Flare is such an apt name for it, as it seems to start small and comes out of nowhere, but grows shockingly and becomes all-consuming. In many ways, it consumes me.
For me, it starts with a night or two of bad sleep. Of waking up exhausted when sleeping through the night, or having been up for a good part of it. Such seemingly small things that others could remedy the next day with a glass of wine and going to bed early.
I fight it, knowing a flare could follow. I go to bed earlier. I take extra melatonin. Maybe something like Benadryl to just knock me out.
But one day I wake up and I know: this is it. I’m foggy. It’s like moving through water and it makes movement in general a struggle. I feel a growing ache in parts of my body that didn’t ache the day before. Today it’s in my left shoulder and creeps towards my elbow. It’s in my right arm and goes up into my upper back. It’s in my left lower back and goes into my hip. It’s in both thighs. My whole body feels alert and ready to voice derision at my choices for the day.
I roll out of bed and tell myself that I need to get moving. Go. Go now.
I’m generally a little slower than most to wake, so I have incorporated about 20 minutes of “wake up” time into my morning routine, which consists of drinking a protein smoothie while watching the channel 5 news. This usually feels like just enough time, but today it flashes by and I have no idea where it went.
I get ready and triple check that I’ve done the things I need to do and have everything I need. Did I take my pills? Check. Inhaler? Check. Got my laptop? Check. Check. Check.
The drive to work is tough, and I’m more on autopilot than usual. I play some loud music to keep me alert and do my best to be an intentionally engaged driver. There’s a part of my brain that whispers pull into a side street and take a nap in the back seat.
I get by at work and joke with a few colleagues about “Wednesdays” and how “the struggle is real.” Many of them know about my fibromyalgia, but sometimes it’s not quite worth the “I’m more than tired” discussion. I look at my schedule for the day and set some additional reminders to give me a cushion to get where I need to go. I’m thankful for some good work friends who happen to be chatty, which perks me up. I thank the heavens for our wonderful HR department which got me a standing desk, so I can move up and down throughout the day. It helps ease the discomfort and frankly, the up and down action keeps me more alert.
Leaving work is wonderful but my body is crashing. I make it home, but I have a second floor walk-up and the stairs seem to have become steeper since I left. Well, I’ll be honest: there’s an elevator, but it’s at the opposite side of the building, so my choice is about 10 stairs or walk to the other end of the building, use the elevator, and go through four doors and a very long hallway. So I eye the top step with consternation and force myself up, up, up, one step at a time. It’s shocking how much it hurts.
I immediately change into cozy clothes, but let out a string of four-letter words while getting my legs into sweatpants. My legs don’t seem inclined to follow my directions tonight.
Meal planning feels impossible and I end up eating leftover roasted potatoes and a scrambled egg. Well, it’s sort of scrambled, because the scrambling hurt, but it’s cooked at least. Honestly, when I’m flaring, I’ve had dinners consisting of ice cream or just straight tuna, so it feels like a complete meal at least.
I stare at the half-full bottle of wine and consider the pros and cons of having a glass, but opt to just crash on the couch, because lifting the bottle seems akin to climbing up another flight of stairs. I turn on the Olympics and marvel at humans who defeat world records.
Unable to do dishes and lacking the willpower to even rinse them off and put them in the dishwasher, I let water run on them a bit and then leave them in the sink.
I start to get ready for bed. I take my various medications. Brush my teeth, but not nearly the full time my electric toothbrush tells me I need to do it. Turn off the lights and turn on the heating pad. I crawl into bed, and since holding my Kindle hurts my arms, I abandon my nightly ritual of reading and try some breathing techniques.
All light is blocked in my bedroom except for the low blue light emitted from the buttons on my air purifier. My phone is face down. But I’m awake for who knows how long and I listen to the drawer slamming and heavy walking of my upstairs neighbor. My lower back aches and it continues into my right leg. My arms hurt and it radiates down almost to both elbows. I can’t find a comfortable position and my mind spins. I know tomorrow I’ll likely feel worse.
I try to focus on my breathing, remembering the meditation techniques from my college Buddhism class.