Yesterday, I added a fast post before leaving to go to the Emergency Room where my elderly mother-in-law had been admitted to a bed. This was her second trip in one day. These unexpected situations occur in everyone’s lives and as fibromyalgia survivors being prepared in advance takes away a lot the stress involved. Stress causes me to tense up my body which makes my tight muscles even tighter. There is also the emotional component of stress that can causes me and virtually any person a higher likelihood of developing tension headaches, tight muscles and exhaustion from emotions. This entire explanation could be simplified by using a more familiar phrase, the “fight or flight” response.
For those of us with fibromyalgia, this response is magnified greatly. I will not go into research on this topic but I have included links to the most recent and empirical research about our various systems and their responses, or lack of, in earlier posts (if you haven’t seen them, scroll down and investigate if you wish). As our response to this type of situation can create flares of greater pain, learning how to prepare for them becomes very important.
There are a few options and a few discussions about preparing for this. There are the options concerning having a pre-packed bag, backpack or other container and emotional readiness. I have lived Well with fibromyalgia for 16 years so I already have a mental list of what I need when I have to get out and go. I know what to throw together for a hospital visit or a visit that requires immediate travel for more than a day. If you are newer to living with chronic pain, I strongly suggest creating a list that is prominently displayed on your refrigerator, your front door or just kept in your purse. It is also always best to have your designated supporter or support system to also have a copy of this.
I knew what I needed to keep myself well physically; enough medication for up to seven hours, bottled water, a piece of fruit and a decent, healthy snack. I also included a distraction in the form of “Find a Word” magazine. You may need other, equally important items. One item I chose not to bring was a back pillow. The ER screams germs, to me, and washing or throwing out a pillow was more work than I desired to deal with after this particular incident. Years of experience have taught me that despite my best practices of Well living I may experience flared pain the next day.
Emotionally, I paid attention to my heart rate and reminded myself to breath in deeply and exhale at a normal or slightly slower pace. I made the needed phone calls and discussed all the problems that could be occurring prior to arriving. Before entering the hospital, or insert another emergency place/visit here, I took a few meditative breathes and said my form of a prayer. I was able to calmly enter the ER and remained relaxed, assist the other relatives and interact with the medical social worker when she came to my mother-in-laws bed.
Creating a list for your emotional health is not as easy. Emotional health is learned. There are numerous internet sites on changing behaviors to change your thoughts and the emotions that pop up automatically. There is also meditation. Some may not be interested in learning meditation or practicing it. That is perfectly alright. I always say that we are all unique and need to learn our individual plans for living Well. I use to teach persons with physical disabilities and mental health issues a body scan to relax the muscles, which in turn relaxes the brain. This is something that is easy to learn and, as I informed the persons in these groups, once you know it you can sit down anywhere, on a bus bench or in your car to spend five minutes relaxing prior to continuing on your way.
The most important item to take with you whenever you go out for any reason is any needed medication. I have learned this the hard way! You might believe you are going out to buy groceries only. Then you run into a old friend and go for a cup of tea. Then the traffic is just not moving. There you are, in pain and unable to do anything about it. If creating a list seems overwhelming right now, put a large sticky note somewhere like your front door, reminding you to bring your medication. I overcome the need for this by just keeping one or two pills in a pillbox in my purse at all times.
*Links to simple meditation and emotional relaxing are posted in blog above this.
Happy today as my mother-in-law is alright and getting the assistance she needs,
Lucinda Tart, Fibromyalgia Peer Advocate/Life Skills Advisor