When Working Outside of Your Home Becomes Difficult to Impossible; Alternatives

Good Evening Peers

I got up early this morning and instead of staying at home and trying to complete my usual routine around the home, I went out. It was exhausting and my pain is increased but what a lovely, sunny, fall day.  I spend most of my days inside my home and have developed a routine that allows me to remember most, not all, of the basic things chores I can tackle in bits and pieces. I try to add in an additional, necessary item when I am not having more than a medium pain filled day. This extra item gets accomplished maybe three days out of seven. Since I have not been able to work for the last two years due to increased fibromyalgia pain and other health issues from being rear-ended, I view my daily in-home routine as my work.

I am not alone in creating a feeling of pride and self esteem by being an at home, unpaid worker. I am involved with forums where many are stay at home workers. My routine is the same but I vary how I accomplish every day. This may be based on pain or my choice of tackiling a bigger chore that must get done. Even though I break up what is most important into 15 minute increments, rest, 15 minutes or more, do it again until completed, it doesn’t always get finished. A example is; I may only get half a dishpan of dishes washed. Another is; I might get the new roll of toilet paper out but I don’t get around to putting it on the holder. But, that is ok. I did do something necessary for myself.

I might have to add into my routine a small load of laundry as the big chore on Monday. Then a flare of pain hits me and instead of washing and drying it that day, I just take it downstairs and empty it into the washing machine to wait until next day. No matter what my pain level is I try to always spend 20 minutes to fluff the comforter over the bed, throw away any left out garbage from dinner the night before, put items in the inside containers for recycling, hang up my pj’s, pick up the living room table and maybe do a quick Swiffer of the floor. Whatever it is that is gentle on my body while also being simple and fast. Keeping a clean and organized home is my job right now. It helps me to not become overloaded with so many chores that I can’t even get started! A big bonus is that I feel a sense of pride, just like I would at a job outside the home.

When I have worked outside the home, I broke up my daily required tasks into manageable items. Filing was always a daily need. I knew that bending or stooping was best done in the mornings to avoid aggravating my pain. I created a system where the papers that had to be filed that day where in a stack, organized by topic, and once every few hours I tackled the pile for 10 minutes. Those that could wait were left in the “to do” box for the next morning when I came in. I broke up writing my clinical notes with phone calls to clients, meet with client then worked on the outline for next weeks group, this allowed my body use different muscle areas; assisting in not overworking one area. At some of my jobs when those really bad pain days flared up, I was allowed to work from home; calling clients, setting up future appointments and updating clinical notes or powerpoint shows for groups, write my column for the newsletter and other computer work. This was wonderful. I was able to stay in comfortable clothes, sit in my cozy armchair or prop myself up in bed with pillows and a laptop.

For many there is now the option to “telecommute”.  Many of us have to work. If your career has this level of security and capabilities perhaps this is a option you could discuss with your employer. Depending on your company and your relationship with your supervisor you could schedule a meeting with them to discuss this. I suggest writing out the plan before even scheduling the meeting. After it’s scheduled go back over the plan and make revisions.

It is always a balancing act to juggle income needs with your fibromyalgia pain. Add to this your family and maybe children, plus household chores and here comes total overwhelm! Even though you feel that working outside of the home has become increasingly difficult and some days virtually impossible, you just don’t feel like giving up. Or, as discussed, you can’t go without the income. If this is you start paying attention to what you can change. This change can be at your current job or by changing jobs.

Make a list. Begin researching other jobs that match your skill set and also matches your pain needs. Join some online forums and discover what other Peers are doing for work. Perhaps you can cut back to 30 hours or even go to half-time. If your a perfectionist, consider letting things go; at work or home.

For your home life you could begin setting aside a small amount of money every week and hire a local student to come into your home once a week or biweekly to tackle those big cleaning jobs. Consider having groceries delivered from a local store or through an online site. Begin selecting simpler meals that you can cook in a crockpot, or leave cooking on stove for a few hours over the weekend. Make enough for at least two days so you can put it in covered containers or freeze. Premade, healthy snack foods can create easy and nutrious lunch.

There are numerous alternatives to creating a more pain friendly environment, at work and at home. Every little Well living change makes a difference in your pain or in your self esteem. Never forget that our pride is in our ability to do even the most basic items. Try not to let those voices of negativity into your thoughts, those voices only create loops of shame and guilt; maybe even some tears.

Heading for my fluffy comforter,

Lucinda Tart, Fibromyalgia Peer Advocate/Life Skills Coach


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