Last time I published a post, I wrote about recently being diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Before that, I tried to find out what was wrong through the usual method of self-diagnosis: search engines. To tell you the truth, I’m not any happier to be able to put a name to it, especially since there isn’t much known anyway. Now I’m digging through the entire library of the Internet (which is, of course, absolutely huge) to find information.
One theory out there is that (for some strange, unknown reason) the otherwise perfectly healthy bodies of women suffering from FMS (fibromyalgia syndrome) have decided to take “no pain” for an answer. In other words, some mechanism that measures amount of pain is broken; the nerves scream at what might normally have felt like a butterfly kiss.
Yet another theory, which I addressed in the last post, is rather common: it’s all in our heads. Ah, well…even if it were in my head, the pain is the same. And speaking of pain…
Research Says, “No Pain, No Gain.”
There isn’t a lot of consistent research out there for FMS. Therefore, when something is consistently reported as helping relieve the pain, I’m going to pay attention. I think it’s called the “Law of Averages” or something like that, but I can’t remember off-hand.
Anyway, researchers consistently point to exercise as a therapy. Here’s how it works, if I understand correctly:
Your body hurts. Exercise, even for those used to doing so, hurts. The stronger the FMS, the more painful exercise can be. This isn’t something you can get used to. Unused muscles don’t cause the pain, so you can’t build up stamina/muscle tissue and then have the ache fade away.
Because of this, even those who regularly exercise tend to slow down once fibromyalgia hits. This slowing down causes the loss of muscle tone; loss of muscle tone causes problems with the muscle fascia, which is how the energy in our bodies gets around. In turn, problems with the fascia cause the level and/or frequency of pain to worsen.
Long story short:
If you have FMS, you need – not just want, but need – to exercise, keep healthy muscle tone and a healthy weight. If you don’t because it hurts, you’ll actually end up causing yourself more harm and pain. How lovely. If you don’t push through the pain to work your body, you’ll end up with more pain anyway.
Walking Around the World & Burning Burgers
So… I signed up with this exercise application called Endomondo, and I’ve been a VirtuaGym member for a while already. Endomondo is a mobile phone app that keeps track of your location through GPS to calculate how far you moved (walking, cycling, running, etc.), how fast and how long it took. It calculates your calories burned, of course, but it also turns all that into the number of burgers you’ve burned, trips around the world you’ve taken (if you add all the distance up) and trips to the moon.
At this exact moment, I’ve managed 14 burgers and 7593 calories burned in 16:48:36 hours, 16 workouts and 38.92 miles. At, I might add, an average speed of 3 mph… give or take, depending on whether my best friend and I take the boys.
C enjoys walking, but at a leisurely stroll. Unfortunately, a leisurely stroll isn’t going to do what I need my body to do. Fortunately, we can always continue walking once we get the boys back home, if that’s what needs to be done (we haven’t had to do that yet…)
Selfishness Creeps In…
Whether it hurts or not, whether it’s a half-mile or four miles, I have found a level of peace, quiet and contentment walking around our neighborhood. I’ve never experienced camaraderie like this before – just my best friend, me and the pavement beneath our feet. Sometimes we talk back and forth, but there are also moments of silence that are just… peaceful.
All my life, I’ve felt the need to push noise into the vacuum of silence. Quiet and lack of conversation made me uncomfortable. “It made my teeth itch,” as my sons like to say. Yet, as my friend and I walk, our feet hitting the pavement in unison more often than not, it reminds me of a sermon I heard once about the saints walking in lockstep – with one accord, one mind, one purpose. Granted, our purpose is not near as lofty as all that, but there is a lot to be said for having any purpose at all.
And I’m jealous of it.
Last night, I realized that my mind is not nearly as calm after walking with the boys as it is when it’s just us two. It’s so much more chaotic, partly (I think) because I’m with the boys all day. I’m always on mom duty – which isn’t a complaint, only a statement. You can’t relax when you’re on mom duty, or stuff goes wrong. That’s just part of having kids.
I need that calm. I need the de-stressing. I need that little bit of time for my brain to slough off the irritations, frustrations, and other “ations” gained throughout the day. If I just needed to walk and let the thoughts flow through my mind, I could tell my friend and he’d understand. We’d quit talking and be perfectly content treading the ground for a while.
If I told my kids the same thing, they’d be hurt and petulant. –And they talk all the time. The noise doesn’t end when we walk as a group; it’s continual. Okay, that one is a complaint, but I know it’s also just a part of having kids (and I wouldn’t give them up for anything).
But when they ask to go walking with us, what am I supposed to say? “Sorry, boys, Mom’s taking a break from kids for awhile?” Or how about, “Not this time. I’m feeling selfish and don’t want to deal with the noise right now.”
No matter what words go through my head, I feel incredibly selfish when I tell them no. I know the only reason I tell them no is because I want and/or need the break. I’ll figure it out eventually, God willing, but until then, I guess I’ll just continue feeling selfish…
Anyway, back to your regularly scheduled post.
One More Time Again… Perspective Counts
We walk. We never know how far we’re going to get, or how long we’re going to be at it, or how fast we’re going to go, but we walk. Although we enjoy stretching our legs and breathing the air (no matter how hot that air has gotten lately), the main purpose is to combat the pain that comes from FMS.
We’ve been doing good – great, actually. Well, I say “we,” but my best friend could outwalk me on one of my really good days. To be truthful, I should say, “I’ve been doing good, and he’s been staying with me like a gentleman.”
We’d been averaging 2.7 miles. I was a little stiff in the mornings, but nothing like I’d expected. I hurt throughout the day, but, with rare exceptions, it wasn’t bad.
I got so excited about how smoothly things were going that I pushed. Instead of the 2.7 miles we’d been averaging, the evening of June 16th we walked 4.34 miles… and I tanked.
The next day I tried to get out of bed and could barely move. All day long, I ached from the top of my head to the bottoms of my feet. That night, I managed to walk a painful 1.35 miles. The next day was worse, but I managed 1.8 miles. The third day was even worse, and I barely managed a mile and a half. My hips and knees felt like hot, dull rocks; melting lumps on logs that refused to move right.
I was disheartened. After one of the walks, I laid on the floor and cried – not so much from pain, but from fear. The fear of “what if.” What if I get to where I can’t move? What if I get so afraid of pain that I can’t push past it anymore? What if the pain gets so bad I can’t think around it? What if…
What if I can’t take care of myself?
What if I have to rely on another for survival?
What if the pain starts up and those hideous, nauseating waves never end?
But Then There’s Perspective…
A very wise woman pointed out to me that, while there’s a silver lining to every cloud, there’s a cloud to every silver lining. Perspective, right? How much and what you see all depends on which part of the cloud you’re looking at.
For example, at least I have others I could rely on to help me if that time ever came. I’d hate it, but they’d still be there. Once I get over the fear of being unable to take care of myself, I can be glad that there are people who care enough about me to help.
That’s just the tip of this life-changing perspective iceberg. Here’s the other bit.
One of the things I really like about the Endomondo app is that I’m able to look at my past workouts. As I was moping about my broken, beat up body and whining about the inability to walk more than a half hour, I went to do just that.
I think I just wanted to beat myself up a little bit more. I went to look so I could point at the better distances, speeds and times and yell at myself, “Look at that, you little weakling. You’re complaining about a half hour, whining about how much it hurts…. Why, you were walking three times that speed and distance a few days ago. Quit complaining and move your caboose!” This is me motivating myself.
I went digging in the statistics and metrics, and was caught by surprise. Since we started walking, I’ve gained almost 10 pounds. That’s extra weight that should pull a person down, right? Well, our average speed has gone from 1.4 mph to 3.13 mph over the last month. Our average pace has gone from 42 minutes a mile to 19 minutes a mile. I measured myself and I’ve lost at least two inches on my waist and three on my hips.
In other words, even when I felt like an incredibly slow, fat, lazy, whiny slug, I was doing better than I did in the beginning. What I saw on those charts and metrics was improvement. -And improvement, no matter how slow, is still improvement.
It warmed my heart to see those charts on an uphill climb!
The fibromyalgia? Well, it comes and goes in fits and spurts. It’s like a reoccurring nightmare, lurking in the shadows to come out and play. This morning it caught me right above the ears and spread down to between my shoulder blades. I have quite a case of ouch going on as I type this.
But you know what? Tonight, I’m still going to walk. I’m still going to put one foot in front of the other and take the next step. I may not make three miles. I may not even make one. And it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I’m still taking steps. I’m still moving forward.
And in the end, isn’t that what life is really all about?
P.S., Post Script and Whatnots
I’ve recently come across several website designs similar to mine. Not unexpected, really; mine’s an adapted version of a free WordPress.com theme. Anyway, one of the things I do for money is design websites. I’m going to apply some of that design/coding skillset to Life’s Work In Progress. In other words, this way this site looks is subject to change at any point in time. Don’t freak – if you want to make sure you’re on the right site, just look for “Life – It’s a Work in Progress” in the header. I’ll always keep it there!