I had just returned from a whistle-stop trip to Italy, which I knew would be a challenge as traveling and in particular flying can be tiring, at the best of times, but with a fibro body, you need to be able to pace yourself and avoid stress. In the past I have been a very nervous flier often gripping the seat or arm of the adjacent passenger. Lucky for them, I have been managing my stress and fear, I managed to remain calm even when we hit some turbulence on the way home, it was all good, I practiced my yoga breath and used it as a form of mediation, at one point I thought we had already landed when the undercarriage went down. TRE (trauma release exercises) have definitely contributed to my body’s ability to reduce the stress meaning, no pain.
On my return home, I did not feel well enough to go out for a walk with my husband and the dog. I knew I needed to sleep. I was not feeling any pain, just extreme tiredness and I knew going for a walk would make me feel worse. So Dog and husband went for a walk without me, I slept. I felt better. Result, all I had to do was say ‘No’ there was not an explanation required.
‘No’ is a complete sentence, it does not require a justification. It is the most empowering sentence that you can ever use. At first you feel guilty for saying it and try to explain your rationale. It’s even harder with friends and family, they give you a look, you then end up backing down, and agreeing to something that you don’t want to do, that can often impact your mind, body and spirit.
The result that this can have on your health can be catastrophic. I have learnt from experience, it is not easy to say ‘No’, but once you start it does get easier.
I have always been quite easy going and happy to go along with things, and even though I might not want to do something, rather than say so, I have gone along with it for fear of upsetting anyone, and in the process made myself feel ill and then complained that I wish I hadn’t done it.
Living with a chronic pain condition requires you to pace yourself……….easier said than done, particularly when you are having a good time and feel better. In the early days of my diagnoses, I did not think it possible that I would ever have good days and feel well. If I wanted to something special, like going for a night out, I knew that I would have to weigh up the fact that I would feel really poorly for 3 or 4 days after the night out. It was always worth it, but then sometimes you have a really good day and do more as you feel well and then the next day you have a relapse. I thought I was invincible and everyone kept telling me to pace myself, I thought I knew best, then burn out!
A couple of years ago, I was walking with a stick, sometimes I didn’t need it, on the days when I had paced myself. They were good days. Then I would do a bit more than I should have done, the pacing went out of the window and the stick started to became an indication of a good or bad day. As Fibro is a hidden illness, on stick days friends, family and colleagues could tell it was a bad day. However on good days, because I didn’t have my stick, some people got the impression I was well. They did not realise the effort that I had gone to, to walk without a stick.
It still takes a lot of determination and I still have to make sacrifices and battle with my body to ensure that I use effective pacing, to stay pain and medication free. Learning to stay ‘NO’ has been the biggest tool in my Holistic healing journey, sometimes it has been really hard and difficult, not to justify why I am saying No.
I like Bruce Campbell’s description of The Energy Envelope
To use the idea of the energy envelope, think of your situation as having three elements. The first is your available energy. This is the energy you have to accomplish things. It is limited and is replenished by rest and food. The second is your expended energy, the energy you lose through physical, mental and emotional exertion.
The third is your symptoms, fatigue, brain fog, pain, and so on. In this view, if you expend more energy than you have available, you will intensify your symptoms. This is called living outside the energy envelope. An alternative is living inside the energy envelope.
If you keep your expended energy within the limits of your available energy, you have a chance to reduce symptoms, and over time may be able to expand your limits.
Life is not a rehearsal, this is it! Why waste your time doing something you really don’t want to do. Take control of your life. Learn to say NO and start living inside Your Energy Envelope.
Recently everyone has been telling me I look so well; I feel amazing but it takes a lot of effort and I continue to attend my weekly yoga practice, my monthly gong baths, I fill my life with people who make me laugh and smile and avoid the energy vampires (those people who leave me feeling worn out, as they feed off my energy to make themselves feel better). Sometimes you need to be selfish if you want to get your life back.
Try saying NO, it could really be the starting point to your own empowerment.