Fibromyalgia and Me

In the first few months of this year, I was struggling with something that I didn’t want to speak about. A few years ago I broke my spine and in theory, it should have healed in 6 weeks and been a lot better within a few months. Then it didn’t… I had physiotherapy, acupuncture, had a routine by the rehab team, spinal injections the lot. It didn’t get better.

Test after test showed nothing, I was exhausted and in pain which was taking over my entire body. I was told that the spine wasn’t the cause but why did it hurt so much? I was absolutely miserable. Then I watched the Lady Gaga documentary Five Foot Two and it changed everything. It all clicked into place, I had Fibromyalgia.

The NHS website describes Fibromyalgia as:

Fibromyalgia, also called fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body.

As well as widespread pain, people with fibromyalgia may also have:

  • increased sensitivity to pain
  • fatigue (extreme tiredness)
  • muscle stiffness
  • difficulty sleeping
  • problems with mental processes (known as “fibro-fog”) – such as problems with memory and concentration
  • headaches
  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – a digestive condition that causes stomach pain and bloating

One of my best friends, Sarah, also has Fibromyalgia, she’d hinted it was something I should look into but I didn’t want to face it. I didn’t want a chronic illness (I know, logic wasn’t working here). Until one day I went to see the kindest doctor I knew and broke down. I told her every ache and pain, the tiredness, the stress. The fact I was hiding from everyone.

It’s not easy to get a diagnosis, there’s not a blood test or a scan. I was referred to a Rheumatologist which had a long wait. I took the day off work for the appointment and went with my Mum. I was an anxious mess, what if he didn’t believe me, but what if he did? It’s a hard set of emotions to explain.

I shouldn’t have worried, my doctor was incredible. We had a long chat and he checked the key points on the body which would lead to a Fibromyalgia diagnosis in combination with other factors.

The thing is, without Lady Gaga (and my friend Sarah) I probably would have had no idea what was going on with my body. More importantly, seeing people who are so successful (Gaga) and kind (Sarah) but still living with this condition gave me hope. Hope that I’d manage all this pain and anxiety, that I could still be a boss babe despite it all.

I’m hoping that in future I’ll be a lot more comfortable to talk about living with Fibromyalgia. It’s taken me a long time to process and feel comfortable about it myself. BUT I am still me, I still achieve what I want to and I still kick ass.

Thank you so much for reading!

3 Years Later.

I don’t know why every year I’m surprised at how long it has been since my accident. That day changed my life completely and I didn’t even know it at the time. Long story short for those of you who are new here, when I was at uni I had a horse riding accident. It was what seemed like a simple fall which lead to me think I was fine, despite an ambulance trip. After 2 weeks,  a doctors visit, another visit and then an emergency hospital visit I was told I had damaged four vertebrae in my spine. And, so it began.

I’m not going to write a whole post on the past 3 years and everything that happened since, instead, I want to focus on now. As I write this I’m in a job I’ve been wanting to be in since I was at university, I have a flat, friends and a wonderful partner. That’s all well and good but it is still a struggle. I have been in pain since the accident and I will continue to be in some form for the rest of my life because of the damage that was done.

There are days when I’m depressed, where I think why did his happen to me? When I want to pack everything in and lay in bed. I don’t I carry on, I lean on the wonderful people around me when I need to. I take pride in my job, my blog and the things I have and continue to achieve. Of course, I do get upset that I can’t easily go and do things that others my age can. Going out and being on my feet all night? Nope, not happening. Taking part in a sport or intense exercise? Not a pretty ending. I miss riding, I miss standing at the front of gigs but I try not to focus too much.

Mostly, I’m using what happened as something to remind me how far I’ve come and how much more I can, and will do. I’m working on a new idea, which relates to what happened (and that’s all I’m saying for now). I’m trying to forgive myself when I do struggle and need to ask for help. I’m getting through, each day as it comes, I’m accepting the fact that I have to do things a little differently.

I’m fully aware that this post is probably a brain dump, it’s also not my most eloquent post but that’s what it’s like. I don’t want sympathy, it is what it is and I’m here, I can still walk and I’m still going. That’s all that matters.

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World Suicide Prevention Day 2017 – Tips for Tough Days

It’s World Suicide Prevention Day 2017, each year it’s something that I dedicate a post to because it’s important. The fact that we need a day for suicide prevention shows something. We live incredibly busy lives, we’re constantly going, going, going, looking at the world around us and having 24-hour news and updates on the good, and bad in the world. It can all get a little too much. When you’re at your lowest ebb, and suicide seems like an option, it’s hard to know what to do to help, if there is any help at all when you’re slowed down struggling to cope while the world seems so fast. So, for this year I wanted to share some tips, for the days when everything seems too much.

Know that it’s ok to unplug

I love social media and growing my following BUT, sometimes it’s too much. To see other people seemingly having a great time when you’re not feeling great it’s ok to switch off for a while and turn off your internet and just be.

Speak to, or be around, people that love you 

This is so important. It doesn’t matter who these people are, but it can help to be cared for in the smallest of ways.

Get some natural light 

Hear me out. I’ve been in those times where my mind tells me to just lie in the darkness and just sleep, mainly when I was living alone at uni. When you get up, open the curtains or try to go outside for 10-15 minutes. Natural light can really do you good. If not you can get a lamp to replicate light, which also helps with SAD (Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder).

Try and do something you enjoy 

I know it can be really hard when you’re in the darkest parts of depression but even a little something can make you feel a little better. Maybe listen to an album you like, do something creative, cook? Whatever you feel up to doing. I, personally, try to listen to some music or write.

Allow yourself to cry 

My boyfriend is on tour right now, it’s tough. For the past week I’ve been trying to keep myself busy all the time, every evening pushing my mind and my body to distract myself. Yesterday I finally let myself acknowledge that I was missing him and had a good old ‘ugly cry’, didn’t set my alarm and just slept for as long as my body needed.

Know it’s ok not to be ok 

I wrote a whole post on this a while back, it’s ok not to feel ok. It’s part of life and if you have a mental illness it’s a part of life you know all too well. We have down days, sometimes we relapse, it’s all part of recovery.

Know that someone loves you

It can be so hard to remember this. Someone in the world loves you, so much. You’re worth this life. I promise.

If you need any help or are feeling suicidal please, please talk to someone. In the UK you can contact the Samaritans, they can talk things over with you on 116 123. If you feel like you’re in immediate danger of harming yourself please call an ambulance.

How is my Mental Health right now?

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As I write this, I realise I haven’t really been writing about myself and mental health, not for a while! We’ve gotten to September already and while we’ve still got 3 months of this year left, it feels like 2017 has just been a bit of battering for me and my old mind. Actually, if I’m honest since my accident in 2015 it’s been a bit of a struggle but in terms of this year, how about a bit of an update?

Back in April, I lost my job as most of my regular readers know. At the time it was the worst thing what could have happened in my mind. My depression became unbearable and after 5 and a half months at the company where I was incredibly unhappy and then being let go out of the blue meant that my confidence was shot to pieces. Even when I had a job offer for temporary work I was in a constant anxious state that I wasn’t good enough, that I’d be let go again and I was just an awful human being.

After applying for job after job while temping and not getting jobs, I decided I’d had enough. I was sleeping better at this point and not doing the long drive, so, mentally I was better than I had been since the year before, yeah that long. In my mind, a job was a job and you didn’t leave no matter how much you hated it (this is the worst thing I could have thought). This time I wanted to work for a company permanently that I enjoyed, in a great atmosphere and not too far a commute. So I did what I needed to do I researched and I called around, which eventually meant getting my current job that I love.

In all of this I felt like, mentally, I was on a tight rope. I needed something to come through, to prove to my ‘Mind Goblin’ wrong, that I wasn’t awful and I wasn’t useless and I could do a good job. I was right, the Mind Goblin was wrong. That was that, everything was going to be great. So I got the job, I went on holiday. I forgot to take my medication in the sunshine and had a drop on holiday, but within a day or so I was back on form.

The last 2 months of my job have been incredible, overwhelming and a boost. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still had anxiety attacks, I’ve still had the usual good days and bad days because that’s a part of my life and a part of my condition. Being more content doesn’t mean it disappears or that the ‘Mind Goblin’ doesn’t appear sometimes trying to take over my mind. I’m not writing this to tell you I’m fine and perfect but I’m taking it day by day. Which is all anyone who lives with a mental health condition can do.

As I write this I’m experiencing my first time as a ‘Tour Wife’ while Ali goes across the country with work. It comes with its own challenges, mostly loneliness and not having anyone to talk to when my Mind Goblin creeps out and I have to fight him away on my own. Or maybe not on my own. I’m lucky to have some wonderful friends, family and a great set of colleagues to chat to and to have for company.

Basically, it’s been good, bad and ugly but I’m getting there.

10 things you need to know before taking medication for Mental Illness

There is a lot of debate over medication and mental health. As someone who takes medication, I wanted to put together 10 things I feel you should know before taking medication.

  1. It’s not an easy fix – These aren’t ‘happy pills’ as people like to joke. For me, taking medication was similar to a fog rising, it didn’t instantly make me happy but it gave me the strength to make changes and help myself.
  2. Medication isn’t for everyone – It works for some, but not for others
  3. Your body needs time to adjust– In my experience, and that of most people I’ve spoken to, the first few weeks on new medication can have negative side effects. I had a week of feeling really poorly BUT it was worth it. If you can, see if you can get through that period.
  4. If you don’t feel it’s right, go back to your doctor – That said, if you really are struggling and don’t feel you can carry on or after a while feel your medication isn’t working as it should, go speak to your GP. I had three adjustments in a year on the same medication.
  5. You’re not weaker or less of a person for taking medication– There is so much BS about there about not being your ‘real self’ while on medication. If ‘not being my real self’ includes feeling better, not feeling exhausted and unbearably unhappy, I’ll take that, thanks.
  6. There are so many different types! There are so many different types which are used for different symptoms and reasons.
  7. A lot of people are ill-informed, don’t let them scare you – I’ve found two types of people in this category. The first type, people who’ve had a bad experience on medication. I don’t think they mean any harm but no medication is the same for everyone, just because it didn’t work for them, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. The other type of people don’t know anything about medication and just have, in my personal opinion, uneducated. Do what’s right for you.
  8. You can still have children if you’re on medication – This was something I was really concerned about because there are quite a few side effects and as a woman you have to be extra careful if you want to have children. I have been reliably informed that medication can be managed and monitored, hooray!
  9. You might need to try different medications to find the right one – This happens with a lot of medication, it’s no different when it’s for your mental health. There are so many different types for different issues. Keep going until you find the right one.
  10.  You’re the only person who matters – Everyone has an opinion, but that doesn’t mean they control your life. If you find medication helps you get through the day then you do you, this is your body and your health, no one else’s.

What would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @chloemetzger

IBS Awareness Month 2017

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The month of April is for IBS awareness. IBS means Irritable Bowel Syndrome, the NHS website states that:

‘Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common, long-term condition of the digestive system. It can cause bouts of stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and/or constipation.’

So, it’s not the more pleasant thing to talk about it can be incredibly painful and frustrating waiting for a diagnosis. I had problems with my stomach for a large chunk of my childhood and teenage years. It got to the point that my Mum always had some of the medicine in the cupboard for a rough night. I dealt with it and got on with it.

Later, whilst I was in university I kept getting sick. I had weeks where I couldn’t eat and was weak. It was like a recurrent stomach bug but it always came back. After a lot of tests, scans and a hospital admission  I finally received my diagnoses of IBS.

It is from this I received advice from my doctor about my diet and, surprisingly, a lot of friends stepped forward to offer their stories, their diagnoses. With the help of some medications, I began to live with any ups and downs I have a normal life. I go to work, see friends and deal with it. I’m quite lucky in the fact that I can often get a sense that a flare-up is coming on a good day. If course there are days where I am in pain or bloated, where I curse my own body.

You get to learn about what your body and cannot take, what will make your bowels angry for me it’s alcohol, rich foods or a lot of fast food. I know that I can’t have too much of these things or sometimes any at all. I know that I need to have some clothes to wear that are loose fitting incase I am bloated.

It is possible to live life with IBS. Yes there are hiccups, I know to be careful whenever I got away and am not used to the food but as with any condition you live and learn.

 

Spine Update

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update on my spine. For some of my most recent followers (there are now 400 of you who receive emails from me!!), you may not know what I’m talking about or why my spine is so important. Back in April 2015 I took a tumble off of a friends horse and long story short I ended up a compression fracture (think a crumble) of one of vertebrae and possible damage to three others. The treatment I received wasn’t great, particularly from the emergency team when I was bought in in the ambulance, who also didn’t find the fracture for 2 weeks, meaning in that time I could hve easily done more damage and been paralysed. Fun. So I’ve been in spine recovery since then and had multiple appointments, doctors and 5 different hospitals in London, it’s all gotten pretty normal to me.

Tonight, however, I got to meet my first GP for the first time. The pain in my spine has been particularly unbearable in the past few months because I’m now working full time and commuting, meaning I can’t take super strong medication. I knew something wasn’t right so off to the doctor I went. I’m used to it being passed off, ignored or being given ANOTHER stack of medication to try, although I was pleasantly surprised.  She was brilliant and took it incredibly seriously listening to my concerns and what I would like done. I’m now on medication that is better for me in the long run, am booked into an x-ray tomorrow and will be sent to a specialist back clinic to see where to go from there. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so optimistic about my back.

As always I’ll keep you all updated about anything that’s going to be done/is discovered. For everyone that has sent me messages or commented thank you so much, those messages keep me going on bad pain days!