4 Ways I Do It Anyway (When Pain and Fatigue Conspire Against Me)

20 Mar

Oh, springtime …. I’m seeing green of my lilies starting to reach out of the ground. Daily I marvel at the new growth on the rosebush I planted last year. And the weather is … all over the place. So is my fibromyalgia.

In this season of new growth and blossoms, I myself feel nature’s surge of determination and desire to create … if only my fibromyalgia would let me.

The frustration I experience is nothing new, yet it never gets easier. I have so many ideas, so many projects. I’m organized and motivated, but the fatigue is overwhelming and the brain fog can be paralyzing.

So how on earth am I getting anything at all done? Well, here’s what’s been working:


I had previously written a blog article entitled “Start, Drive, and Be Done,” which is about merely starting in order to ultimately finish. Well, lately, I’ve given myself the extra grace to not have to finish at all. The idea is I just have to start and I can quit any time I like.

The other day I climbed the stairs to my 3rd-floor home gym, my heart pounding and my head feeling like dizzy mush by the time I finished my ascent. I turned around to head back downstairs without working out, but I stopped myself saying, “Just start.”

I started. I did ultimately do a decent full workout.

Another day I drove to my favorite spot for a bike ride. I was feeling extremely fatigued but I mounted my old bike and started to peddle. I ended up turning around sooner than I ever have in this spot, and when I checked my app, I had one of my slowest per-mile times ever, but you know, I did something, and I was glad of it!

Mental Impact Map

I invented the Impact Map because it was something for me to use every day, and it’s a great tool. I’ll be honest and say I hardly ever make one anymore. Not that it doesn’t work or I don’t like it; on the contrary, it’s become so much a part of my daily life that it’s second nature in my brain. I know if I’m at a freight train or asteroid Splatus, I do only what needs to be done and rest. If it’s been a few days of it, I know to get out my Splatquake kit. If I’m at sedan or better, I’ve got to get my butt upstairs and do three sets on my circuit. And so on.

I discovered now, I can also create a new “column” so to speak in my head, in the moment. Maybe it’s not for beginner Splatties, but it works for me. I just think to myself, what are three different ways I can do this? Ranking easiest to hardest. Then I check in on what my Splatus is. I use that to choose which “way” I’m going to do the activity.

For example, when I was out riding my bike that day I turned around early, as I peddled and realized how terrible I felt, getting into freight train range, I asked myself, what are three different ways I can do this ride? Well, the shortest would be to the little park. The medium would be to the cliffs. The longest would be to the bridge. Then I realized that how I felt meant I’d be turning around at the little park that day. I got my ride in while also exercising self-care and feeling at peace about it.

Note to Self

One day, when I was at a heavy tractor trailer Splatus and still managed a workout, I wrote in my journal afterwards, “I can always do this no matter what” regarding my workout. The next day, when I did another workout, I wrote the note again. I keep that affirmation there to go back to and remind myself what I can do. It helps me “start.”

The Emotions

The thing about chronic illness, disability, well, anything I suppose, is we don’t just feel whatever symptom we’ve got going on, but most of us have got all our emotions about it, too.

I thought quite specifically about this when my friends were visiting with their elderly dog, who is just a few months older than mine. The one husband was sharing how badly he felt for her and the pain she must be in, and I pointed out as what minimal consolation it might be, that she merely felt the pain. She wasn’t emotional about her pain. She didn’t feel anger or blame or anything except the pain itself, unlike how he or I might respond to pain.

I’ve been trying lately to be more like old Madison, and my own old lady Amica. The pain and fatigue is bad enough. Can I just let go of the frustration about it?

It’s not easy, but there are two ways I’ve managed to be somewhat successful.

Rather than removing my emotions in general, I try to remove them from specific tasks. For example, when I fire up my laptop to go to work and I feel tired and anxious and a bit overwhelmed, I reset my thoughts to … just focus on the task itself and not how I feel about the task. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good start!

The second thing I do that helps a great deal, is I replace whatever emotions do remain with a big picture image about what I want from this task, and I feel the emotions about that image instead of the task itself or whatever obstacles I have.

So instead of feeling anxious about a volume of emails I want to send and perfectly wording them so that I can convince institutions to hire me to come speak, I imagine the people who would attend such a hypothetical event and how much it’ll mean to them to hear my validating message, plus I can think about the delicious groceries I will buy with the paycheck.

When I exercise, I think about having more energy, less pain, and maybe even fitting back into my favorite cargo pants one day.

As I write this, rather than worrying about having the mental energy to make it perfect, remembering the links I want to include, and still being able to put together a whole newsletter to feature it, I think about you, and what you might be able to do to feel better, happier, because of a helpful idea amongst my words.

And what is it you want to do, by the way? I hope you’ll just start.


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