|My counselor gave me this question to think on
after we discussed my recent two-week fibro flare.
So, I have a confession, it’s one I’m making to myself and to you if you’re reading this. I am a fair-weather accepter. I have been working on acceptance of my life with fibromyalgia. To get there, I have been meditating every day and have gone back to counseling.
I accept that I need to be mindful of my body’s needs. I accept that my days-in and days-out look different from what they had been. I accept that if I’m going to do something, I need to plan ahead by getting rest or packing extra things to bring with me. I accept that I need to bow out sometimes. I accept that I have to let go of doing everything I’d like in one day. I accept that I need to ask for help. I accept that I spend much of my day developing my health.
However, after a couple of weeks in a fibro flare, feeling like the power to my brain and body has been cut off and the joint pain of elbows, hips, and knees turned on high, I really, really got discouraged. Eight days in, I used the word depressed for the first time ever when telling my husband over the phone how I was doing.
The next day, I went to my counseling appointment. One thing that stuck with me, as far as acceptance is concerned, is that I’ve been accepting when things are going fairly well, and during this time, I was frustrated, angry, sad, and depressed due to not being in control at all. I mean, I’ve been doing all the good things: yoga, meditation, belly breathing, gratitude, etc., so why this flare for this length of time?
I am coming to understand that I have great anxiety around not being in control. As I’ve explained, my childhood was wildly unpredictable and fully out of my control. Even then, I would play the “mother” to my mom and sister, trying to control the environment and make it all better. Then, in my adult life, I worked in a field where my classroom was fully under my control. As teachers were taught to think that we could create an environment and expectations that would keep things predictable and moving in a good direction. And at home, with my own family, I practiced the same mentality.
As I’m beginning to feel better the past couple of days, I began to think about what my counselor asked me to figure out. “What is good enough?” Meaning, these down days, I tend to beat myself up because of everything I want to be doing and be a part of that I’m not. So, instead of that, I would set up my own standard for what is good enough for me. Because it is me alone that is judging me. My norm has always to know what is good and then shoot for higher than that, so not reaching that highest level means complete failure. For the first time, I grasped that there is a good enough level and that it’s okay for me if I chose to finally accept it.
Initially, I was thinking it meant I had to determine what was the minimum of things I did that would be acceptable on a down day? Thinking that if I had to lay around, I should have certain things that would make it more enjoyable and use that as my guide of “good enough”.
Down Day List of Special Things only for this time:
- Comfy but stylish PJs or outfit, rather than the leggings and beat up sweatshirt I tend to wear because I then feel ugly on the outside and inside.
- Special books to read or listen to that make me feel like it’s a vacation choice
- A yummy tea in a special cup so I can pretend I’m at a fancy bed and breakfast
- A planned menu or special treats that will help me curb from eating the junk I tend to get into when I’m feeling down.
- Movies, TV shows, comedy shows, and podcasts I could watch or listen to.
Quickly, though, I realized that while having these things ready would be helpful, I couldn’t quantitate “good enough” by what I did. Literally, by Googling “what is good enough”, I came to find a talk by Brene Brown whose book I saw sitting on my counselor’s shelf but didn’t know of her myself. I watched her famous YouTube Ted Talk on Vulnerability, her interview with Russel Brand, her talk about shame, and then her show The Call to Courage on Netflix, all in the same evening.
|Photo by geralt
Shame for not being healthy fuels my struggle with acceptance.
Something she explained about shame really resonated with me. “I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.” I realize that I am ashamed of myself when I’m not healthy. I feel like I’m not doing all that I should to be well. I’m not good enough to figure this out.
I’m currently reading a book, GET BACK INTO WHACK by Sue Ingebretson, who describes her journey with fibromyalgia. She talks about how she came to manage the symptoms and healing. For me, this is what I expect of myself. I have been diligent in being proactive. And so, I now understand that I feel shame for this flare because it means I didn’t do enough or did something wrong. I feel shame for letting my people down.
And so, I realize that I have not accepted that I am vulnerable. I’ve been determined to outsmart this syndrome. And so, I’m understanding that I am vulnerable, but in the words of Brene Brown, “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” And by choosing how I respond to these times with self-acceptance and self-love, I do have control over these down days.
My Down Day “Good Enough” barometer:
- Did I do what I was able to do?
- Did I listen to myself and my needs?
- Did I appreciate this day that I was given?
- Was I present in my day?
- Did I relish in what I was able to do?
- Do I notice what I did (and not what I didn’t) do?
I understand that if I can use this through acceptance, I then release the shame (and all the bad feelings that go along with this) that just heighten the flare into something unbearable.
I’m not giving in. Just allowing myself to have honor in these down moments. I am enough. I am grateful right now because I am alive.
How do you handle down days? Do you beat yourself up? Can you relax into it with acceptance? Do you have any special protocols you do that help you feel more positive during down days?