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
- 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.
- 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: