Yoga: Gentle Practice (DVD Review)

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I have found that yoga is helpful in controlling some of my fibro symptoms (mostly pain, but also fatigue). I try to do it at least once a week, though in the past I used to do it two or three times a week. In the past few years I’ve also mixed in bicylcing and hiking and walks around the neighborhood, all of which are fun and helpful in their own way. But yoga is the most helpful so I make sure to fit it in. I haven’t been to any classes lately and I’ve been using a variety of yoga DVDs at home. I recently acquired a new one called Yoga: Gentle Practice and I find that it’s probably the best one yet for people with fibromyalgia.

It features Zyrka Landwijt as the instructor. She has a few other DVDs out, but I don’t know much else about her. I find her to be a good teacher for DVDs. This disc includes instructions on how to do 23 different poses, which is helpful if you’re doing yoga at home without a teacher to help you. From following her instructions I am more convinced than ever that I will never be able to do downward dog correctly, no matter how much I try to lengthen my hamstrings. I just don’t have the body to do it. The DVD also features six different workouts, which is more than other yoga DVDs and one of its chief attractions. Landwijt has a soothing voice and she’s working on a green mat in front of a white background with New Age-y music in the background. The yoga that she does is truly gentle–there are a few workouts where you don’t even stand up on the mat. Though they are gentle, they do provide a great workout. Afterwards I feel like I’m suitably stretched out and some of the annoying little pains are gone away. Plus, they help relieve some of the stress and anxiety that I’ve been feeling lately. I’m also feeling stronger and more flexible in ways that past yoga DVDs haven’t helped me do.

This may not be the best DVD for the hot yoga types or people who want to get a toned body, but it is great for those who have fibromyalgia or other pain conditions who require gentle workouts to help relieve some pain and not cause more pain. It also helps with stress relief, which I suppose those of us with fibro also frequently need. I’d recommend it for all fibro sufferers who want to practice yoga at home.

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Oh no–It’s time to go to the pharmacy

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Almost every time I go to the pharmacy I detest it. I don’t blame the pharmacists or the pharmacy techs for it–I’m sure it’s not fun for them either. It’s a small annoyance of having fibromyalgia–having to regularly pick up your prescriptions and supplements and over the counter pain relief. I think I have every pain patch and muscle rub that my local place sells. I’m sure it’s just the nature of the pharmacy that makes it terrible–busy parking lots, long lines, sick people, insurance issues, doctor issues, pay issues, the customer at the register trying to use her 10 for $10 coupon on soup and she got the wrong kind–all kinds of issues. And I just have to stand there and wait and be tempted to buy impulse items and listen to people complain about how awful it is to stand in line at the pharmacy.

I imagine if I went to hell, I’d just be stuck in the line at the pharmacy for all eternity. (I don’t think I’m going to hell–I just hate going to the pharmacy that much.) The only time I’ve ever had a pleasant experience at the pharmacy was when I went on Sunday morning when the parking lot only had a few cars in it. There wasn’t even a line at the cash register on that morning! I didn’t have to repeat my name or spell it (I love my name, but it is unusual so I don’t like telling it to strangers because it almost always requires comment) and they found my medicine with no problem.

Every other time, though: the line at the pharmacy is terrible. I’m down to just a few regular medications and I haven’t been as sick this year as I have in the past with the flu, sinus infections, colds, ear infections or viral complaints, so luckily I don’t have to go as often as I did in the past. But I need to go sometime in the next few days. Better get myself up early on Sunday.

(And I know some people can order their medication through the mail, but I can’t do that with my insurance plan. And I can’t bribe my husband enough to go stand in line for me.)

Shoe Shopping After Fibro (A.F.)

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I am not a big fan of shoes. I roll my eyes at the stereotype that women are crazy for shoes, especially for shoes that are expensive or uncomfortable to wear but look good. I think Sarah Jessica Parker has a lot to answer for, especially since I’ve read stories that say she messed up her feet after years of wearing heels. Since I live with chronic pain I just do not understand why people would intentionally put themselves in pain just to fit into a certain pair of shoes.

Before fibro (B.F.), I cared that shoes were cute, fit reasonably well, and weren’t that expensive. My mother took me to Payless when I was younger and we’d find something with plenty of room to grow in the toe box. When I started making my own money, I moved up to Sears and Penney’s (I am from a small town–those stores are as fancy as it gets for me, unless Dillard’s is having a sale). After fibro (A.F.), the only thing I care about in shoes is fit and comfort. I actually don’t mind if shoes are on the expensive side (which for me means $60-$100) if the shoes are from a brand that I know makes long-lasting shoes. As for looks–well, I don’t want to wear the exact same style as my 70 year old aunt who has had two knee replacements, but cuteness isn’t much of a factor anymore.

So I feel like I got lucky when I bought a new pair of shoes that were comfy, not-too-expensive and cute. I went to Dillard’s for the sales and looked for the Clark’s section since they’ve been a good brand for my A.F. feet. I ended up getting the Arbor Jade style.

Clarks Arbor Jade shoes--a little worn-in and dusty

Clarks Arbor Jade shoes–a little worn-in and dusty

 

they have a soft sole that is comfortable and provides more support than your average shoe, but it is a little on the slim side–if you have serious arch issues you might need to add a liner. The style is cute and they make my feet look small (this is an added bonus because my feet are size 10W or 10.5W and pretty much never look small). The part that I like best about them is that they fit snugly without binding or hurting my feet. For some reason, A.F. I have wanted my clothes and shoes to fit snugly. Snugly bit not tight, which can be hard to manage, but can be done as long as there’s stretch involved. The material of the shoes feels stretchy and not binding, so even if I wear the shoes for hours they don’t end up hurting my feet that much. Of course, when you are A.F. shoes will end up hurting sometimes no matter how comfortable they are. But when you’re A.F. you have to take what you can get. And thankfully there are brands out there that will give you something you can live with that still looks cute.

Mini-Meltdown

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Monday morning I had a mini-meltdown. A tears in my eyes, anger causing me to tremble and rant, feeling bad about my body and my life kind of meltdown. I call it mini because after a few minutes it was over. I knew that being upset for much longer would be bad for my body and I think I just needed a few minutes to cry out to the universe. I wasn’t better afterwards, but I felt like I had let go of some of my frustration and anger.

It started with piles of dog and yard waste. I had been slowly raking up it up–ten or fifteen minutes spread out over a few weeks, making small piles that I would then later pick up. It’s the way I can get the yard work done, even though it means my backyard looks dumpy for weeks at a time. I has been putting off the last step for a few days when I decided I just couldn’t put it off anymore–the piles of waste were making me feel like my life is going to waste because I just can’t get anything done that needs to get done. I was feeling so resentful of my condition. So I decided to get up the next morning and pick up those damn waste piles no matter what–just to prove that I have control over my life.

But of course I didn’t sleep well the night before and of course I woke up in pain. Of course I needed to sleep an extra hour in order to feel functional, but I didn’t get that extra hour. I got up, showered and dressed and got myself out there. I pushed myself even though I knew I wasn’t feeling good. And I ended up having the mini-meltdown because with every move of the rake my body was crying out. My husband hadn’t left for work yet so he came out to see what was wrong and he just listened while I had my mini-meltdown.

I ended up finishing half of the work I wanted to finish and then had a long nap later that afternoon. I don’t know why, but I’ve just been having more pain and fatigue this month, and I’ve just been feeling so resentful of having fibromyalgia. I’ve sat down to write new entries for this blog, but I end up feeling I have nothing to write about except my bad mood, my stress, my resentment, my pains, my fatigue and my mini-meltdowns. Sometimes I feel like an old woman with my pain and sometimes I feel like a toddler with my frustration so easily brought to the surface. But one thing I haven’t been feeling is content with and in control of my condition. For a long time, I was feeling like my symptoms were manageable. But something about this month has made me feel just awful. So I end up not writing anything because I don’t think it makes for good blog entries.

But sometimes I just have to let out a cry:

This fibromyalgia is difficult and some days I’m just not able to handle it.

Up and Down on the Frustration Roller Coaster

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I’ve been feeling frustrated with my fibromyalgia lately. I have just been over it. Over the pain, the fatigue, the roller coaster of hating my condition and then not minding it, the list of things that need to get done that just don’t get done in a timely manner or done at all. I am over it all.

But unfortunately, I don’t think my body will ever match me in being over it, so I still have to deal with it. And these past few days I’ve been feeling depressed about dealing with this condition while trying to live a life.

So, for example, 10 days ago we went to see Bandelier National Monument in northern New Mexico. We live in the American West and have decided to see as many national parks and monuments as possible while we’re still young and can hike around them (my fibromyalgia laughs at this idea that I can hike anywhere). Last year we saw the Grand Canyon, Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands, along with the Hoover Dam, which isn’t really a national monument, but is still fantastic and worth seeing.

So Bandelier includes the remains of a village that Ancestral Pueblo people occupied from around 1150 to 1550 CE.

You can see what remains of the dwellings on the canyon floor.

You can see what remains of the dwellings on the canyon floor.

 

The village is set in a canyon, and in addition to dwellings and store rooms on the canyon floor, the people also carved rooms and petroglyphs into the canyon walls. A stream runs through the canyon and there are beautiful trees and an abundance of wildlife. It’s quite beautiful and it’s easy to see why the people chose to live there. Visitors are able to walk through the canyon and see the remains of the village buildings and climb up a path to see the rooms that were carved into the cliff-side.

The view from the canyon floor. You can see some of the caves that the people carved out of the rock.

The view from the canyon floor. You can see some of the caves that the people carved out of the rock.

You can even climb up ladders to see into a house that is set 140 feet up. I did not make that climb because I’m a chicken about ladders, but I did most of the walking and hiking. While we were looking down onto the canyon floor and discussing what life must have been like for the people who lived there, I mused that Pre-Columbian American history gets short-changed in many parts of the USA. How many people know about Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon and Bandlier monuments (all inhabited by the Ancestral Pueblo people and known for their cliff dwellings and complexes–the 15 complexes at Chaco Canyon were the largest buildings in North America until the 19th century)? Or Cahokia in Missouri (an urban settlement built by the Mississippian people that was once one of the largest cities in the world and the largest city in what is now the United States until the 18th century)? I remember learning a little bit about them in school, but not anywhere near as much as I learned about ancient Roman monuments or even Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Sometimes I feel bad for never having been to Europe, but this visit made me appreciate how much there is to see and do in my country. How many monuments there are on our continent. How much of my own history and heritage I still need to learn about and see.

That last paragraph got a little bit away from me–back to my fibromyalgia.

I was pretty much exhausted by the end of our visit, which lasted about two hours. I, of course, had to take a nap and then get even more sleep the following few days, but it didn’t increase my pain levels, which was frankly surprising. I was expecting my legs to be sore for days.

So I was already pushing myself, just by going traveling back and forth and by walking around to see the sites. Then we came back and I had two very busy days and guess what I did for the next three days after that? Rested, rested, rested and didn’t get much done.

That’s why I’m frustrated. The time it takes to recover from something as simple as a sight-seeing trip and then two busy days means I put so much else of my life on hold. I’m trying to tell myself that I just have to roll with the idea that things take time, but my nature is to get things done and then get on with it. It’s just hard to fight against your nature sometimes. It’s hard to know that your life has these limits whether you like them or not.

Another Few Days of Pain

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For nearly a week now I have been having severe pain in my neck. It’s similar to the pain you feel when you turn your head the wrong way and get what they call a pinched nerve, but worse than that. The pain has been so severe that I felt like crying on Thursday and Friday. It has been a while since I’ve felt pain that severe. I think it’s not from fibromyalgia–last Wednesday morning I hit my head against the wall while I was sleeping. I hit it so hard I woke myself up. The day or two after that I know I was holding my head at a funny angle and sleeping at a funny angle in order to minimize the pain, so that might have made it worse. The fibromyalgia probably made me feel the pain even more than if I didn’t have it. It probably helped it linger the way it has. Today, six days later, the pain is finally going away. It’s still there if I turn my head the wrong way, but it is much diminished. Today I’ve been trying to catch up with all of the little chores I needed to do in the least few days, but of course I can’t push myself too hard and complete all of them. So right now I’m taking a break, and I’m trying not to type too much. I don’t want to push myself back into more pain again. I feel like sighing and complaining about these past few days of pain, but I also feel like sighing and complaining is worthless. Having fibromyalgia is just one set-back after another with some good days in between. You just need to learn how to deal with it and hope that tomorrow is a better day. I wish I had some inspirational thing to say or feel, but I don’t. I’m just pushing on.

Still Catching Up on Sleep

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These last few days since the time change I have been so tired. The day of the dreaded spring forward wasn’t so bad, but ever since then I just haven’t been able to get enough sleep. Funnily enough–considering I have fibromyalgia and all–I’ve only felt noticeable pain on one day–Monday, yesterday. My hips were hurting. I felt whispers of worry that it was early arthritis because my mother has had trouble with arthritis and had to have one of her hips replaced and will probably need to have the other one replaced before long–but I think it was from the yoga I did on Saturday. I was doing lots of forward folds during that session and those are sometimes hard on my hips.

The fatigue affects everything–the way I move, how quickly I can think and react, what I accomplish in a day, how much exercise and recreation I can work into my day. The “fibro fog” and the pain tend to grow worse on the days I’m tired. And so many plans get interrupted because of the inevitable afternoon slide into unconsciousness. In fact, I feel like taking a nap in a few minutes here after I hit “publish” on this post, which would push back all of the things I need to get done today.

I understand the arguments for moving one hour forward in time, but I sure hate that it leaves me catching up on my sleep for days and days afterward. I guess I could be grateful that the pain hasn’t increased as much as the fatigue, but I don’t feel all that grateful right now.

I’m too tired for it.

Hiking on a Sunday Morning

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Yesterday morning (Sunday) we went on another hike in the canyon we’ve been soledad 2exploring for a few weeks now. We’ve had to slowly build up our mileage–which was still only 1.8 miles–and push ourselves a little farther up and little farther in each time we’ve gone because, of course, I can’t just push myself. I did feel a pang of jealousy when I saw a woman obviously decades older than me moving at a faster pace and climbing higher than me (there are some exceptionally sturdy older people around here) but that passed quickly. I like that I have pace myself because that means we can spend months more exploring the canyon. And besides, at least I’m outside doing something with my body. Any small bit is better than no bit at all.

I had to pause a few times because the trail we took was much steeper this time around–just a straight up and up and up without any flat sections. But stopping was great because then I could look behind me and see the view down into the valley–the city, the green patches of the orchards and the university’s football field, the pale gash of the interstate heading west. Then I turned around to keep climbing and saw this:soledad

The older I get and the more hours of my life I spend with computers and the Internet, the more I become convinced that we humans need wild spaces, or at the very least, spaces not full of human-built things. We need to feel small and we need to see what else is trying to live on the planet with us and we need to look at things that aren’t screens. I grew up in a town of 28,00 and now live in a town of 100,000 (almost too big for me–almost nothing to people who live in cities of millions). The town I grew up is in a very rural part of a very agricultural state, and now I live in a state that is full of protected land and national monuments and state parks and all sorts of spaces with minimal human impact. So I’m not much of a city person at all–too much traffic and concrete and too many people bother me. I don’t usually like to use quotes in my writing, but I like the following from John Muir:  “Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” I’m not much of a fan of spending a week in the woods (I can’t imagine anything worse for fibromyalgia than camping for a week), but I’ll do a short climb to sort out my spirit. I know I’ll sound a little extreme here, but I think we miss some part of our humanity if we don’t inhabit wild or wild-ish spaces every now and then. Our little canyon is wild-ish–there are are homes a little more than a mile from where I took the above pictures–but how wild can you get with fibromyalgia?

It was a bit cold–54 degrees–with clouds moving quickly across the sun, making it sunny, then cloudy, then sunny again, and there was a brisk wind at my back as we climbed and in my face as we descended, but with a fleece vest and gloves and a headband over my ears I kept warm enough. And today I have aches in my shins, but I feel like my legs are getting stronger and my mind feels calmer, so it all evens out.

 

A Clear Head and a Better Day

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It’s amazing what a difference feeling physically well can make in my mood. This should not be a surprise because I have fibromyalgia and I’ve had my share of days where I’ve been grumpy or angry or blue because I was tired or in pain. But still I can be surprised by what my body does outside of fibro.

In my last post I discussed trying to cope with congestion and coughing and trying to not be constantly angry and upset because I was having those symptoms on top of having fibromyalgia. Thankfully, the congestion and coughing have let up over the last four days, and I feel so much better, both in mind and in body.

So much better that I could sing and dance. This good mood despite the fact that today I’ve been a little tired and I’ve had sharp slivers of pain all down the backs of my legs and I had to take a nap after doing some housework. Usually I mind having to lay down and slip out of consciousness for twenty or thirty minutes, but today I welcomed the rest. I know I shouldn’t have to remind myself what a little self-care can do because I’ve had five years of a fibro diagnosis to learn that lesson, but I guess I do still have to remind myself sometimes. I think I was just grateful that I didn’t feel like bricks were sitting on my sinuses and I wasn’t coughing like I had consumption–I was just glad that fibro was the only issue I was trying to battle.

So thank you to Mother Nature and my sinuses and my own coping methods for helping me have a clear head and a better day. I hope we can keep cooperating over the next few weeks and make it through the allergy and dusty-windy season. Cause these skies are going to be brown tomorrow when the winds kick in and I’m going to need all of the help I can get.

Another Wonderful Day of Congestion and Sinus Pain

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I have been feeling awful these past two weeks. It started with one week of a scratchy throat and coughing and then the next week congestion and sinus pain was added to it. I woke up this morning hoping I would feel better, but nope, I have terrible sinus pain and some congestion and still a scratchy throat. I think allergies must have come early. I thought the first week was just a cold, but since it all lingered, I think it has to be the usual springtime head issues that come with things in bloom and blowing dust.

Only I think that all came early this year. While much of the rest of the United States has been experiencing record cold and snowstorm after snowstorm, my region has been experiencing a lack of precipitation and record warm temps. It was in the eighties last week. 80 degrees Fahrenheit in February. Even in this desert that’s too warm. Yesterday I was already pulling weeds in the backyard. Today on my drive to work I noticed that some trees are already in bloom. I don’t remember the head pain coming so early in years past. I was talking to a friend about it today and he said it felt early for him, too. It’s disconcerting.

And I’ve been so angry these last two weeks–just a hair-trigger temper. The pan I want to use is dirty? I’m cussing as I wash it out. Someone does something stupid and/or dangerous on the road (which is, like, half of the people who drive near me)? I’m cussing them out. I even flipped someone the bird. This is not really like me–I did have  temper issues when I was little, but lately I’ve mellowed out–I can let things go. But these last two weeks–it was like anger was all I could feel. My poor husband was asking if I was mad at him. I’m not really mad at anything–I’m just tired of feeling sinus pain and congestion and coughing on top of the stress of everyday life and having fibromyalgia.

I decided today that I’m going to stop letting myself feel anger because it doesn’t help. I’m trying to change my thoughts–on my way to work today I started cussing out someone who ran a stop sign–but I stopped myself right away. I said, “no, you’re not feeling this, you’re breathing deeply and letting it go.” And at one point as I was getting ready this morning I said to myself, “Great. Another miserable day full of congestion and pain.” Again, I stopped myself and said, “no, re-frame it. Determine that you will have a good day despite the pain.”

So I’m trying to have a better week (thus the title of my post). You have to figure out what you can do to control the way you react to a situation. I feel like I have plenty of coping skills for fibro, but this extra pain was throwing me for a loop. Well no more. I’m going to breathe deep and stop angry thoughts and try to have better, more enjoyable interactions with the people in my life.

It might not make everything alright, but it has to be better than being miserable.