Travelling with illnesses: dealing with hot weather

Help for sufferers, Posts, Travel, Travelling with illnesses series

A big issue with travelling abroad is that, often, you are visiting an environment which is different to your own. The problem with this? Drastic temperature changes can seriously impact your health, and moving from your usual climate to somewhere super hot is pretty much a recipe for disaster. These are a few things I do to minimise its effect on my fibro:

1. Drink plenty of water.

Hydration is key to dealing with heat, so make sure you top up constantly throughout the day. Rehydration sachets also come in handy if you start to fall behind, and consider carrying a water bottle when you are out and about to avoid sweating out too much H2O when you don’t have access to drinks.

2. Battle the chub rub.

Those of us who suffer from chafing; whether it be in the thigh area, under the arms, or somewhere else altogether; know just how much of a nightmare hot weather can be. There are a few tried and tested methods out there that can help prevent the dreaded chub rub, and it’s worth investing before you go to tackle the problem before it starts. I like to put a layer of roller deodorant on my affected areas, and then top this with a good coat of talc. Sometimes, though, it’s easier to play it safe by making sure there’s a layer of fabric between the two points of contact (I like long, floaty trousers for this).

3. Fatigue.

Fatigue is pretty much a constant when it comes to fibromyalgia, but this can spiral out of control when the temperature comes into play. Make sure you have plenty of rest, seek shade as much as possible, and consider a decent fan as back up. Don’t forget to make use of your usual fatigue coping techniques, as these will help to keep your day to day problems at a minimum.

4. Fainting.

I don’t know about you, but I have a bad habit of fainting when I get too hot or too cold. Try not to over do things, and pace yourself as much as possible. It is best to have someone to accompany you if you feel like this may be a problem, and if you do start feel faint, alert someone nearby before lowering yourself to the ground. The aim is to get blood flow to your brain, so laying on a level surface, putting your head between your knees, or even putting your legs up against a wall, are all techniques which help with this. Stay low to the ground to avoid heavy falls (if you do happen to lose consciousness, you don’t want to hit your head as this may cause concussion, so preventing falls is very important). When you feel a little better, make sure you have some water and something sweet to boost your blood sugar. (N.B: a good excuse to eat chocolate!)

5. Clothing.

It is important for any vacation that you pack the right clothing for your destination, but it is especially so when you have an illness to think about. Personally, my fibro makes me very sensitive to temperature change, so I find it vital to pack the right clothes for my holiday. Try comfortable, loose fitting clothes in light colours in order to aid ventilation and reflect sunlight. However, remember that all climates are prone to temperature variation, and you may find an unsuspected cold period knocks you off course. Thus, always pack a few warmer layers that you can play about with depending on the forecast. Furthermore, hot weather often results in other problems, think: sweating, chafing, heat rashes. Make sure you choose breathable fabrics which are itch- free and easy to wear, and avoid piling up on accessories. For all of my ‘feminine’ followers, I avoid jewellery in case of theft or loss, but also because hot metal and skin is NOT a good combo. A sunhat and glasses will suffice during the day, and one multipurpose necklace and a set of earrings add glamour for a night out. Finally, don’t forget to bring comfortable shoes, especially if you plan to do lots of walking, so as to avoid blisters and athlete’s foot. A simple pair of worn in pumps or sandals will do perfectly.

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Travelling with illnesses: I learnt to be kind

Posts, Travel, Travelling with illnesses series, Uncategorized

If you’ve been reading my blog already, you might know that I’ve been on a volunteer trip recently, and it’s led me to explore the murky depths of travelling when chronically ill.

Unfortunately, past me decided it would be a good idea to book a very expensive and very challenging journey to the other side of the world, without considering that I had a year to wait before I could go. Now, all things considered, a year isn’t a very long time. When you have to fundraise £2000, a year is positively miniscule. On the other hand, a year is also a helluva long time for someone with a chronic illness, and a lot can happen over a few months. For example, I didn’t expect that my fibro would stop me from completing my last three modules at university, or that it would leave me bed bound for weeks on end. In hindsight, I should have known something would happen.

Anyway, all things considered, I still went through with it, because I’d put a lot of time and money into getting there and there was no way I was giving up so close to the end.

It made me realise, though, that there were a lot of people who would do anything for the opportunity that I had, and that I shouldn’t pass it up so easily.

Getting to my destination, I also realised that there were loads of people who don’t even have half of the life that I have back at home when I’m being miserable. It just goes to show, I might be suffering, but there are millions of others out there who are all different yet all still suffering in their own way. It is important to remember that there are others out there who also need help.  And sometimes, it makes sense to stop for a moment and do them a favour, even if it is just to hold open a door or make a cup of coffee for someone.

Your actions could potentially make someone else’s day a lot brighter.

so please, if you’re thinking of telling someone that they look nice today, or if you have some spare change as you walk by that homeless guy on your way home, please follow your impulses and do it. You never know, you just might change a life.

Travelling with illnesses: what I was told.

Help for sufferers, Posts, Travel, Travelling with illnesses series

So I’ve got an apology to make. I haven’t posted anything in over two weeks. This is partly because I have been suffering (more on that soon), but also because I’ve been jetsetting.

For the last two weeks, I’ve been in a beautiful little country called Laos, making an attempt to help those less fortunate than me. Not only has it been one of my lifelong goals to travel, but spending time there helped me to improve who I am as a person, and truly push my limits to the max.

Of course, traveling with fibro, or indeed any other chronic disability, can be a bit of a challenge. Whether it be the plane journey, the climate differences, or the new activities; travelling can be a pain (literally!).

Throughout the next week, I’m going to be sharing a little about what I did over in Laos, along with giving some helpful tips for you to remember the next time you’re abroad.

In the meantime, here are a few suggestions I was given whilst away, that you might like to try out for yourself…

1. Be mindful.

I was told that one of the most important parts of looking after your body involves being able to listen to what it has to tell you.

Next time you have a quiet five minutes, get yourself comfy and listen. Start by breathing slowly and deeply, counting your breaths and feeling your body relax as you do. Then, focus on each part of your body, starting at your toes and working up to your head, and allow yourself to feel what’s going on there. Forget about your stress, forget about the outside world, just focus on you. Once you reach the top of your crown, allow your mind to accept and then let go of those feelings, and then concentrate back on your breathing.

This time, try and empty your mind, and allow any new thoughts, feelings, or worries to float through your mind and be let go. Spend a few moments like this, allowing your mind and body to relax and push aside any mental or physical problems for the moment.

2. Get a massage.

Sometimes, having a massage can really help you to relax, and what better way is there to treat yourself than to soothe your body and ease any achy muscles? Next time you have some spare cash, book yourself in to your local spa; or if you prefer to spend a little less, get a close friend or family member to spend some time with you for a pamper evening, where you can help each other.

3. Try yoga.

Personally, I haven’t had the chance to properly test this one out yet, but loads of people have told me that it is worth the effort.

Start simple and spend five minutes each day stretching out your body and focusing on breathing exercises. As you adjust, build up your routine to focus on longer, more complicated yoga positions. If you need inspiration, just try searching your fave social media for some yoga advice, as it is a popular hobby that is widely available online.

Do you have any advice you’d like to share, or an idea to try? Or, maybe you have something to say about what I’ve shared? Let us know what you think in the comments below, and don’t forget to like and share if you enjoyed this read!

Thanks guys!

What is ‘pacing’ and how can it help my fibro?

Help for sufferers, Posts, Work

Plenty of people with chronic illnesses like to talk about pacing, but if you’re newly diagnosed or have only recently started looking for advice, then you might not know what this is.

Pacing is a method of coping with the fatigue-like symptoms often associated with chronic conditions such as fibro. It involves creating a broken down or spread out routine, so that tasks can be separated into smaller, more manageable chunks. This ensures that you can concentrate longer on tasks by giving yourself small rest breaks in between.

For example, I like to split up my daily chores, study sessions, and various errands by having at least five to ten minutes of nothing for every hour or so. After a while, I have a larger break, and if I’m struggling, I will increase the frequency of my breaks. If you don’t like to sit and do nothing, try doing something easy that takes little energy (mental, physical, or otherwise) and is a distraction from your task.

(N.B: From here on it gets complicated, so you might want to skip the next paragraph if you dont fancy the heavy reading!)

The next question is this; how do you figure out your rest to work ratio? Well first of all, you need to spend some time figuring out how long you can go before you lose the will to live. This is how long you can go before you need a big break. Then, try and count how many times within this you get distracted; this is how many mini breaks you need. Spread them evenly within the time frame, and aim for between five and fifteen minutes for each break. you can alter this to your taste later, if necessary.

If all of this sounds too complicated, just remember to aim for 3:9:10 (for every 3 hours, have 9 equally spaced lots of 10 minute breaks, so every 20 minutes have a break). Or, have a 10 minute break every so often if you can’t keep count. Don’t forget as well that you can mix up the same ratio for smaller or larger amounts of time, and for every 3 hours, have at least half an hour or more to recuperate.

Most importantly, though, is to remember that you aren’t aiming to get loooaaaddss done, but to work at an efficient pace that keeps you healthy and happy. If you can’t do as much as you thought, that’s okay. Just stop for the day and adjust accordingly tomorrow.

If you like my pacing method or think you have something to input, please help us all out and let us know in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

My latest obsession

Posts, Uncategorized

So I have a confession to make…

I have a bit of an addiction to houseplants. They’re pretty, easy to look after, and university friendly. What could possibly go wrong? Well…

Here’s the thing: having fibro means that you often do silly things out of boredom, and very easily create obsessions to occupy the time when you’re stuck in bed. I got a bit of an obsession with all of the pretty houseplants that I’d seen on Tumblr and Pinterest, and it got a slightly out of hand. Every time I saw an interesting plant, I had to buy it. I spent a FORTUNE.

It doesn’t make it any better that I miss my animals whilst I’m away at university, so I’ve replaced them with a windowsill full of greenery (well I had to find SOMEWHERE to put my affections, right!?). Having plants gives me something to do when I feel well, and something to look at when I’m not. The best bit is that you can choose plants that rely on very little water, so that you don’t have to spend too much time on maintenance, especially when you’re poorly.

Anyway, house plants are pretty good for fibro sufferers (much easier than a dog) and also for tenants who aren’t allowed pets, but they can get pretty expensive. I daren’t tell you how much I’ve spent perfecting my windowsill!

If you fancy starting your own collection, look into buying cacti, succulents, and other common houseplants that require low maintenance. You can pick them up from all over nowadays, most of mine are from my local Lidl supermarket, and I’ve even got a few from the carboot. If you want a good deal, look out for the plants that look a little bit worse for ware. As long as they still have healthy growth and aren’t too far gone, you can usually bring them back to life. My favourite part about that is that the shop usually wants rid of the ones that aren’t doing well, because they are less likely to sell, so you can normally get them at a reduced price.

My favourite plant from my own personal bunch is a spider plant. It fills out the space in my room and, best of all, sprouts loads of new growths. This means that I can snip them off and pot them up, thus giving me loads of new little ones (yay!). I’m currently waiting for my ten spider plant babies to grow a little so that I can pot them nicely and send then as gifts to the people I love.

Let us know if you have any interesting hobbies that are fibro friendly, because it’s great to have an obsession when you’re stuck in bed feeling low. Also, if you have any houseplants that you care for, I’d love to hear your advice. Last but not least, don’t forget to like and comment so I know I’m posting the good stuff!

Beat back the fog in five simple steps

fibro fog, Help for sufferers, Posts

Having fibromyalgia has many a downside, but one of the most irritating (and most overlooked) issues of the condition is fibro fog. From losing your glasses (check the top of your head) to forgetting an important appointment, the fog ruins us all at some point. Here are five simple steps to get the worst of it under control…

1. Establish a routine.

If you set a daily routine, it helps to keep track of those pesky things that love to disappear, such as your glasses and keys. I like to leave my keys in the same place each day so that I know that they will definitely be there when I need them. Likewise, checking for That Important Thing every time you do a certain task can help to set up a routine.

2. Set reminders on your phone.

I ALWAYS forget to take my meds, as in, I forget my meds every. single. day. To combat this, I have two reminders set on my phone, one at my usual wake up time, and one a few hours later, just in case. Honestly, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, and it’s prevented countless numbers of flares.

3. Invest in a diary, journal, or planner.

Planners are useful for getting down those daily events that often slip your mind, and getting a little pocket diary means that you can take it everywhere for when you need it the most. Appointments, anniversaries, contacts, and to do lists can all be jotted down, and you can even take note of any important symptoms or fibro issues that you think are important. This way, you have an ‘external hard drive’ for your brain.

4. Load up on post it notes.

If there’s something you know you will forget, there’s nothing better than a huge glowing sign to remind you. Although not quite huge or glowing, an easy trick to help you to remember something is to leave your future self a post it. They have the added benefit of being colourful, sticky, and small enough to take with you, so you can use them anywhere and anytime. Write down a quick message and stick it where you’re sure to see it (mirrors, doors, the kettle, your fave snack).

5. Learn to ‘pace’.

Pacing is a technique often used by people with chronic illnesses which allows them to function for longer. Although it primarily helps with fatigue, it is also good for curbing mental exhaustion and cloudiness. Set out daily goals with steps towards each one, but make sure that they are small and achievable with breaks in between. Remember, set yourself a limit and do not exceed it. This way, you are less likely to spur on any foggy moments that would usually be caused by tiredness.

Have you got any of your own ideas? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to like the post so I can see that I’m not just talking to myself *awkward laughter*.

Five things I don’t need to worry about (but do anyway).

Depression, Help for sufferers, Posts

Keeping this short and sweet, here is my take on five things that most fibro sufferers will worry about at some point (but have no reason to).

1. Going out by myself.

I went through a stage last Christmas where I fainted quite a lot. I put this down to either medication, stress, or some unknown co-morbidity. Regardless, it became an issue. I couldn’t go outside without a friend or family member because I worried that I might faint. This anxiety got so bad that it caused panic attacks. I’m much better now, but I still worry when I am by myself in public.

2. What will happen if I choose to stop my meds?

I take a type of SNRI antidepressant which has a dual effect in dulling my pain and lifting my low mood. Unfortunately, these types of drugs can cause serious addictions and, if I choose to come off of them, I will have severe withdrawal symptoms. Don’t worry, I’m not an addict and I don’t have a drug problem, however my body sometimes becomes unresponsive to the drug, meaning that I have built a tolerance for it. Unfortunately, this is a common marker in predicting future cases of withdrawal syndrome. On the plus side, however, there is plenty of support available and my doctor will ensure that I withdraw as smoothly as possible.

3. What if people just think I’m lazy?

I can’t deny it, I sometimes feel like I’m just a lazy, unmotivated hypochondriac. If I think that, then what must others think? To an outsider, fibro must seem really stupid, and I’ve had loads of people judge me to be lazy (even some really close friends!). Unfortunately, it turns out that I’m not just bluffing my way out of hard work, however I’ve had way too many people comment otherwise. From overly personal queries about my finances to judgmental references about being ‘bored’ or ‘lonely’, I’ve heard it all. All I can say is this, I do get bored and I do get lonely, but I can’t really do much about it when I have no way of getting out of bed. And when it comes to finances, well, I’d be the first to jump up at the opportunity of a job, except I can’t jump up in the first place. At the end of the day, though, it doesn’t really matter as long as I am content and not harming anyone.

4. Fibro will stop me from getting a job.

Like I’ve just said, I would love to have a job. It would keep me busy, it would keep me fit, and it would keep me motivated. Most importantly, however, it would mean that I have enough money to live off. As it stands, there aren’t any jobs which are flexible enough for my disabilities. I’d like to be able to explain this to all of those judgemental people out there who have had something to say about my current lifestyle, but nobody really wants to listen. Therefore, I’m currently working towards getting a job which will be suitable, hence why I have started this blog. At the moment though, I need to get my game face on.

5. The people who matter to me will be scared away.

Well, what can I say? Over the last year I’ve had a big change in friends. Not only is this due to leaving for university, but also because those who I thought were there for me when it mattered most weren’t. On the other hand, I’ve built a beautiful family out of those who did stay, and even found my wonderful boyfriend, who has always been there for me despite the circumstances.

Five things to do when you don’t know what to do with yourself.

Depression, Help for sufferers, Pain, Posts

Sometimes, being tired and in pain can make you feel a bit restless, and when it does, I sometimes find myself struggling to know what to do. It’s times like this when I really wished I had some advice, but, as it stands, I never actually got any. That’s why I’m writing this post today. Here are my five favourite things to do when I don’t know what to do with myself…

1. Build your ‘mind palace’.

As a kid, I was quite an introvert and, being an only child, I often had to find ways to amuse myself. This usually meant making up fictional lands inside my head and filling them with fictional people that had fictional stories. They often resembled the plots of my favourite novels, or the odd movie I had seen. It sounds silly, but escaping into my mind made me feel like I had control over my microcosm, and gave me a certain amount of relief from reality. Not much has changed. Although much more confident and outgoing, I still rely on my own inner sanctuary when I get stressed, bored, or in need of a distraction. You should try it sometime.

2. Eat some food.

You know the drill. You’ve been on a healthy eating craze for the last two weeks, and you’re doing so well, but now you’re miserable, you’ve got cravings, and you need a mega distraction from your current state. Take it from me, everyone needs a break now and then, and giving in to that tub of ice cream in the back of your freezer won’t do any harm as long as you start tomorrow afresh.

3. Talk to your ‘person’.

You can probably agree with me here that most people are lovely in small doses, but then they get a bit annoying. However, most of us tend to have at least one special person (or animal, as younger me would like to insist), and they are the ones who don’t wear you down. It’s pretty obvious that it’s these special people that we need to look after and keep hold of, but it’s also important to remember that they have a purpose in our lives too, and will probably be more than happy to help. When you’re feeling down, give them a shout, send them a text, or plan a night in. Having someone to talk to about how you feel will make you ten times less miserable. It’s like they say; “a problem shared is a problem halved.”

4. Surf the endless pages of the internet.

It’s very easy nowadays to drown under the endless amounts of information available at the click of a button, and nearly everyone can agree that it can get a little dangerous. However, having a vast sea of distractions at your fingertips is the perfect remedy to a case of restlessness. Next time you’re feeling meh, use the time to catch up on your social media, Google any weird questions you have, or dive into an endless array of buzzfeed quizzes. I can guarantee that you won’t he disappointed.

5. Have a Netflix binge.

Losing yourself in a box set, or, if you’re more traditional, a series of novels, is one of the best ways of escaping your current situation. By watching a film, video, or tv series, you don’t have to concentrate much on what’s at hand. This makes it a brilliant way to lose yourself without having to over-process your foggy mind.

These ideas are just a few of the things I do to avoid feeling restless, however there’s many more out there that I’m sure you will have tried. Feel free to comment if you have any suggestions, as I’d love to hear them, and they could help other readers the next time they are feeling naff.

Six tips for a Sufferer’s S.O.

Help for friends, family, and significant others, Posts

It’s difficult to know what fibro is like when you don’t actually have it, and plenty of people have asked me what I would like them to do to help, because they simply don’t know what I need. I’m going to share some tips; for best friends, parents, siblings, significant others, and anyone else who wants to help. I think you’ll find that most sufferers will appreciate it.

1. Educate yourself!
Nothing is quite as powerful as knowledge, and one of the most simple and inexpensive things that you can do to help is to learn a little about the illness. Read up on the symptoms of fibro, have a look into common pain management techniques, and find some articles about current research. I can almost guarantee that your fibro sufferer will love the effort that you have gone to in educating yourself about their illness.

2. Ask questions.
Some people don’t like others prying on the state of their health, but most fibro sufferers will agree that it’s nice to clear the air. It is difficult to know what to expect when you haven’t got any experience, and who better to refer to than the person themself? Ask them if you can help in any way; maybe by carrying something heavy, putting the kettle on, or even just enjoying their company in silence when they are having a bad day. Remember though, no one wants their independence taking away, so try not to over do it too much.

3. Know when enough is enough.
Like I said previously, it is easy to smother someone when you are trying to care for them. Similarly to before, if you feel unsure, just ask.

4. Treat them like you would everyone else.
No one likes to feel belittled, and the quickest way to do that is to act as if they aren’t ‘normal’. Of course, nobody is normal, really, but don’t change your actions towards someone simply because they have an illness.

5. Pick up after yourself.
If you live with a fibro sufferer, it can sometimes be difficult to remember that they can’t do everything that others can. This means that simple tasks around the house can get much more difficult than you think they are, and the last thing a chronic sufferer will want is to pick up their mess, let alone anyone else’s!

6. Gentle reminders can go a long way.
Many people with fibromyalgia get the notorious ‘brain fog’. Not only is this annoying, but can be potentially dangerous. One of my biggest issues is forgetting to take my meds on time, and a quick nudge from my boyfriend really helps to avoid a flare later in the day. It can also help with other forgetfulness problems, such as leaving my keys in the fridge by accident or forgetting to let the dogs outside before bed.

7. Patience is a virtue.
I can honestly say that having fibromyalgia drives me up the wall, whether it be the pesky ‘fog’, the achey muscles, or just feeling tired and miserable. I can only imagine how my poor family must feel when I snap over something silly they said or did, simply because it pushes me over the edge. Please remember that us sufferers don’t intend to be mean or bitter, but sometimes it is difficult to cope. Likewise, you may find that spending a lot of time around a grumpy, moaning, bag of bones isn’t very fun, especially if they are mid way through a flare and haven’t washed in a day or so (sorry!). If this is the case, make sure you get some ‘me’ time, and give yourself a break. Nobody blames you for getting irritated, and you will find that you appreciate your special person a lot more when you next see them. In the mean time, try to have some patience.

Dealing with a diagnosis

Diagnosis, Posts

One of the first bridges I had to cross on my fibro journey happened when I had my initial diagnosis. You can probably relate: after days and weeks and months of consultations, yoh finally got a letter in the post. It isn’t anything special, in particular. Just a white envelope, stamped as usual and containing a message from the doctor. For me, it was what that message said which caused a problem.

My family and I had expected, if not hoped, that I would have fibromyalgia; not because it was the easy route, but because it meant that I didn’t have to worry any longer. What we weren’t expecting, however, was the impact that it would have on my mental state. Funnily enough, getting a diagnosis of a lifelong illness (and a painful one, at that) is a nasty experience.

I had a whirlwind of emotions that day; relief, regret, resignation, but most of all, it was the churning sensation in the pit of my stomach that hit me hardest. In the time it took for me to read that letter, my life had changed. I wasn’t the same person as I had been two minutes earlier. The bubbly, motivated, fast-paced girl everyone once knew and loved had been replaced by a walking misery.

Because how can you be happy when you have to spend the rest of your life in pain? What’s left to live for when laying in bed takes effort, and getting out of it is even worse? Why would anybody choose to spend the rest of their life suffering, knowing that there is no cure? It took me a long time to figure it out.

The answer is this: there is more to life than your own body and mind.

It’s selfish, I know, but as an 18 year old girl I only really knew what it meant to push onwards and upwards, to “achieve” and “progress”. For me, that had always meant a good career, a wealth of knowledge, and a secure home in which to build my empire. That was my future. What I now realise is that, as wonderful as all this sounds, there is more to life than the future. There is the now. Like that cheesy saying goes, “today is a gift, that’s why it is called the present”. It might sound silly, but it’s true. Don’t take what you have for granted and, likewise, don’t knock it. What you have is beautiful- the people, the places, and the sea of memories that you collect as you go. Most importantly, make the most of it. Don’t waste your time worrying about that thing you’ve forgotten, or why your fibro fog made you leave your keys in the fridge, instead, laugh about it and use it as an excuse to call your friend up.

So then, what does all this mean?

Well, at the end of the day, we’re all stuck here on this earth, and nobody really has it easy. Yeah, you might feel depressed, and yeah, you might not be able to make it downstairs today, but why let that get you down? Why be miserable when you can change that?

My advice to you? Change your today so you can achieve the tomorrow you’ve always dreamed of. But in the meantime, enjoy what you have, even if it’s only a handful of painkillers and a season or two of your favourite Netflix binge.