Solution: Pernaton gel.
One of the many things I'm very thankful for is that I have some very proactive friends. They're problem solvers, they like to find solutions when I present them with a challenge and I love that about them. I'm exactly the same; if something's not working I want to assess what's not working and what needs to be done to fix it. That can make me a pretty frustrated fibro sufferer because, as we all know, our physical, mental and emotional pain is not something that can be fixed logically fixed. Or is it?
I know my friends and I can't fix my body and unless one of them is harbouring some immense medical research skills, I don't think that's going to change any time soon. But instead of viewing my condition as one big problem that needs solving, I like to break it down. Sometimes my problem is walking without my feet stinging, sometimes it's carrying my stuff in a bag without my upper body throbbing, sometimes it's losing the feeling in my hands as soon as the weather turns colder, sometimes it's... you get the idea. These are problems that have potential solutions, they're things that I can talk to my friends about and they can feel totally useful as they make recommendations that improve my pain levels and, quite seriously, improve my life. So today, here are some recommendations that I've implemented or am in the process of implementing that are really working. Who knows, maybe they'll work for you too.
Problem: Needing a distraction for the high pain days.
There are many days when pain and exhaustion are too much and the only thing I feel capable of doing is lying down in bed. I am the worst patient though so when my mind is buzzing and I want to 'do' something, lying in bed feels like torture. I'm also guilty of getting a bit (okay, a lot) irritable at times like this and so I usually turn my mind to planning activities for when I'm feeling better. I spend hours with the diary out working out which friends to see when and what and where. One of my friends has been encouraging me to try to relax a bit at those times, and instead of madly planning she suggests I lie and listen to podcasts. She's been telling me this ever since I've known her, and I've finally followed her recommendation. And you know what? It's a good one! This American Life is providing me with totally entertaining days; I lie in bed with heatpacks and my laptop and become sucked in to whatever topic of discussion is going. And the best thing about starting so late in the game is that I've got hundreds of old podcasts in the archive to catch up with. It's awesome! There are hundreds of podcasts going these days, and another one that was recommended by the same friend is The Mental Illness Happy Hour. The podcast's tagline is YOU ARE NOT ALONE and it describes itself as providing "weekly online podcast interviews with comedians, artists, friends, and the occasional doctor. All exploring mental illness, trauma, addiction and negative thinking." It sounds like a good one and I'd be surprised if more fibro sufferers aren't intrigued to give it a try.
Problem: Sharp bursts of intense pain when at work or out and about.
Solution: Pernaton gel.
My mum was reading a women's magazine a few months ago and an article on arthritis recommended patients use Pernaton gel and rub it into areas of intense pain for quick relief. My mum rang me in excitement to tell me about the article, saying it referred to fibromyalgia as well and I should give it a try. "People are swearing by it!" I received the information with irritation and frustration; I told her I was constantly being told of one product or another that was being promoted to help fibro sufferers and it never worked, and I was exhausted and thanks but no thanks. My mum's pretty stubborn though and she sent a tube of gel to my house. I tried it, and it worked! I'm not promising anything, and I know everyone's pain is different and what works for some doesn't work for others, but I now have travel sized tubes of this in my bag, in my desk drawer and on my bedside table. It's not expensive and this is one recommendation I'm glad my mum bought into.
Problem: Unable to carry much more than a wallet and phone.
One of the things I really struggle with is going out for a prolonged period of time with much more than a wallet and a phone. My shoulder bag soon gets heavy once I add my camera, my kindle, my tablets and gels, my gloves, scarf and hat etc etc etc. I try more and more to take less and less out and about, and I even bought a small shoulder bag to force me to limit the amount of crap I lug around the city, but sometimes it's simply unavoidable. And what then? Well, my friend recommended I bought a backpack. Yes, a backpack. Now to me I instantly think of a school geek being bullied on a lonely walk home, and whilst I know that health is far more important than appearance I can't help remembering a conversation I had with my dad numerous times during secondary school. I would leave the house in the drizzling rain and my dad would shout after me, "Have you got your raincoat?" I would reply "Yes!" as I continued to walk away from the house. "Show me!" he would call after me. Damnit. I didn't have it, and he knew I didn't have it. I had glasses and braces and I never had cool trainers so I really didn't think I needed a geeky raincoat to add to my daily school trauma. Dad would inevitably bring my raincoat out of the house and I would inevitably shove it in the bottom of my bag and get wet. All of this is my long-winded way of saying, if I'm going to wear a backpack it's got to be one that doesn't make me feel like a loser. All of the below are Asos and under £40 so, who knows, maybe I'll give it a try.
Problem: Anxiety taking over everything.
People have been recommending meditation to me for quite some time. I tried it about a year ago; dragged myself along to a meditation centre in an old warehouse building in the middle of Newcastle city centre with thirty other people all shoved in the same room searching for calm. I don't know if any of them achieved it, but I know I didn't. Then one of my friends recommended Headspace.
This app saved me. My anxiety was getting pretty bad a couple of months ago, and one particular low-light saw me crying at 1.30am and having a panic attack. I searched Google for ways to calm down the attack and was told to clean and/or listen to music, so I turned on the hoover (I never hoover) and cleaned whilst straining to hear the sound of pop music on the radio over the hoover and my tears. I knew then that I needed to find something that could take me out of my anxious headspace and help me calm down. Now admittedly I was seeing a clinical psychologist at the time of trying the Headspace app, but it's 'take 10' feature forces you - as best as an app can - to take 10 minutes every day to meditate and I can happily say it had the desired effect. I know I'm meant to do it every day and become a pro so that soon I don't need the step-by-step voiceover that calmly tells me to breathe, but I also know I'm never going to be that girl. For now I just like knowing it's on phone so that when I get stuck there's a little something to help me out.
Problem: Feeling restless and needing to 'do' something, whilst feeling anxious and needing distracting at the same time as feeling sore and needing to rest.
A friend of mine recommended I started painting, and she suggested it for a number of reasons. The first is that by using bright colours on a large canvas and painting it a light room, the sunlight and brightness is supposed to release endorphins which have a positive effect on the brain. Or something like that. The second is that painting requires enough concentration to distract you from your thoughts, but it doesn't require so much effort that you're pained and feeling like you're working. I haven't tried this yet; I'm moving house in a month so my plan for the spare room is to get an easel and a large canvas and some bright paints and see if it does what it's supposed to. I'll report back.
The point of this post, as I hope you will have realised by now, is to show you that there are many many things people are recommending to us day in day out, fibro or not. Some of those recommendations will have no impact at all, but others may just change your life.
Well, it's official; I am now a Londoner. In all the chaos of too much stuff, too small a van and two petrified cats, I didn't have much time to sit and blog. For my silence I can only apologise. But now, finally, the world has stopped spinning and I have some time to sit and think - two things I'm getting increasingly good at.
I don't really associate London with sitting and thinking and stopping the world spinning. In fact, I'm fairly sure that London is the place one goes to should one wish to spin. However, having spent most of the last few weeks house hunting, I have found that Londoners weren't lying when they said there are quiet, calm places. I have even found...wait for it...greenery! I know! Sheer madness! And so, with my newly found green areas, I have also found a new attitude towards London. I'm starting a new chapter and a new journey, discovering the fibro-friendly activities and the quieter, calmer, more manageable areas of London. Quite frankly I can't think of a better time of year to do this because, finally, it's autumn!
I do love autumn. Not just because it's the season that hosts my birthday, but also because when autumn's in the air you can really feel it. Not just the change in temperature but the change in emotion. Things get cooler and crisper, the chunky knits come out of the wardrobe and I, inevitably, buy a new coat. And with all that, I get excited! I'm not sure why, but I am sure that I'm not alone. Autumn is the start of all things cosy and comfortable, and on a day like today when the sun is shining, I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be than good old Blighty.
It can be quite a lot of effort to go outside for absolutely no reason other than that of being outside, and I hate to throw the fibro card yet again but, I'm going to. When your body aches and you know the cold is only going to make things worse, leaving the house for nothing seems a bit nuts. But I tell you now, it's not nothing. Taking pictures of the trees, playing with the sun (not literally, I'm not magic) and scrunching up the crispy leaves is great fun. It was a healthy bit of a me-time after what's been a really manic few weeks, and I wholeheartedly encourage you all to go and do it. Go ahead, embrace autumn!
Twice a year I go out to a really fancy restaurant. We have a tradition; I take the boy to a posh place on his birthday and then we repeat for mine. This year, October (my birthday) meant a trip to The Dairy in Clapham. Now, I've said it once and I'll say it again - I'm not attempting restaurant reviews. Really, I'm not. I'm not. But, for the purposes of my Eating Out section, well, I guess I am.
Head Chef at The Dairy is Robin Gill. Gill has worked at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, he did a stint at Noma and worked as head chef at Almeida in Islington. So I was pretty excited as we made our way to The Diary, and when I'm excited I skip - fibro or no fibro.
Such beautiful flowers, beautiful wine and beautiful elderflower cocktail. All very beautiful.
I found everything about this restaurant so artistic, so attractive, so completely stunning. Oh, and it tasted pretty darn good too.
All the dishes are served in starter-sized portions, and the restaurant recommends 2-3 dishes per person. We took this as an excuse to swap and share.
The chicken liver mousse, with gooseberries and apple, was sublime. Also, look how pretty the plate is!
After this, I forget what I ordered. I just know it was great.
Overall, highly recommend.
I tried a weird and wonderful fibro -friendly activity today; I made a teapot.
I should clarify; I made a pretty crap teapot but here are some pictures of some better ones.
I found out about Muddy Fingers Pottery a few weeks ago and booked on to their teapot making class. It took place in the basement of one of my favourite Newcastle cafes, Quilliam Brothers, and every person got a free cuppa. We were off to a good start.
I was pretty worried the pottery class was going to involve some kind of Ghost moment, with Unchained Melody playing in my head. Luckily, we arrived to a collection of tools, spouts, lids and handles so I knew it was going to be aimed at beginners.
The slabs of rolled clay were for us to decorate and shape into the body of the teapot. So much easier said than done.
If you're after a confidence boost, I urge you not to invite your most arty crafty friend. Photos from this point on are of Ruth's teapot, for it is far better than mine! Still, it's not a competition (or, not a close one) and it was totally easy on the body. All very delicate and thoroughly enjoyable.
Look how pretty they all look, lined up waiting to go into the kiln. I'm almost positive my spout isn't attached properly, so it's likely to dribble when I pour from it. Actually, that said, I don't think my base is as smooth as it should be so we may not get as far as pouring. When it's all done and glazed I'll post a picture. For now though, I definitely recommend this as an activity. Lots of freedom to move around, incredibly informal and no heavy labour. A good crafty night out.
Apparently some research conducted by a dude at Oxford University found that laughter really is the best medicine. "People feel less pain after a good laugh, because it may cause the body to release chemicals that act as a natural painkiller, research has suggested." So I thought I'd pass on a prescription...
This is one of my favourite things on Youtube. It's possibly because I love Joseph Gordon Levitt an immense amount, but still.
I think I'm a bit behind with the Jimmy Fallon thing, but it turns out I love him too.
As a cat lover, this never fails to entertain.
Feel free to post me your favourite YouTube videos in return. Nothing beats the giggles, right?