Day-to-day chronic pain is hard to deal with, so it’s comforting to know that a lot of sufferers spend time sharing coping strategies through wellness blogs and social media, which hopefully help to keep some of the pains at bay.
But when a flare hits, everything is so different. We don’t have the energy or ability to put those strategies in to practice because everything is so hard, so painful. A flare in chronic pain symptoms often means a spike in hypersensitivity. Sitting up hurts, wearing clothes hurts, working and walking and being hurts.
I wrote these posts to explain what a flare up feels like and how I know when it’s on its way and, if I can just take a moment for self-congratulation, I think the images in both posts are the perfect depiction of a chronic pain flare – because I really hate the weak-looking people holding their head in their hands.
So, when all our symptoms are heightened and we still have to function, what are we going to do about it? When all feels lost, here are the three things I’m doing to get through it. (Six weeks and counting folks, six whole weeks.)
#1 – Up your level of self-care
I wrote this post about self-care last week and I can’t stress the importance of putting everything else on hold and just looking after yourself. During a flare we spend so much time trying to balance everything and continue as normal but now is not the time. Now is the time that it’s okay to say no, okay to stay in bed and tuck yourself away. Have warm baths, surround yourself with the things and people that make you happy, and pull out all the stops to make yourself feel looked after. Now is the time to up your game when it comes to rest and self-care.
#2 – Wrap up warm
When every part of your body hurts and the seasons are changing, now is the time to wrap up warm. Buy good thermal clothing, arthritis gloves, scarves and hats – and don’t be embarrassed that you seem to have got a little over-excited about the forthcoming winter weather. Last week, a woman approached me at Paddington station. I was wearing a coat, a scarf, my gloves and a winter hat. There’s a chance I’d overdone it, but I was feeling chilly and sore and wanted to replace it with warmth and protection. A woman came up to me; she was wearing a black sleeveless dress and carried a light blazer over her arm. She said, “this is so funny – you’re dressed for winter and I’m dressed for summer but I think it’s actually somewhere in between.” I laughed and clocked my reflection in a shop window. I looked ridiculous. Warm, but ridiculous.
#3 – Spread the word
Let’s be honest, chronic pain is always a bit shit. But if we’re going to help people understand just how shit it is, then we’re going to have to talk about it. My friends understand my fibro, they know I’m in pain but they know I can cope. When I’m in a flare, I don’t feel like I can cope. I don’t feel anything but mind-numbing pain and it is quite genuinely all I can think about. People don’t see that, and they don’t realise your flare is anything different. So use the word, tell people what it means when your symptoms flare and – most importantly – use this as the time to ask for help.
Who would think that moderate levels of pain would be something we’d crave?! Right now I can’t wait for the other side of this flare. I remember ‘normal pain’ and I miss it. So I’m taking deep breaths, sticking to the basics and hoping that I’m out the other side before I know it.