By Frances Coleman-Williams
It can be tough coming to terms with a chronic illness diagnosis.
And when you do get that diagnosis, it’s important to get the right professional support.
But perhaps even more importantly, the support from friend and family is vital to manage day-to-day.
I suffer from fibromyalgia, a condition that causes pain all over the body. Although its symptoms are debilitating, what causes the condition is unclear.
I’ve had mixed results from the rheumatologists, physiotherapists, etc. but my true rock has been my husband.
He supports me when I’m crying in pain and when the fatigue saps me and makes me grumpy.
Here are some of the ways you can support someone who suffers from fibromyalgia too.
1. Learn about fibromyalgia
Most people don’t know anything about the condition so get googling.
Some good sources include NHS choices and Fibromyalgia Action UK.
This can help you and the person you’re supporting gain an understanding of what happens and equip you both to manage the pain and be survivors.
2. Help them find a regime that helps
A number of treatments need to come together to manage fibromyalgia.
Medication helps but other things include massage, paced exercise and keeping warm.
It can take time to find the regime that works so it can help to discuss the options and adjust over time.
When you’re suffering, it can be really hard to see the wood for the trees so having someone else who can see the bigger picture and perhaps suggest alternatives can be helpful.
3. Remind them that it’s OK to stop
I get incredibly frustrated that my body can’t do what it used to do and I’ll often push myself and become completely exhausted.
My husband has to remind me that stopping is not failing – it’s looking after myself and this is OK.
I have to schedule in rest days and I have to be reminded not to do housework etc.
4. Support them to them keep going
It can be very hard to get the balance right.
When the pain and fatigue hit, it can take every ounce of determination to keep going. It’s important not to give up or stay in bed.
A vital part of management is regular exercise so a supporter will encourage the sufferer to keep it up regularly.
5. Do the little things
It’s surprising how touching it is when someone else runs me a bath or heats up my wheat bag when the cold is attacking my joints.
6. Take time for yourself
Supporting someone with any chronic illness can take its toll on you.
It’s OK to take a break for yourself and when you come back, you can support them with renewed energy.
7. Stay positive
Yes, fibro is a chronic, debilitating condition but it’s not the end of the world and everyone involved needs to stay focused on the fact that it can be managed.
I have found that having the right support is the difference between fibromyalgia controlling me and me controlling my fibromyalgia.