Just What is Normal?

By Sharon Stephenson.

This article first appeared in the Fibromyalgia Magazine. Why not subscribe and receive the latest Fibromyalgia News every month?

More information here.

I receive many telephone calls from people who have either been diagnosed with Fibromylgia, or have read information on FM and can relate to some, or maybe all of the symptoms. Some people who ring, just want or need a friendly chat, some want to know more about this illness, and how other people cope with it.

A familiar statement that I hear often is, ‘but we are not normal!’ And whilst I do agree that we are unable to lead as normal a life as most people or indeed as we used to ourselves, I do think that we should personally attempt to rid ourselves of this ‘not normal’ tag.

But just what is ‘normal’, in the dictionary it is defined as; 1, usual, regular,

2, (psychologically) being within certain limits of intelligence and ability.

Surely we fall into these meanings?

Even so, we all have different perceptions of the word normal. How many people are there that don’t have anything at all wrong with them? Not many I can assure you. I wonder, do these people see themselves as ‘not normal?’

There are many people who have visible disabilities who can relate to how we feel from time to time. I really believe that we feel this way sometimes because other people can’t actually see how ill we are, and that we can fluctuate so much on a daily basis.

There is also the struggle of accepting that we have Fibromyalgia and everything that comes along with it. Not only the differing symptoms, but also the need to be believed by our families, friends and some Healthcare Professionals that we are physically ill, and that it is not all in our heads.

We all have different levels of acceptance and different coping strategies. If we could accept ourselves as we now are, it would be much easier for us to adapt to the differing limitations we now have to face.

If you tune in to a regular TV or radio programme, and suddenly beyond your control, the times have changed, your immediate reaction will probably be ‘why on earth do these people change things’. You wouldn’t say ‘well, I’ll never watch/listen to that again’ you would accept and adapt to the new times. Within a short time you would find yourself enjoying the programme as much as before. It’s this acceptance and adapting that we have to try and do ourselves on a regular basis.

We must also remember that acceptance is not defeat, we must not give in to this illness nor are we going to let it beat us. We just have to realise that we have to accept and adjust our lifestyle to our new capabilities.

I also think that when we suddenly find ourselves having to change our lifestyles our self-esteem tends to slip away from us, without us always realising it. Remember, it’s never too late to try and build it back up, try some of the following tips.

Stop those negative thoughts: When a negative thought comes into your head, try telling it to go away, let yourself shout ‘stop, cancel’ or even ‘I don’t let myself think like this anymore’

Meditation: Relax your body using relaxation methods, ie, maybe listen to your favourite music.

Visualisation: Picture yourself somewhere nice where you know you feel relaxed, maybe your favourite place, the beach, in the garden, or in your local park, I think most of us will have somewhere to ‘virtually relax’ in.

Write yourself lists: one with positive thoughts, one with negative thoughts. Compare the two, if you have less positive than negative try and change that. A few weeks later try this again, and see if you can get more positive ones than negative ones.

Quotes: Do you read a daily newspaper or weekly magazines?  Watch out for the quotes of the day, or a positive thoughts section. You may be able to relate to some of what they say. Cut them out and keep them somewhere handy. When you’re having a bad day try to read them, you never know they may just help perk you up a little.

Friends: Share with your closest friends what you are trying to achieve, ask them to encourage you. Maybe they could be going through a bad time for a different reason, encourage each other to change your thoughts.

Laugh: Never forget to laugh, put the TV on, watch a comedy, maybe a silly video, or read a humourous book. Never be afraid to laugh.

Take time out: You don’t have to spend money to treat yourself, spend an extra few minutes in the bath, put a little extra bath lotion in. Give your nails a manicure, or just take time out. Leave the washing, ironing etc, give yourself some time just for you – without feeling guilty about it!

Spoil someone else: You may have a friend in a similar situation to yourself, surprise them, visit them, use your new found positive thoughts to help them. Do you have a child in your family that would love to have a story read to him or her.  Think how that would help you both. Think of what you will have achieved by helping someone else.

‘That’s all easier said than done’ I hear you all say, and I agree with you to some extent. I too have Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome along with other things, so I can understand how difficult this is to do. I’m the first person to admit I have some very negative days, but I now have more positive ones.

Hard work? Yes it has been, but it has also been worthwhile.

I wish you all well,  I hope many more of you can try and achieve what I have.

Life is not the way it is supposed to be,

Life is the way it is.

It is the way you cope with it

that makes the difference.

This article first appeared in the Fibromyalgia Magazine. Why not subscribe and receive the latest Fibromyalgia News every month?

More information here.