Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. All opinions are mine alone. #StopPainNow #CollectiveBias
There are some days that I feel like a 90 year-old woman when I first wake up. I am stiff and I ache and I can’t stand up straight. Even if I slept with all the pillows in just the right places, then it is still a good 15 minutes before I start to feel a little closer to my actual age.
Of course, if I didn’t have the exact right pillow supporting my back in just the right way the night before, then mornings are a whole different story. That morning usually starts with an ice pack and lots of moans and groans while I lay in bed, hoping I will be able to move freely by the time my 3 year old needs me to lift him out of the crib.
And that’s just my back pain. I have Fibromyalgia, so my back pain (caused by Degenerative Disc Disease and herniated discs) is just one of the many health issues that I deal with every day. Fibromyalgia is a condition involving wide spread pain and fatigue. But Fibromyalgia is also associated with a myriad of other conditions like Migraines, Tension Headaches, TMJ, Autoimmune Conditions, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Restless Leg Syndrome, IBS and Depression and Anxiety. And that list isn’t even close to being comprehensive!
I won’t go into all the ailments that plague me, but needless to say, I live with chronic illness. I am also the mom to 3 active boys. Everyone knows that motherhood is hard (like dig down deep for strength hard) on its own. But throw in chronic illness and chronic pain and some days it feels nearly impossible.
But I am here to tell you that it’s not. I have been managing chronic illness and pain as a mom for over 13 years now. I know what it is like to have a hard time getting out of bed (for physical and emotional reasons) and I know what it is like wondering where you are going to get the strength to care of these kids that depend on you. Now, I am definitely not perfect, but I have picked up a few tips through the years that I wanted to take a moment to share them with all of you.
Tips for Surviving Motherhood While Living With a Chronic Illness
The most important thing when trying to survive Motherhood while living with a chronic illness is to get a handle on the logistics. Whether it is a paper calendar (I may be the only one who still has this kind!) an organizer, a blank journal or an actual medical notebook, find something where you are able to keep track of your doctor’s appointments, medications, lab results, symptoms etc. With the pure exhaustion of motherhood, memory often seems to be the first thing to go and you definitely don’t want to be having an MRI while little Susie is waiting to be picked up from school.
And on that note, gather your support system! Figure out which friends you feel like you can call upon to pick up Susie from school when you are stuck (or dealing with illness related issues). Make sure you also have someone (mom, friend, spouse, therapist) that you can cry on their shoulder on those days you are feeling especially bad.
You also will want to look beyond some of those emotional needs and see if you can get help for some of the physical demands of motherhood as well. For instance, if cleaning the house is difficult for you, then consider reworking the budget so that you can have someone come clean it for you on a regular basis. Nowadays, there are so many services out there to help make things easier. Not only can you get your groceries and dinner delivered, but I have also seen people who are willing to hang pictures on the wall and come walk your dog! Everyone’s needs are different and I know it can be difficult to admit that we need help, but honestly a little bit of help does go a long way!
3. Diet and Exercise
It feels like a cliché to even say this one and I think it is widely understood now what a significant impact diet and exercise have on your health. I have heard story after story of people’s whose health was completely transformed by changing their diet. Often times that involves eliminating certain foods and examining what foods might be triggers or causing a hidden allergy or sensitivity.
Exercise is a hard one for me because with Fibromyalgia, it is difficult to find a form of exercise that doesn’t cause a “flare up”. But even taking up walking (start with walking around the block!) can make a big impact on your emotional and physical well being. Find a form of exercise that works for you. For me personally, I was surprised that Yoga was not a good fit, but that swimming and various forms of water exercise and water therapy made a significant difference in my pain levels.
While I feel like diet and exercise are large part of self care, I think it’s important to address it separately as well. Motherhood is full of sacrifices. We put ourselves last time and time again. I believe it’s part of our DNA to put our kid’s needs ahead of our own. But now Mothers have begun to realize how detrimental it can be when we end up ignoring ourselves and our own needs. Self Care for Moms is the hot new thing, but I still am not sure we are quite doing it “right”. We somehow think that self care is doing our weekly grocery shopping alone or going to a Mom’s Night Out with a few friends.
While I think those things are enjoyable and can give you a short reprieve, I don’t think those things are going to fill you up and refresh your mind. A night out alone at Target isn’t going to give you the strength you need long term to not lose it with your kid when he continues to pick on his little brother. While shopping alone at one of my favorite stores on a Friday Night might actually be my “happy place”, it’s not the definition of self care.
What is Self-Care then? Self care is about setting aside time to take care of your deeper needs. It’s about refreshing and renewing your mind and your soul. Whether that’s something spiritual like a weekly Bible Study or taking regular walks alone where you can connect with nature, we all need to be doing something that is going fill up our proverbial “bucket”. Many of us feel guilty doing it, but it’s time to take care of ourselves and let go of the guilt about putting our children in daycare at the gym or getting a babysitter to finally go to that therapist you heard about. It’s different for everyone, but for us to survive motherhood with chronic illnesses, we need to take care of ourselves.
5. Find Your Joy
Along those same lines, is there an activity or a hobby or an interest that you have that you truly enjoy? Do you feel peaceful when you are out working in the garden or joy when you are taking photos of nature? Call it your passion, your joy or your hobby, but find something you really enjoy doing and make time to do it. As in, put it in your calendar; work it into your schedule. If you like gardening, reading, cooking, sewing, photography or even binge watching shows (my latest passion!), cultivate it. Start a book club or a join a Facebook group related to your interests. For me, it’s blogging. I sometimes feel like the house and my life could be falling apart all around me and I would be sitting here in the midst of the rubble writing about it all with a smile on my face because it keeps me grounded in the chaos. Find that something that makes it easier to smile when your health seems like it is just falling apart.
6. Find Your Medical Team
With all my years searching for answers and pain relief, I have worked with a lot of medical professionals. I have seen doctors in every specialty, physical therapists, acupuncturists, counselors, alternative medicine doctors, MD’s, DO’s, DC’s and the list goes on and on. But I don’t still see them all. I have found my people. I have found my small team of health care professionals that make it easier to get up in the morning. I have people who help me survive motherhood while living with a chronic illness. They know my health goals and they help me get there. Don’t waste your time with people in the medical industry that aren’t helping you feel better or work toward those goals.
7. Quality Dietary Supplements
One of those health goals that my team is helping me work toward is relying less on medications that often have negative side effects and using more natural treatments for my chronic pain from Fibromyalgia. Supplements are a great way to do that, specifically Curamin® Stop Pain Now.
Curamin® Extra Strength is a supplement designed to help relieve chronic pain. Its ingredients are clinically studied and it’s the #1 selling dietary pain supplement, so I know I can trust it. The fact that it has won 28 awards doesn’t hurt either! Trusted brands matter in the world of dietary supplements. People assume that because it is “natural” that it is safe and that’s just not the case. Make sure it’s ingredients are studied and come from a reputable company like Curamin® does.
But is it effective? Because that’s what matters right? We need something that’s going to help us get through those long days when we are dealing with chronic pain and raising children. Well, it has helped hundreds of thousands of people around the world and I feel like it’s been helping me, so that’s something! Plus the fact that I can sometimes get out without the kids and go shopping at one of my “happy places” (Whole Foods!) to purchase Curamin® Extra Strength 60 count gives me the added benefit and peace of mind that some time alone gives me! Of course, if you prefer to to do your shopping from the comfort of your living room (with little people hanging on you!) then you can also buy it here.
8. Count Your Blessings
I have shared about this previously, but sometimes when you are knee deep in health issues and pain, it can feel like everything is against you and you are always struggling. I was having a day like that and honestly, taking stock of what goes “right” in my life (maybe even in a gratitude or prayer journal?) made such a difference and really gave me hope! And now there are actual studies showing why that is. Gratitude (or “Counting your Blessings”) has been shown to have a positive impact on sleep, self esteem and emotional and physical health, to name a few things.
See, there is actual scientific proof that I know what I am talking about! Just kidding, you know I am always just doing my best here and sharing what works (and doesn’t work!) for me and my family! =) But this does seems like a perfect time to add this:
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and am not giving out medical advice. I am only sharing my personal experiences. Bring up any questions you might have with your doctor.
Did my story resonate with you? Are you trying to survive Motherhood while living with chronic illness or pain? Any tips to add to my list? Please share them below!