I haven’t written a blog post in 2 MONTHS!
I apologize for the blog silence! It’s not like me to leave my readers hanging.
But here’s the scoop: I haven’t been posting because I haven’t been well. For those readers who don’t know, I have Fibromyalgia.
This means a lot of doctor visits, lab work, and days spent in pain. I won’t go into too many intimate details about my every day life. All you need to know is that I’ve been taking some time to focus on my mental and physical well-being.
I’m still on the road to recovery but I’m back now! And my recent departure from the blog has inspired to me to write a blog post about how to survive raising animals while suffering with fibromyalgia.
I hope my personal experience can bring someone else insight into their own lives.
** This blog post may contain affiliate links that help us survive this Hard Duck Life together! For more information see our privacy page.**
What is Fibromyalgia?
If you are reading this post, you most likely already know what fibromyalgia is because you yourself suffer from the condition and that’s why you’re here. But for those of you who may not be familiar with fibromyalgia, here is a quick explanation.
Fibromyalgia is a condition of chronic pain and fatigue that is believed to be caused by overactive nerves. (cue Lyrica commercial). No one currently knows what causes fibromyalgia. So there is no way to prevent it and there are few effective ways to treat it. It’s even difficult to diagnose because it’s usually a diagnosis of elimination. The only diagnostic tool is a test of pressure points on the body. Basically a doctor presses on certain points of your body and if you say “ouch” to enough of them, you’re in the fibromyalgia club.
This is not a club you want to belong to.
Symptoms can be different from person to person. Personally I experience severe “fibro fog” (problems with thinking and memory), migrating shooting pains through my limbs and chest, muscle fatigue and soreness, phantom itches, burning back muscles, achy and stiff joints, increased sensitivity to external stimuli, migraines, dizziness, and mild depression. Etc, Etc, Etc, Blah, Blah, Blah, I know your eyes glazed over after reading that…You get the gist.
Fibromyalgia is an invisible disease to both doctors and other people in your life because on the outside you appear to be a normal functioning human being who just complains a lot. And your lab work will tell your doctors the same thing.
Many people who suffer from fibromyalgia hear, “You just need more sleep” from friends and family. And “Just eat better and get more exercise” from your doctors. Little do they know that exercise isn’t possible when your body screams in pain and naps are already your greatest hobby.
Here’s my story:
Unless you are new to my blog, you already know that I am a passionate animal lover. I have been my whole life. I turned this passion into a career when I became a non-registered veterinary technician and my passion overflows into my leasure activity of raising hobby animals. My devotion to all God’s creatures preceded my diagnosis of Fibromyalgia.
The journey to my diagnosis of Fibromyalgia is a long and complicated one that I will spare you of all the details. Generally fibromyalgia does not affect women or men until mid-life but I had the “good fortune” to experience it much sooner than most. Over the years my symptoms have progressively worsened and intensified in magnitude but thankfully the symptoms still come and go. Some days are better than others and I learn to live with the flares. But it definitely affects all areas of my life including my job of caring for animals both at work and at home.
Some people with Fibromyalgia may chose not to own animals, not because they don’t love or enjoy them, but because the pain is too great to take care of yourself some days, let alone another living creature. And that’s ok because everyone knows their own limits. But for those of us who do own animals, I have put together a short survival guide.
Survival guide to raising animals while suffering from Fibromyalgia (or other chronic illness)
1. Find your bliss
This may sound like a very hippy dippy way to start my survival guide to fibromyalgia but hang in there with me!
You have to find your happiness in life! Because your days are filled with so much pain and suffering that you must find your happy place to stay sane, otherwise depression is eminent.
For me, my bliss is my animals! There is nothing that brings me more joy than caring for my animals. Even though it is physically taxing, especially on flare days, they make me smile!
Stroking a soft cat and hearing its purr warms my heart. Sitting on a porch swing and watching my ducks forage in the afternoon sun calms my mind and body.
It’s no secret that animals are beneficial to your health (read about the benefits here).
If animals are not your bliss, then maybe they are too much for you to handle with fibromyalgia.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Animals are a lot of work! Despite how your body feels your animals must be fed and litterboxes must be scooped. The stalls must be mucked and water troughs and duck ponds must be scrubbed and re-filled.
It’s a 365 day full time commitment. But you might not be able to do it every day.
Chronic illness suffers are familiar with the spoon theory. You only have so many spoons for the day. Let’s say you start out with 12 spoons each day and each activity takes a certain number of your spoons to complete. Once you are out of spoons you can’t do any more without taking spoons from the next day, making tomorrow even harder.
This is not the American economy we are talking about here. You physically cannot continue to function in spoon debt. So you must limit how much you do everyday and then recharge before you can do more activities. So some days you WILL need help!
Know and accept your limitations! Have a friend or a family member who is familiar with your limitations and is willing to help when needed. It is OK to ask for help!
Do not use more spoons than you have available!
3. Take care of yourself first
Many animal lovers put the needs of their animals before their own. In the olden days, if you were a farmer, you got up at the crack of dawn and you fed and cared for all the farm animals before you ever touched a bite of breakfast for yourself. Because animals were your livelihood! Now our animals are more pets/members of the family than a means of survival but the adage still holds true.
However, if you have a chronic illness like fibromyalgia, sometimes your care must come first or you are not going to have the strength or the means to care for your animals.
If you spent all night begging for the sand man to visit you until you finally fell asleep at wee hours of the morning, it’s ok to sleep in and not let the ducks out of the coop right at sunrise.
If you are suffering from stiff and achy joints that hurt so bad you can barely remove yourself from the couch, it’s OK to not take your dog for a walk.
If you are having a migraine or possibly dizziness, it’s OK to not saddle up and go to your riding lesson today.
I’m not saying neglect your animals! But I am saying that you must listen to your body and rest when needed and learn to forgive yourself.
If you don’t take care of yourself during flare days, how will you ever be able to take care of your animals?
4. Have a backup plan
There may come a time when you have a flare so bad that you are unable to care for your animals for several days at a time. For this instance, you should have a friend or family member that you can count upon on a moments notice.
Everyone with a chronic illness needs to have an emergency plan in place for their animals. You should have a “how to” guide on how to take care of your animals in case you are unable to. This should include what, how much, how often, and what time to feed each animal. Your plan should also include all emergency contact information for a veterinarian or farrier in case a medical emergency should arise while you are unavailable. It should also explain in detail how to clean, water, and care for each animal just as you would.
Also have a backup plan for what should happen to your animals if you are completely physically unable to care for your animals ever again. They are your pets and family members. You want to be sure they go to another loving home who will care for them just as you have.
5. Read this book!
My greatest tool in my tool belt for my health while suffering with Fibromyalgia has been the book, “The Fibro Manual – A Complete Fibromyalgia Treatment Guide for You and Your Doctor.”
This book is written by Ginevra Liptan, M.D. She is a doctor who also suffers from Fibromyalgia. She offers fantastic insight into what fibromyalgia is and isn’t. And how to find doctors and treatments to help you where you are in your own health journey.
Reading this book has allowed me to take better care of myself and my animals. Search for a copy at your local library or buy your own paperback copy on Amazon.
Leave this post with care and compassion for yourself (or your Fibro-Warrior)
The #1 thing to take away from this blog post today is to treat yourself (or your Fibro-Warrior) with the same care and compassion as you show your animals so we will all survive this Hard Duck Life together!
If you found this post helpful share it with all your Fibro-Warriors. Or subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss our next post!