In December of 2014 I was diagnosed with both Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It was during the initial stages of being diagnosed that I learned the importance of self-care. At the time, I thought its meaning to be synonymous with ‘symptom management’. As time went on however, I begin to develop a different understanding of the term.
When I was given the opportunity by Self Care Movement to share on this topic, I enthusiastically jumped at the chance! You see, I am a firm believer in the reality that there is life after diagnosis. Too often, the focus for those of us who live with Fibromyalgia centers around a preoccupation with the disease itself. This can bring about a feeling of being trapped within a new reality of lifetime pain and sickness. Needless to say, our outlook can begin to grow grim.
When I sensed this starting to happen, I took a look at what ‘self-care’ meant to me personally. It was at this point in my journey that a new beginning began to take shape. My attention shifted from negative questions, to more positive ones. Instead of asking: “What are all the things I am no longer able to do?”, I began to ask: “What am I capable of now within my new limitations?”. In other words, a major part of my self-care began to be about not looking at what was no longer possible, but instead focusing on what new possibilities were now available.
This is where self-care went beyond symptom management and epsom salt baths. I felt the desire to get out of my own head. I needed to gain distraction from being obsessed 24/7 with my personal physical ailments. I began to crave the energy and fulfillment that comes from the pursuit of creative ‘passions’:
What I Do For ‘Self-Care’
- Create And Maintain My Website ‘A Life Well Red’ ~ This activity allows me to connect with a community I would not be privileged to interact with if it were not for chronic illness. The giving and receiving I am able to engage in there benefits my overall health like good medicine. As I stated in a recent article I posted, “The information I receive from others, along with the sense of intimacy that is born out of shared hardship, brings healing to me in ways that go beyond the physical…” (‘Why Write A Blog On ‘Invisible’ Chronic Illness?’~A Life Well Red). ~
- Photography ~ This is an adventure I have only recently begun. The creative freedom available using today’s technology, has made photography an unprecedented form of artistic expression. I can lose myself for hours creating and editing, without ever paying the slightest bit of attention to my pain.
- Baking ~ From the first lopsided boxed spice cake I made when I was 9 years old, to the French macarons I am now endeavouring to master at 49, baking has always been a great love of mine. There are days when flares are bad enough to keep me from being ‘hands on’ in the kitchen. It is at these times that self-care means pre-occupying myself with research and planning. This focuses my mind away from the pain, and on to more productive thoughts. In fact, I am in the process of creating a macaron business, and will soon have a website up and running!
The importance of self-care can never be understated. I believe it to be one of the most powerful weapons in our arsenal to maintain optimal health, and stave off depression. It helps me to live out the motto of my website ‘A Life Well Red’:
Chronic Illness Is Not An ‘End’, Just Another Unexpected ‘Beginning’ ~
This is why I truly appreciate companies that dedicate themselves to the betterment of the chronic illness community. The company Self Care Catalyst, which creates health-based apps including Health Storylines, has recently launched SelfCareMvmt, to celebrate the greatness of the accomplishments within the chronic illness community. These are the stories that bring hope and encouragement to everyone who must journey the path of life with chronic illness.
SelfCareMvmt can also be found at the following links:
Self Care Movement Facebook page – http://facebook.com/selfcaremvmt
Self Care Movement Twitter – @selfcaremvmt
Self Care Movement Instagram – @selfcaremvmt