Parenting Through Pain
Parenting on its own can be a difficult, often mentally and physically draining job, but what if your body is already in chronic widespread pain? Sufferers of Fibromyalgia, also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, face this discomfort every day. Fibromyalgia is a debilitating disease affecting the muscles and soft tissue of the body. Nearly 5 million Americas have been diagnosed with this condition which causes painful muscles, stiff and tender joints, overwhelming fatigue, and sleeping difficulties. As a parent, how can you survive the daily requirements of your busy schedule – chasing toddlers, making lunches, building science projects, Girl Scout leader, Little League coach or something as simple as snuggling up to read a bedtime story – when the body you need to get you through each of those tasks is causing immense pain to every muscle and joint?
While medication and various therapies are available to help ease the painful discomfort of Fibromyalgia, there is nothing available at this time to prevent the pain. Headaches are a pain that come and go within a short episode, but Fibromyalgia’s pain is persistent.
The number one concern of parents dealing with this disease is disappointing their children. For instance, you have plans to go to the zoo but wake up that morning and can barely stand. How do you make a small child understand why this is happening? Sadly, schedules are very difficult to keep when excruciating pain pops up at the start of your day. An important reminder is to be sure you are taking care of yourself, in every way possible. Getting a good night’s rest, staying calm and relaxed and allowing time for exercise are all important self-care essentials for sustaining a lower level of pain. Even with the best self-care regiment there will always be days that your body is against you. Just because you might need to cancel your plans to visit the zoo this day with your kids, you can find another way to spend some time with them that is more manageable for the level of pain you are experiencing. Quality time with your children doesn’t have to involve trips to a fancy amusement park; the simple things in life are priceless and precious!
Another struggle, parents with Fibromyalgia often feel is a separation from friends, even relatives. It can be extremely difficult to maintain relationships because of the inability to make and/or keep plans with people. Many times, one may criticize your abilities as a parent, due to the unpredictability of your routine. At some point, they just stop asking you and slowly drift away. While it may be a bit of a challenge to fully explain what is happening to your body, it is important to help friends understand. Don’t feel that you constantly need to make an excuse, be honest and forth-coming about your diagnosis and what it means for your day-to-day life. Providing a solid explanation and an open forum to discuss this condition, might allow for a new support network to be formed, instead of feeling isolated.
While Fibromyalgia is a daily concern to sufferers, it doesn’t have to bring your life to a screeching halt. Face each struggle with a positive attitude and look for ways to make things easier for both yourself and others involved. It is always important to not overburden yourself with undue stressors, as these things could compound the already present muscle and joint pain.
Don’t allow the stress or frustrations from bad moments in the day to build up inside. Take time to exercise, relax with some calming music or read a good book. Decompress. Once you are at a less stressful place, it might be beneficial to collect your thoughts and share what you are experiencing with your family and friends, even children if you feel they are old enough to grasp what is happening. Additionally, a large number of online blogs, forums, and support groups are available to support parents that are struggling with parenting through the pain. It’s important to know that you’re not alone in this process. Find support and stay positive! Children are resilient, compassionate and understanding. Even when you feel that they just won’t forgive you, they always have your best interest at heart! Remember, your skills and abilities as a parent are not based on what people expect from you or what they feel is best.