New Year’s Resolutions for Living With Fibromyalgia by Jean Marie Keenan-Johnston

It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to post.  I’ve missed blogging terribly…it’s almost as if a huge part of me has been missing.   But unfortunately these past couple months fibromyalgia has been winning the fight for control much of the time since the beginning of winter.  The signs came with the change of seasons…this was looking to be another tough winter in store for me.  Try as I may, I’ve been unable to maintain a balance in my life that leaves time for what sadly are considered “extras” in my life…activities that don’t clean anything around the house, feed any members of the family or accomplish responsibilities of the greatest priority to a mother and wife.  While my heart doesn’t view blogging in this light, my mind and body have been forced to see it in that light as each struggles to keep up with daily life as a mother and wife without losing any of the sanity I’ve been able to maintain until now.

With New Year’s Eve only days away, those difficulties I’ve been reliving this winter have caused my thoughts to wander to the resolutions I made this time last year.  Last year’s holiday season found me facing a year of “firsts” without my father who had died only a few months earlier.  I felt incredibly defeated in the days that followed last Christmas…there was so much I wanted to accomplish, from fun activities with my children to gatherings with family and friends to creating new traditions for us to enjoy, but when Christmas morning arrived, there was so much still to do.  I’m not talking about the “extras” like baking and visiting neighbors with those homemade treats.  Basic holiday tasks like gift-wrapping and decorating the tree had been impossible to finish as was cleaning the house in time for my mother-in-law’s visit Christmas Eve.   I was also at the start of yet another year, my sixth, with fibromyalgia.  Another year of treading water…another year of searching for a balance that would allow me to live a simpler, more peaceful and happier life…another year of hope that some doctor somewhere would be able to find a way for me to live with less pain and more joy.  Each of these difficult experiences brought me down to a depth I hadn’t thought possible, but rather than lose myself in despair I found a way to turn everything around to look ahead to the coming year with hope and promise.

I put a lot of thought into last year’s resolutions.  Every aspect of my life that has been touched by fibromyalgia found itself on that list.  All the tasks I find difficult…cooking, cleaning, parenting…all the hobbies fibromyalgia has made nearly impossible…everything I dreamed of doing when I finally had children that was taken away from me by the difficulties caused by fibromyalgia…each hurdle I faced found its way on my list of resolutions for the new year.  I went into 2013 determined to regain control of a life that had hung on by a thread as fibromyalgia did its best to tear everything apart. I missed my hobbies, I hated feeling like I was failing at being an active, productive wife and mother, and I knew ever since I lost my career to fibromyalgia I would continue to lose more and more of myself to this dreaded invisible disease.  I knew I had to do something to change all of this.  I needed to regain control.  I wanted fun, joy, and happiness to return.   And I was determined to do whatever was needed to make all of that happen. So I created my list of resolutions…I won’t list them for you here but I will say that they all boil down to one common theme…how to live a more fulfilling life despite the difficulties fibromyalgia throws at me and how to find ways to lose the flares and bring on the remission I pray for so often.  The list was a rather long one with many points to remember, but writing it gave me a sense of hope that I was finally doing something that would push my life back in the right direction again and make me a much happier person.

Now facing 2014, I’d like to report that each and every resolution was met.  I’d like to share with everyone stories about the many field trips my daughters and I enjoyed, the craft projects we shared, and the many recipes we tested in my newly organized kitchen.  I’d love to tell everyone about how clean my house has been because of the ways I discovered to manage all of my household responsibilities.  I’d be happy to brag about the weight I lost and share all of my tips for how others can follow in my footsteps.  I’d love to look back upon the last twelve months of my life and feel like I’ve made some progress while regaining control over the many aspects of my life that fibromyalgia wanted to turn to chaos.  It would be great to feel at least a little healthier than I was last winter.  I’d love to admit all of this, but I can’t.  I’m still the same fibro mom treading water, struggling to get everything done before fibromyalgia takes that last ounce of strength, before it drains the last bit of energy from me.  In the past year there haven’t been any groundbreaking discoveries about how to regain the balance that I’ve been missing these past seven years.  Part of that I credit to how hard it is to keep up with life as a mother and wife while fibromyalgia adds additional hurdles to jump…there never seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything done let alone research treatment options and put new routines into action.  Despite all my efforts,  living with fibromyalgia still equates to walking a fine line between success and failure as a mother and wife.  This past year with fibro has continued on as a raging battle between fibromyalgia and the person I once was and the person I hope to continue to be as fibromyalgia does its best to take from me everything I hold dear to my heart and turn me into somebody my family, friends and I no longer recognize. 

Will I create a list of resolutions again this year?  The answer is this…I think I already have.  From the first year when doctors couldn’t tell me what was wrong with me to the years learning how to be a new mother with chronic illness to today and the months ahead, my goals haven’t really changed. I still find hugs, hand-holding and walks with my husband and children very uncomfortable.  I still avoid exercise in many of its forms because of the terrible effects it has on my body and the remaining hours of my day I must function as a mother trying to keep up with two children.  I still miss my hobbies, the works of art, delicious cuisine, heartfelt poetry and other creative endeavors that are screaming to be let out but are held deep inside by either painful hands or foggy thoughts.   I still deal with the mommy guilt that reminds me of all I am unable to enjoy with my children. I continue to miss the person I once was, the accomplishments I planned for my future, the new experiences I dreamed of enjoying, the contributions as a wife and partner I looked forward to providing.  The saying goes something like “you know what they say about the best laid plans”, but whoever said those words and what comes next probably was thinking along the lines of a more “minor” mishap…a flat tire, misplaced car keys, a forgotten appointment…rather than a massively life-altering event such as a chronic illness. 

The list of resolutions for 2014 wasn’t created from the negatives – the feelings of failure, the grieving of lost loves, the continued chaos and ongoing pain.  Instead these promises to myself grew from a hopeful heart and a willful mind eager to seek answers about how to beat this condition.  And these resolutions will carry on to 2014 in the same way they passed on from the previous year…hope generated these promises and hope will help me turn each of them from idea to successful accomplishment no matter how long it takes to make each resolution become reality.

Happy New Year to everyone!  Wishing each of you much happiness and good health in 2014 and many years to come!