Finding a New Way to be Me
Often times I am contacted by people who have recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I always ask how they are feeling about their diagnosis, as it was a bittersweet diagnosis for me. I share with them that the first few years are the hardest, as it takes awhile to figure out what works best for you, as an individual. I tell them it gets better and for me, it was all about finding a new way to be me. In a previous post, Why not be Cheerful & Friendly? I talk about how being diagnosed so young (age 19), may have helped me only see a positive future as my destiny. There is more to it than that though and I hope that by sharing a bit more of my story it may help others.
For most of my life, I’ve been a independent, social, smiley person who likes to please others. Before fibromyalgia, I got much of my feelings of accomplishment by volunteering, working hard (physically, mentally) and playing often with friends. After fibromyalgia I physically wasn’t able to do all of those things to the extent that I wanted to. After figuring out which actions and treatments helped my fibromyalgia the most, I began finding a new way to be me.
For years I wasn’t able to volunteer at all, but I slowly eased back into it, first volunteering at one time/annual events (opposed to many programs at once, like I used to) and then settling into my role on the planning committee for my local Arthritis Walk. This involves commitments throughout the year, but also means my volunteer work is spread out nicely. While I can’t be as active socially as I once was, I’ve realized that asking people to meet for dinner and drinks is an activity that works well for me. I try to initiate plans for that and I get a break from cooking, get to catch up with friends and I’m home before bedtime. We throw one annual party, so I can give back to my friends who are usually throwing the parties. The theme is always the same, so I can build on my previous plans from year to year. I also try to make sure to interact with my friends online and through texting and offer my support anytime I feel they need it.
It wasn’t until a few years after my diagnosis that I realized two activities I’d randomly done before were things I wanted to do more of. I began fully appreciating the beauty in nature and wanting to be in it more – walking/hiking, biking, hanging out. I’d been taking photos since 4th grade, but in my mid-20s I realized I actually thought it was fun and rewarding. I always enjoyed looking at my own personal photos, but when I expanded my subject matter and others started commenting on it, it began feeling rewarding too.
I could write much more on this, but the point is that when limitations are part of the equation, we have to find new ways to do the things we love and new things that we love. Sometimes that takes awhile, but we can get there!
What has helped you be you?
*Image Credit: from www.flickr.com by quinn.anya