I was trying to think of a half-decent title for this blog post, and "Spinning Plates" was all that really came to mind. I needed a title that described how I felt when it came to dealing with physical health problems, as well as mental health problems. I've mentioned my diagnoses before, but I'll state them here and hopefully I can explain how managing these conditions feels a lot like "spinning plates".
Fibromyalgia: I've had this since 2010 and sometimes I feel I've accepted it, sometimes I get extremely frustrated, upset, and angry at how much it limits what I can do/how often I can do it. I'm so used to pushing myself that I find it very hard to stop and pace before I cause my symptoms to flare up. Sometimes I deliberately go too far, because I find physical pain a little easier to cope with than mental pain. When I do pace, the internalised ableism kicks in, and I feel as if I'm being lazy, not making the most of the day etc. I know that pacing myself is a good thing to do, and resting is still productive as it means I am looking after myself. I just wish I could feel less guilty about it!
Hypermobility Syndrome: I'm not entirely sure when it became Joint Hypermobility Syndrome, but I know I've been hypermobile all my life. As I learn more about it, I realise how mindful I have to be when it comes to using my joints. I have multiple subluxations every day, and sometimes I have dislocations too. Having doctors finally believe me (after a physio actually seeing and hearing a joint dislocate!) has helped a little, but doesn't take away the frustration with working around limitations and not getting much support for it.
Depression: Looking after yourself is so so important anyway, let alone when you are dealing with multiple illnesses & disabilities! I really do try, but Depression zaps my energy (what's left of it, thanks to Fibro and JHS anyway!). I struggle with motivation as well. Emotionally, the most basic sounding tasks can feel like trying to climb a mountain. On my bad depression days, I barely do a thing, and then I hate myself for being "lazy". If it isn't too bad on particular days, but my physical health problems are, I then get frustrated with myself for physically not being able to do things that might help my mood a little (e.g. making a nice snack, doing some cross stitch, meeting a friend).
Generalized Anxiety Disorder: When anxiety gets severe, it can limit you so much. I could be having a day with slightly less physical pain, or even less fatigue. On this day, I may want to make the most of this by maybe having a walk, or at least getting out of the house (even if just into the garden). Anxiety can have a real hold on me however, and often it becomes a panic attack (which then makes the physical pain, fatigue etc worse!). As much as I want to be able to do stuff, I just can't. It's as if invisible arms are squeezing me tightly, the room has become unbearably hot, my head is pounding, the room is spinning, and I can't focus on anything else. I know these things are down to anxiety and panic, and that they will lessen in time, but it does not stop me from feeling them so intensely.
Agoraphobia: The symptoms I get with Agoraphobia are very much the same as with GAD, but they are of course more about situations (such as being out of the house, being in a busy place, not being able to get out of somewhere quickly or easily). If it is quiet, having a short walk can help lessen my depressive symptoms temporarily. I want to be able to do this as much as my health allows, but the agoraphobia holds me back. Even if I manage to force myself outside, if it is bad enough, I will not feel better. I will spend the whole time on the edge of a panic attack and that will be my energy gone for the day.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: This can affect my ability to get out of the house and cope with daily things. The meds I'm on do help calm down my OCD related anxiety a little, but on a bad day I could struggle just as much as I did before I was on the meds. Again, this holds me back and stops me from being able to make the most of low pain/fatigue days.
I hope this makes sense. There's a lot of similarities with each condition, and of course I know that mental health and physical health often overlap. For me, it feels as if they clash too! I'm trying to manage my struggles with things like anxiety with going outside and guilt from not going outside, when it occurs on a day my physical symptoms aren't too bad. On the less anxious days, I want to do more to help myself, but physical symptoms limit how much I can help myself on bad physical health days!
I guess it's about moderation and, yes, Pacing. If anyone has any tips on getting that balance right, or even if you don't and you need to vent to someone who understands, leave a comment below!
Thank you for reading.