November 5, 2009

What is "Normal" anyway?

Howdy. Sorry I haven't written for a while. Things got pretty rocky and stressful here, but as they say, sometimes you have to hit the bottom before you can start climbing back up.

Between being in constant pain, not sleeping, not healing, being angry and frustrated and disliking my job- well I was just a train-wreck. So over the past few weeks, I've been working hard and separating out the pieces. While I haven't actually changed a lot of things, I have changed my attitude and my outlook. You have probably heard the phrases "attitude is everything" and "life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it." I used to think that kind of stuff was a load of you-know-what, but now I finally see what people meant with those phrases. I created the total downward spiral I went through all on my own. Sure, I didn't choose to get Fibromyalgia, I didn't choose to live life in pain, but I can choose what's next. I can choose how to live each day.

I admit, I am, by nature, a fairly negative person. I'm not one of those happy-go-luck people who always have a smile on their face and a skip in their step. And honestly, I don't want to be that kind of person either. What I do want to do is live my life. That's right- simple, plain as day. I want to live life. So the question is, how do you live life?

For a long time, I had it all wrong. I thought that living life was being perfect, and that if I could just be perfect, that then I could finally be happy and content. I just wanted everything to be normal. I often thought to myself that I could just get a week where everything was normal or even a few days... No problems at work, no pain, no frustration, just things would be normal and perfect and then I'd be good....

Well, I bet you can guess how well that worked out for me....

I began to take count of what I really wanted to do in life. I finally reasoned with myself that I should just do what I can, and that is good enough. I had to realize that I was the one who was putting all of the unrealistic expectations on myself. I am a pretty amazing person, and I was the only one who was holding myself to a bar so high in the sky that no-one could attain, let alone maintain a place there.

I have become my very own coach. I remind myself, quite often, of what is reasonable, what is realistic, what I can do, and what I cannot. I keep the thoughts going about moving at a reasonable pace, and that if I push and push, that nothing will be left to give- and that won't do anyone any good. I give myself time to breathe. I take nice long soaks in a hot tub. I think about all of the things that I did accomplish throughout the day. Mentally, I have accomplished so much, and I know how to keep going in the right direction, finally.

Yet one thing has still discouraged me: I am still in a lot of pain. Somewhere in my mind I thought that when I reduced my stress and got myself mentally in a good place that the pain would at least somewhat subside. Unfortunately that has not happened. In fact, the pain has persisted, and gotten worse (or at least it feels that way) since I was diagnosed back in May. I spoke with my therapist last night about this issue at length. She put a thought in my head that had not occurred to me before: Instead of feeling that I need to fight this and the pain will go away, it's time to accept it. It's not like Fibromyalgia is some disease where if you take the right medication it will be cured. This is a chronic syndrome, and it will be with me forever. So instead of going to the doctor over and over and wondering when I will feel normal again... it's time to manage this. Time to accept this is part of me. Time to live my life and know that I may never feel "normal" again, but that doesn't mean I can't feel good and it doesn't mean that I can't live. Things may be different than they were before Fibro, but so what. That's okay.

The work for me now begins on reminding myself and coaching myself of that. It's actually kind of nice knowing that 'acceptance' is the last in the stages of grief. I feel good about that. I think that once I stop focusing so much on wondering if I'll ever stop having a flare or if it'll get worse, that I honestly might feel better because I don't have to worry about it anymore. I've noticed that with many other things- once I'm not obsessing over them with worry, they really aren't such a problem after all. Funny how that happens...

In thinking about all this, I started really thinking about what "normal" meant anyway. How often could I even say that things were "normal" at any time of my life? What does that even mean? In reflection, I'm thinking that a state of flux, learning, growing, sadness, happiness, etc. IS in fact "normal." And quite frankly, probably a lot more interesting than a life of absolutely nothing happening. I don't really want to sit around in a catatonic state all day, after all.

What I'd really like to do is help others who are going through this as well. It's rough, and I understand what it's like when people try to give you the answers, but the answers don't seem like something that will work for you. I know what it feels like to put so much effort into trying to do what the others suggest, but you just don't know how to make it work. I know it might be the same coming from me as well, but what I can do is give you hope. It takes time, self-reflection, and desire. We all have bad days, but have faith. In as much to help any of you, I'm also writing this to remind myself to have faith when I have one of those bad days, too.

In closing, I'll leave you with a quote I recently read that I really liked:

"If you don't like something change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it." ~Mary Engelbreit


  1. Thank-you for such a thought provoking post. I too have fibro and can often be a perfectionist about so many things in my life. You have inspired me to embrace "acceptance" and just start living! Best to just live and thrive through the pain and be the most productive and happy person you can. Love the quote as well!

  2. I needed that. I needed those words this morning, thank you so much for that! It's amazing to me how much inspiration and support I have been blessed with from the blogs and Twitter community just in the last month.

    Your blog is right on point! It's time for me to accept. I had this same conversation about "what is normal", and came to the same conclusion.

    Very inspirational!

  3. Quite true! It's taken me 3 years but I'm finally at a place of acceptance and moving on with my life. I've joined a gym and am working out 3x/wk for an hour, and feel way better than I ever imagined. I'm so glad this is working for me. It doesn't mean the pain is gone, but the energy, strength, and endurance I get from it helps me push through the pain and manage my life better. I can do more things and have the strength to keep moving whereas before I didn't. I know this doesn't work for everyone, but I just wanted to share my story. I'm thankful for the recent changes and my acceptance of the Fibro... I really needed something to change and fast! I hope you are able to get to a place of full acceptance too. I know it's really hard (it took me 3 years), but ultimately it really does help. Blessings to you!