Pretending to Be Normal

18 09 2013

Someone I’m quite close to asked me a while back “How are you doing?” & rather than give my tired old lie “Ok,” I said “I’m in a lot of pain today. Weak, too.” And he replied, “You’re always in pain.”

In my head I immediately responded “Yes, as I have a chronic pain condition. Some days are worse than others. Today is particularly bad, but I am never not in pain. That is an accurate assessment.”

But what actually came out of my mouth was “I’m sorry.”

Why do we do that?

For me it’s that I feel bad that I have come into someone’s life &, while I am at times amusing & even helpful, I’m also a source of consternation as I am a constant reminder of the fragility of the human condition. I dunno. Maybe it’s just that having a friend with a chronic illness might be annoying to normal people. I wouldn’t know.

So while I lie here in flare as my cats periodically pat at me & I’m earning 0 money, I plot ways to get more normal. I try to figure out how I got into flare & how to not make a nuisance of myself because of it. I can’t control the random drops & rises in temperature Los Angeles throws at me, so that’s just a thing I surrender to: “I am going to go into flare & there isn’t a whole hell of a lot I can do about it except not make it worse.”

I can control my exercise. As much as I enjoyed strength training & as much as I’d like to do that again, it is clear after months of new levels of chronic pain that I’ve probably done more harm than good. I have pains in my shoulders & triceps that I never imagined were possible. That’s fine right after a work out, but it should not linger for 4 months, nor should it worsen with normal daily activities.

I know I should exercise though, as it’s been shown to help, but now that there’s evidence indicating that fibromyalgia is a neuroVASCULAR issue disguised as a neuromuscular one, I wondered if there were new guidelines. I stumbled across this article. It focuses far too much on those who have developed fibro due to psychological stress tension (which arguably mine is, in addition to numerous injuries throughout my life), but its discussion of fibro vasoconstriction & the benefits of exercise there upon are worth the long read.

Somewhere toward the end, it explains what I was doing wrong. Low to moderate aerobic exercise has the most benefit in reducing fibromyalgia pain & symptoms. They did not overly look at strength training, but they present the argument that blasting one muscle group at a time is not going to increase circulation to all muscle groups in a condition characterized by widespread pain. And I said “Duh, I knew that!” So why did I take up strength training?

Because I’m stubborn & aggressive & sometimes I like to pretend fibromyalgia doesn’t exist. I like to prove to Normals that I’m normal. Well, I’m not.

What I clearly need to do is get back into gentle, short frequent walks or recumbent bike rides, then add back in gentle strength exercise like crunches & band work. I should be circulating, then toning, not “building” per se because I can’t really build. My muscles’ foundation is sand. Even my trainer noted that balance is my biggest problem (I’m sure proprioception issues don’t help).

If I want to stop feeling like a little old lady, I have to exercise like one. Seems counterintuitive, but sometimes physiology is like that. Do I want to run & skip & jump & do 100 kettle bell swings? Of course. But if I want to hold down a job, it’s ill advised.

Plus I’m tired of telling people I’m in pain. Well, more pain than always.

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