’s not typical for me: kind of a restless, hyperactive, underlying state as opposed to overt worry
  • Intense body aches especially in my shoulders, knees, and elbows.
  • Confusion and forgetfulness
  • Bloating and swelling
  • Skin sensitivity, especially the face
  • General flu-like feeling
  • Weird insomnia where I fall asleep fine but wake up 90 times, either from soreness or with the sudden compulsion to get up as if I’ve overslept for an important meeting

It hasn’t been fun, particularly when I’ve been on such an upward trajectory for the past 6 weeks, really losing a good amount of weight and getting a lot stronger.

Now that I’m in a better place physically and emotionally, it’s a lot easier to ask myself what triggered this flare. It’s not random, but the cause isn’t ever obvious for me, and always involves a hard look at something I’m not likely to want to look at.

Possible causes of the flare:

  • Weather. It finally got significantly colder here, and a change in weather is a big trigger for me.
  • Eggs. I know I have a sensitivity to eggs, but I’ve been eating them every day on WW, because they’re zero points and filling, and a good source of protein.
  • The holidays. Need I say more?

I don’t completely understand why we even put ourselves through the winter holidays, unless it’s for the sake of children, which is a good reason.

But I think basically everyone has more stress this time of year, and a lot of that is deeper than just the stuff we have to do.

Interacting with our families can be a positive experience but it’s also usually pretty fraught.

December brings up a lot of feelings for me in my interactions with my family, but also because this is a time of year when I happen to have experienced a lot of my most serious losses, particularly my colon. My time of heading to surgery was the sickest I’m sure any person can be without crossing over, and the recovery was brutal. It’s been 7 years, but the unconscious memories are still fresh.

If I had figured out how to stop fibro flares, I wouldn’t be having them anymore, but I will share the things I do to try to mitigate the symptoms or shorten the duration:

  • Daily naps are crucial. In spite of the weird insomnia that makes me feel like I shouldn’t rest during the day, in order to ensure a good night sleep, I have to take a nap because my fatigue is too overwhelming, and if I don’t take it easy, I will definitely spiral and worsen.
  • Trying to be gentle with myself about responsibilities. Work still needs to be done, but during a flare, I try my best not to beat myself up about the fact that I can’t do as much, and I might just have to be comfortable with the bare minimum.
  • HYDRATE! This is one of the hardest ones to do, even though it’s the simplest thing in the world to do. If I can get a gallon of water in during the day, I’m going to feel a lot better, so I try my best to make drinking water as appealing as possible. And when all else fails, I just sit at the table and make myself drink a few pints while watching a show.
It’s hard
  • Detox soup. I don’t know whether “detox” stuff is real, but I do know that taking a little pressure off my system with a few days of soup that has prebiotics and probiotics seems to help.

I use this recipe from A Spicy Perspective, plus I stir a little miso paste into each bowl (instead of into the pot so it doesn’t get so cooked that it kills the probiotics).

  • Gentle exercise feels IMPOSSIBLE, but it’s crucial. I’m not getting it in every day, especially with my sore knees and the fatigue, but when I do, I definitely feel better.
  • Staying on top of vitamins and medications can be a little tough when you feel like you have the flu, but forgetting something simple that your body runs better with—like a Pepcid AC, for me—will definitely worsen symptoms.
  • Consciously take time to connect with an emotional support animal, if you have one. It’s amazing how much chihuahua snuggles can do for my mood and pain levels, but too often when I’m not feeling well, I retreat from my little buddy.
  • And usually, one of the best things for a flare is massage, but during the pandemic I’m settling for a little electric shoulder thing like in the picture above, and it does help.

I have this one:

Fear of Quitting Smoking

My doctor gave me a month to get my blood pressure down.

She asked me to lose 5 pounds and go on a low-sodium diet.

I’ve lost 4.2 pounds and I cut salt from my diet, but my blood pressure is still high.

Qardio

And the reason it’s high is because I’m smoking.

It’s amazing and embarrassing to admit that I smoke, in 2020. I don’t know anyone who smokes, and I keep it secret from all of my friends.

I only started up again about a year ago, after having quit for 11 years.

About 4 months ago, I made several concerted efforts to stop, but the feeling was too overwhelming.

When I research the process of quitting smoking, I see people—mainly health professionals—describe quitting as “extremely difficult,” which it is, but I don’t see many realistic or nuanced descriptions of what quitting feels like for me, and I wonder if it feels similarly for everyone.

Quitting smoking is painful. It’s physically painful and emotionally painful.

I don’t know if the pain I experience when I try to quit is more pronounced because of the way Fibromyalgia seems to make all pain more pronounced, but the sensation is flu-like for me.

If it was just flu-like, I could handle it, but for some reason, when I feel that wave of physical and psychological pain, I start to panic, and my cognition and anxiety really spirals downward.

I often get into the totally baffling headspace where I start to think that I’m putting myself in danger by NOT smoking, because the physical discomfort becomes so distressing.

I typically make it about 4 hours when I try to quit, although I can go 12-16 hours without smoking if I’m not under pressure to abstain.

Since my high blood pressure and high heart rate are actually serious, I am going to need to fess up to my doctor at my appointment in 4 days, and I know the chain of events that are going to unfold from there.

She’s going to insist I stop, of course. It’s going to be serious.

And since I trust her and we work well together, I’m going to have to do it.

Maybe she’ll prescribe Chantix or something, and maybe those will help.

I could say what I’m “supposed” to say and be like: well, this is so positive!! I’ll have motivation to add one more productive dimension to my body journey towards health, and I’m already proving to myself that I’m more than strong enough to do this.

These are true, but I’m not giving these Shaq x JCPenney vibes at all.

I’m terrified.

I feel out of control because I’m about to be held accountable for something I’m genuinely not sure I can do, even though I’ve done it before in the past.

I’m scared that I’m going to lose my grip on myself and feel sick and tired and crazy for a few weeks.

One completely amazing level, I have to admit, is that I’ve come to a level of maturity where I can see that I must face facts and be honest with my doctor. I’m pretty impressed with myself that I’m not even calling to put the appointment off for a few weeks.

I’m not a happy camper today, but my little chihuahua just crawled into my lap as I’m writing this, and maybe if I can’t motivate myself to feel good about doing it for myself at this point, I could do it for the little guy. He’s only 2, and chihuahuas live a million years, so he needs me around.

Hair repair during home workouts

Just before I turned 40, I started to have major problems with my hair thinning.

I’ve always had periods of hair falling out to a noticeable degree, usually after surgery or when my body goes through other periods of intense stress like autoimmune flares or divorce.

It tends to grow back, and I’ve tried a lot of things to try to actually make the hair grow back at at root, but I’m not sure topical regrowth oils, etc. work for me. And the jury is still out on supplements.

Expensive candy

Lord knows I wanted SugarBearHair to work because those gummies are delicious! I gave them a solid 5 month try and saw no change, but a lot of people swear by them, and their customer service is pleasant.

Check out SugarBearHair here.
Meanwhile

Meanwhile, Hair, Skin, and Nails from Nature’s Bounty has a similar cult-level following (and they have a gummy version) and I’m about 2 months in to giving them a shot.

pretty

I definitely have about a zillion more baby hairs, but I’m not sure whether that’s coincidence, since my hair does go through natural cycles of thinning and thickening.

I’m also seeing a lot more length, but that could also be an illusion because I’m not playing with my hair a lot during this pandemic, and I might be noticing changes more because more time passes between major styling sessions.

However! My nails are growing like crazy, and that’s easy to gauge because I paint them once a week. I can see the regrowth easily at the cuticle line, and they’re now noticeably grown out in less than a week. They’re also now already strong enough for me to feel like I can wear non-gel polish without breaking or peeling risks.

Definitely try these pretty little things. Full ingredient list is here.

So, the obvious nails difference definitely makes me think the hair changes are more than just my imagination.

Keep the hairs I have

There’s a lot I do to try to protect the hairs I still have, including using

this dope SILK PILLOWCASE from Slip.

But one of the easiest thing I’ve started doing during the pandemic is treating my hair while I’m working out.

I only do this when I know I’ll be showering after and when I won’t be doing sorts of sessions that will involve putting my head on the floor, because the oils, etc., here can get a little messy. If my hair was long enough for a top knot, it would be fine.

This really only takes 10 seconds longer than pulling my hair into a ponytail would anyway

I just:

  1. Brush it out straight back with my Tangle Teezer (the holy grail of detangling brushes)
  2. Put some of the super-expensive-but-it-might-work-so-why-not Initialiste Scalp & Hair Serum from Kérastase into the hairline and thinnest areas. I love this stuff because it’s water-based, so you can apply it after showering and your hair still styles as usual.
  3. Add a little of the Living Proof Dry Scalp Treatment, since it’s winter and I figure a hydrated scalp is a healthy scalp.
  4. 2 pumps at a time, I smooth some Ouia Hair Oil onto the ends and a lot of the mid-shaft. I use 2 pumps at a time so that I can control the application, but I usually get about 6 pumps onto the hair.
  5. Apply about a quarter-size amount of Living Proof Repair Leave-In just onto the ends. I don’t LOVE the texture of this leave-in conditioner because it feels almost waxy, but I use it for this because I think it seals the cuticle.
  6. I “Invisibobble” in the pony since the plastic won’t get ruined by the treatment, and let’s be honest: these are the best darn hair ties in the world.

All the links to buy (or learn more about these) are below

Thank you for being you, Invisibobble

Since the scalp products are both water-based, I don’t worry about them clogging my pores while I get sweaty.

Who knows if it helps over the long run, but I definitely feel like I can see a big difference after having this in and then washing it out with a gentle shampoo and bonder conditioner like Olaplex.