health · life curation

Fibro Friday – Do You Have Fibromyalgia? Getting Properly Diagnosed

Welcome to the very first Fibro Friday! I’m hopeful that this series will provide valuable information and tips for other fibromyalgia sufferers, and it’s my sincere desire that my experiences with fibro will help someone else get back on the track to wellness.

*** Disclaimer – none of this is intended as medical advice. Please consult a licensed physician for a professional opinion. ***

The singular toughest part of my fibromyalgia journey was getting a proper diagnosis. There are still a lot of care providers that don’t know how to properly interpret fibromyalgia symptoms, and as a result, patients spend a lot of time suffering before there is a conclusive diagnosis. Even once patients receive a diagnosis, there are some care providers that treat fibro as some “strange” illness that only requires antidepressants and stress reduction to “clear up”. There is even a subset of care providers that deny the existence of fibro altogether.

researcher

On your health journey, you may end up doing a LOT of research.

Let’s be clear: fibromyalgia is a REAL condition, with devastating symptoms. There is still a lot of mystery around why it occurs and how to best treat it, nonetheless, it is real. The challenging part is, again, diagnosing it.

So, how can you determine if you may have fibromyalgia? If you have any of the following symptoms for at least 3 months, then you may suffer from the condition (an asterisk beside the symptom means that I personally experienced it as a fibro sufferer):

  • body aches , soreness or general pain, especially in the back, neck and shoulders *
  • morning stiffness *
  • exhaustion that doesn’t seem to let up *
  • sharp pains or pins and needles sensations *
  • feeling “sick” but not suffering from a cold *
  • may experience virus-like symptoms (feels like the flu) but can’t seem to get better *
  • suffer from extra tiredness and muscle pain after only slight exertion *
  • sensitivity to heat or cold *
  • anxiety, depression, nervousness, moodiness *
  • headaches *
  • sleep problems (can’t get to sleep, can’t stay asleep) *
  • forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating *
  • stomach issues (bloating, nausea, constipation, excessive gas) *
  • painful cramps
  • restless legs syndrome

You may have just one or all of these symptoms. I know that I often felt like I had the flu: I’d often complain of feeling like I got “hit by a truck” and, while the feeling lessened as the day went on, the overall “sick” feeling never went away completely. I was so tired that I couldn’t get out of bed on some days, and the headaches would occasionally be so intense that they could stop me mid-sentence and have me holding my head and I’d seize up from the pain. Nausea, sensitivity to heat and cold (I can’t go into the frozen section of some stores without a jacket because the air makes my body ache), and sleep issues (waking up every two or so hours) are just the tip of the iceberg.

If you have any of the symptoms and suspect you may have fibromyalgia, your best bet is to start with your primary care physician (PCP) and ask for a referral to a neurologist or rheumatologist. Your PCP can do preliminary testing to rule out other conditions (anemia – which often exists concurrently with fibromyalgia – or thyroid disease come to mind), but an examination by a specialist (like a neurologist or rheumatologist) will give you more conclusive results. If your PCP’s testing reveals that you have some other condition, try the treatments for that first, and see if you get some relief/improvement of symptoms. If not, it may be time to see a specialist.

Fibromyalgia is diagnosed through the process of elimination. After autoimmune conditions and other diseases are determined to be nonexistent, then a patient can be diagnosed as having fibro. If it takes you months or years to get to this point, take heart: I started having the worst of my symptoms at the end of October 2018, and I was diagnosed by February 2019. However, these symptoms first showed up (in a milder form) back in 2014/2015, at which time I went to a rheumatologist. The rheumatologist tested me for lupus, and when the tests came back negative, she sent me on my way and didn’t bother to examine me for any other conditions. Imagine how much further along I could have been if this had been addressed properly back then! Ah well: here’s hoping my experience helps you to shorten the time on getting a proper diagnosis.

In short, take a look at your symptoms, and see how long you’ve had them. If it’s been more than 3 months, ask your PCP for a blood test and, if that comes back okay, then ask for a referral to a rheumatologist or neurologist for additional testing. Let the specialist know that you suspect that you have fibromyalgia: they’ll know which tests to do, in order to rule out other conditions.

I know this is a pretty long post, but the next ones will probably be a bit shorter. I just had to let it be known that you’re not crazy, your symptoms aren’t just “in your head”, and a proper diagnosis is the first step on your path to wellness.

 

life curation · Uncategorized

It Feels Great To Be BACK!

Hi my dear friends! I’m so happy to be BACK on the blog! As you may recall from my last post, I’d been experiencing some health issues that were making it difficult for me to keep up with my blogging schedule. To be honest, I didn’t feel like getting out of bed on most days, and even little tasks felt like huge chores, so blogging fell WAY down on my list of priorities.

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Smiling because it’s great to be back!

After experiencing some pretty dreadful symptoms for several months, I was relieved when I finally got a diagnosis. I have fibromyalgia, a disorder that affects your entire body and causes widespread pain, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and a host of other symptoms. I’ve read countless articles and found that most doctors agree that this is a neurological disorder and not a joint/muscle issue. I often find myself needing a lot of rest and even small, stressful situations can lead to a “flare up”, where my symptoms are more intense and I find it difficult to function. When I experience “flares”, I have to rest more and use stronger pain medication in order to get some relief.

Through all of this, I feel truly blessed. Yes, this condition is annoying and I wish I didn’t have it. But, I have a wonderful support system, and I recently moved into my first home, which is much closer to my care providers. My new home is beautiful and serene, and being in this setting has contributed tremendously to my overall health. I’m so fortunate that I have an understanding workplace that allows me to work from home as needed. And now, after making a few changes with my providers, I finally have a healthcare team that has given me the treatments and tools to feel better daily.

This experience has taught me SO much and I am excited to share these lessons with you all. I feel like I have a new lease on life! Now, I still have pain occasionally, and I have to monitor my symptoms daily so that I know what I need and how to best care for myself. But simply KNOWING that I’m not just tired or stressed has been such a relief. Knowing that I have an actual condition that is medically recognized and treatable means that this isn’t “all in my head”, and if other people are experiencing this, then that means I’m not alone, and there’s a good chance that that are treatment options that can really help me minimize my symptoms.

So I’m BACK! All of my posts won’t be about fibro: I’m going to leave those discussions strictly for Fridays, which will be (for now) Fibro Fridays. I’m excited to share self-care tips, lessons, and more information that I’ve gotten since learning about this condition. I look forward to sharing this journey with you all, as well as resuming my art, music, luxury, and lifestyle posts! Take care!

fitness · life curation

2019 Planning – Health and Wellness

Welcome, Monday! You’ve been gone for a few days but we’re all somewhat glad to see your return!

As I plan for the upcoming year, I’m reviewing the planner I bought a few weeks ago and starting to think seriously about what goals I’m pursuing in the upcoming year. My challenge is to balance my ambition with a little bit of realism. I don’t want to set my goals too high and then end up missing the mark.

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So, I’m taking my time to consider some major areas of my life and set realistic goals that are attainable but still require me to “stretch” a bit. Since I’ve been talking about improving my health since the summer, I figured I’d start with this area.

For 2019, my health and wellness goals are as follows:

  • Learn to swim
  • Take at least 3 dancing/fitness courses that I’ve never taken before
  • Achieve my goal weight
  • Start working with a naturopathic doctor

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My overall goal is improved health and more energy. I know that I can achieve it if I do the work and stay committed. I won’t write a tonabout my health journey – the blog will be taking a more focused turn in the new year – but I will post periodic updates so that you all can keep me accountable.

I’ll have more posts over the next two weeks about my 2019 planning. Look out for those, and I’ll talk to you all tomorrow!

food · life curation

What Happens When You Take a Break From Intermittent Fasting

Hey friends! This is my post to tell you a bit about how my body reacted to a recent deviation from my intermittent fasting (IF) eating plan.

As you recall from my first post about my recent cruise, I couldn’t stick to IF for the entire trip. There was so many good food options! I wanted to try everything and I couldn’t do it in my 8 hour window without being parked all day at the different eateries. So I put IF to the side while I vacationed.

When I got back home, I noticed several differences in my appearance. Firstly, I put on 4 lbs. That wasn’t too surprising: I was eating anything that my heart desired, and I was eating my favorites whenever I wanted. However, I noticed that I was also bloated and just had a general icky feeling when I came back home. I wasn’t sleeping as well and I wasn’t as satisfied when I ate.

yummy

I love food so much LOL!

Most of that yucky feeling resolved when I went back to IF. Now that I’m back on schedule, the bloat is pretty much gone and my energy levels are starting to return. I’m mentioning this because it’s important to note how your body reacts to dietary changes. For me, abruptly stopping IF really made me feel less healthy. So, if I ever decide to stop eating this way, I would probably choose to wean myself off of the plan and increase my eating window incrementally instead of going crazy and eating however I want (like I did on the cruise). The more you know, right?

That’s all for today. If you have any experiences with IF and changing your diet after doing IF for a period of time, let me know in the comments below. Talk to you all tomorrow!

 

 

fitness · food

Diet Changes for Colder Months

Hi everyone! I went grocery shopping yesterday and I couldn’t help but notice the higher prices of some of my favorite fresh fruits and vegetables. Yes, summer is officially over and that means that the things I enjoy will cost a bit more since they are no longer in season.

That isn’t a problem, per se – we all make adjustments for our preferences from time to time – but I know that the foods that make me feel light and healthy during the summer don’t necessarily give me the same feeling during the colder months. In fact, I generally crave heartier, warmer foods during the fall and winter, and my body doesn’t feel as nourished by my typical summer fare.

veggie

I figured that now would be a good time to assess my diet and transition from my warm weather palate to my winter one. I’m still doing intermittent fasting (IF) so the timing of meals won’t change. I’m still on a 8-hour (more or less) eating schedule and I enjoy whatever I want during my window. But what I’m choosing to eat will be more suitable for the season.

I decided to consult a website to see which vegetables and fruits are in season during this time of the year. Lifegate has a very convenient breakdown of the fruits and veggies in season by month. I’m finding the website very useful for my dietary planning.

For starters, I’ll be putting most of my tropical fruit preferences (kiwis, mangoes and papayas, specifically) on hold. Instead I’ll reach for pineapple (which, despite being a tropical fruit, is in season right now), apples, and grapes. As far as vegetables go, I’ll still have the occasional salad but it won’t be my go-to lunch. I’m going to incorporate more gourds (squash, pumpkin) and root vegetables (carrots, turnips, potatoes) into my recipes. I’ll also be cooking more beans and legumes, as I find these very satisfying during the chillier months.

Because I’ll be doing a lot more cooking during the winter, I’ll be sharing some of the recipes that I’ve created or tweaked. If you have any meal recommendations, let me know: I’m always looking to try something new! In the meantime, I’ll be shopping with the Lifegate list in mind, and focusing on eating the foods and meals that leave me feeling full and cozy this winter.

I hope you all are doing well! Talk to you all tomorrow.

 

art · life curation

Art is a Healer (I Knew It Already)

There’s nothing like confirmation. There’s a sweet satisfaction that comes from having someone state what you’ve known all along: it’s good to know that your thinking is accurate.

Recently, I came across an article that describes how some physicians in Canada are prescribing trips to the art museum to their patients. There are therapeutic benefits associated with spending time observing and appreciating art.

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Well, as you all know, I wrote about how I healed during my divorce by regularly visiting art museums. My time in museums helped tremendously with my self care and was one of the greatest keys in lifting my mood during the darkest period of my life. There was something so comforting about walking in those pristine and taking in all of the beauty that had been created years prior.

The article also talks about doctors prescribing time in nature to patients, as well. Yup, that’s another thing I used while I was on my self-care journey. All of these things contributed to getting me back into a state of wellness.

Well, that’s it for today. Just came in for a quick gloating session – I kid, I kid! I hope you all are enjoying your Saturday! Take care, and talk to you all tomorrow.

fitness

Wrap-Up: Fitness Challenge

This isn’t a goodbye, per se . . . In fact, I feel like I’m really just beginning my fitness challenge. However, I am going to wrap up this weekly posting because there is a lot of other cool things I want to share with you all and I think you all get the gist of what I’m doing as far as stay healthy and fit.

sneakers

I’m delighted to share that intermittent fasting (IF) will remain a staple in my eating plan. I love how easy it is and how much freedom I experience just by eliminating unnecessary eating during my fasting window (around 16 hours per day). I’d love to get to the point where I’m only eating during a 4-6 hour window, and fasting for 18-20 hours per day, but I’m taking baby steps up to that point. IF is now a way of life and I am excited to see the results I get from maintaining this eating plan.

Next, I could really stand to improve my overall gym/fitness routine, but it can be difficult when I have an especially busy schedule. I’m considering either hiring a trainer or getting back into Brittne Babe’s exercise routine during the month of November, since I really want to see drastic results by New Year’s Day. Look out for more info on that in the weeks to come. . .

So that’s my quick wrap-up of my fitness challenge! Thank you all for encouraging me and giving me ideas. I so appreciate you all! It’s still early, so I think I’ll do a couple of laps around the track before it gets too chilly outside. Talk to you all tomorrow!