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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Self-Help: Pacing

Week 3 of the online Fibromyalgia self-help course was all about PACING. Again, the course is based on Dr. Bruce Campbell's book, "The Patient's Guide to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia." The premise of the book and course is to develop personal strategies for managing fatigue and pain, pacing ourselves, managing stress, etc. Each week we are given an assignment and have to post our management techniques to the group. . This is my post on Pacing for week 3:

I've been going through a really tough time lately, which I'm sure all of you understand. I seem to be in a flare that is going into its 7th month and am struggling to find some relief. Despite the fact that I have suffered from chronic pain for 16 years, up until two years ago I was able to finish my Bachelor's degree, start my Master's degree, work full time, and have an active social life. Now I have trouble just getting up and walking to the kitchen. I had to drop out of school, three courses away from a Master of Arts in Education. I had to give up my job. And I've lost my social life, as well.

Pacing has always been an issue for me. I hate when things are undone or not completed, so I tend to get started on something and not stop until it's done - despite the pain it causes. My son constantly reminds me to pace myself, rest more, or simply let him do it. It's hard to give up that control. In my former life, I always had to be in control.

What makes symptoms worse?
  • Lack of sleep

  • Emotions

  • Physical exertion

  • Not enough movement/too much movement (trying to find that fine line, the happy medium)

  • Stress
What gives me a sense of control?
  • Being able to complete something I started

  • Getting things done

  • Being able to successfully reclaim some area of my former life
Last week my target was to clean my room, bathroom, and put away laundry. I was only able to put away the laundry. I learned that I should set small, attainable goals and targets each day. Some days my target may be to just wash my hair, others to just rest, and some days I may be able to clean half my room. Small and attainable goals are the key to pacing.

Note: This was a huge breakthrough for me, though it seems so simple. I used to be the person always doing something, despite my pain (up until 2-1/2 years ago). I worked all the time, went to school full time, kept my house clean, raised my son alone. It was exhausting, but I managed. Now I can no longer manage and that was the hardest part. I would try to do the things I used to be able to do and the result was being confined to bed, writhing in pain for days, sometimes weeks. I'm learning to accept my limitations and pace myself.

As I share my postings for this self-help group, I would love to read your responses to the questions I have had to answer in my assignments. What makes your symptoms worse? What are you doing to manage fatigue and pain? Etc, etc. I believe we can learn from each other's responses.

Gentle hugs and pace yourself,


  1. Hi Jessica, I think the whole "I'll relax once I get everything done" attitude is a big key to understanding fibro. There is something about the way we internalize stress that is a contributing cause to the way our brains have re-wired themselves to cause so much pain. It's part of a process where we don't recognize what our bodies are going thru until it's too late. I used to have to-do lists and I'd be up until mid-night washing the car or some other ridiculous thing that didn't need to be done except for the fact that it was on my list - then 5 days later I'd say to myself, "shit I was really tired earlier this week." Or I'd have a project at work and I'd race in my mind to get it done figuring I'd relax once the vacation comes. Now I'm trying to step out of myself and see where I'm at during the day. I know if I can do this more, I'll have more success at pain mgt. And if I can give myself the mini-vacations during the day that I'll have less compulsions to eat/drink/smoke/stay up late/fill in the blank self-destructive behavior that you use to block out pain.

  2. Those are difficult questions, because as much as possible I like to pretend that I'm find and CAN do everything (and more).

    Lack of sleep is my number one trigger, with physical exertion and stress coming in right behind it.

    I haven't found any "fool-proof" tool that helps me with pain management, I'm not sure that there is one, however probably the biggest tool I use in managing my pain is distraction. I just have to put my attention elsewhere. I'm not sure how healthy that is, but it works for me!
    Meditation, visualization and prayer also help a great deal.

    Maybe I'll give this "pacing thing" a of these days :)


  3. I'm actually still learning this one! It's so hard when you see all the stuff that needs to be done and nobody is doing it. I feel more stressed when the house is a mess and things aren't being cleaned or put away, so I take it upon myself to do them - and end up hurting myself in the process. Then I have to weigh the pros and cons of either doing it myself and risk hurting myself or stressing out because it's not done (which also causes pain). I try to do a little each day, but I can never do enough. I think it's time to hire a maid. :\

  4. I hope that you start to feel better! Pacing is the hardest thing for me too. I have come to the point where I just let my house go away from being perfect. I hope you feel better enough to finish school. Congratulations on being so close with your masters!

  5. Im so glad i found your blog.I was diagnosed aprox 8 yeaars ago and just now gave in and quit working.You have reminded me i must remember to takt the d-ribose regularly again.


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