Sunday, January 8, 2017

Why Mornings Are Hard as Someone with Fibromyalgia

Sunrise often brings with it a new set of daily challenges.
The alarm clock hasn’t gone off yet, but I’m now awake, yet refusing to get up. I’m immediately thinking about the amount of effort required of the next few hours. I know exactly what to expect since it’s my routine five days each week, and I dread what’s coming.

It’s 5:30 a.m., and I’m not sad the night’s over since my fibromyalgia pain spots already created too much pain to remain asleep. But as I get out of bed and limp to the bathroom, I assess myself to see which body parts hurt more or less today – every day hurts but no two hurt in quite the same way.

In the shower, I’m slower than I used to be. I also require extra time to stretch under the spray of the hot water. Already slightly behind schedule, I begin my next stall: I lean against the side of the shower or rotate to keep my feet moving and in less pain, not wanting to shut off the water. I’m just procrastinating, with my body already fatigued and my mind racing.

Eventually, I know I’m running late and I shut off the water. I try to make up time by quickly dressing, swallowing my morning meds, and heading out. It’s simple yet challenging, so I drop into the seat of my truck with relief and head off to work.

Few morning commutes offer the entertainment that this license plate did.
My daily commute is well over an hour each way. I constantly fidget, seeking the elusive position that will bring comfort to my hips; or reduce the pain in my right heel; or keep my clothes from bunching up, which is oddly bothersome against my torso. I routinely glance in my side mirrors to reduce the need to look over my shoulders which exacerbates my neck pain. Whenever I’m stopped I bounce my legs on the balls of my feet to try to force a tiny bit of movement into them and reduce the length of time they’re stagnant. About half of this drive is in silence, leaving the radio off in an attempt to generate some amount of de-stressed calmness.

Once I finally arrive at work, I park, turn off the engine and segue into my next stall. Depending on the morning’s traffic, I’ll spend the next five to twenty minutes sitting, under the pretense of sweeping through overnight emails, Facebook posts, tweets, and the weather forecast. But I’m drained by the mere thought of the next part of my morning.

Reluctantly, I finally open the door and slide out of the truck. I shuffle around to the passenger’s side, gather my work bag and lunch, and then hobble to the stairwell. While my heels are better than they’ve been in well over a year, climbing stairs has now become particularly rough on my right leg and hip. It’s only a half-flight to ascend, but I still try to time it to neither hold anyone up nor feel obligated to keep up with someone who will politely wait while holding the door open for me.

Once on the right floor, I’m now faced with a walk the entire length of the building to get to my office. I either keep my eyes focused a few feet in front of me or look all around, avoiding the line of sight to the opposite end of the hall that tells me how far I still have to walk. Finally, I make the turn, pivot again into my office, and drop into my chair. I’m panting and it takes a minute for the pain to subside.

After allowing a moment to recover, I fire up my laptop and begin my next stall. I’ve made significant changes to my daily nutrition but still allow myself a relaxing cup of coffee with cream. I now need to retrace my steps to the nearby kitchen, and hate the thought.

When the moment feels right, I drag myself out of my chair and fight through protesting hips, balky knee, barking heels, and whatever else my body decided to throw in the way this morning, and I work my way back to the kitchen, hoping it’s empty; I’m not ready to be pulled into conversation with someone, forced to pretend I’m fine. Often, it’s barren and I move through my tasks with K-cups, napkins, creamers, and then retreat back to my office.

I finally drop into my chair again, knowing I’ve now reached halftime in my morning challenges. I’m over two hours into the morning, and I’m mentally exhausted. I’m allotted an hour or two before my meetings begin, and I can pace myself on prepping for those meetings, on creating the documents I’m responsible for, and occasionally getting up to check in with someone or to go to the bathroom, which is also a way to try to continue working out some physical kinks. It’s a chance to shift from the effort to get settled at work and instead to focus on being productive.

As my meetings start, I then mentally convert the morning’s meetings and periodic breaks into bite-sized pieces to get me to lunch. That will be a much-appreciated hour to sit in my office, eat my rigidly prepared meal that keeps my digestion in good shape, and to gear up for the afternoon. I’ll be in more of a groove at that point and the respite does a good job of making the afternoon manageable.

I used to bounce out of bed and move quickly and mindlessly in the morning, as if a well-oiled machine. It’s now mentally and physically exhausting. It’s the source of the bittersweet feeling I have when going to sleep for the night: satisfied in those final moments at making it through the day, with no obligations for the next few hours; yet depressed at knowing what lies waiting for me on the other end of the night. My silver linings are that my mornings begin in solitude, giving me cover for my struggles, and I’m afforded enough time to compose myself before I’m forced to fully engage with coworkers. I’ve also pushed through this daily grind often enough to evolve it into a routine – at least I know the progression to get me into the flow of my day.

For now, I’m just taking each morning one step at a time.

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