A different view of the world, having empathy

above abstract background desert
Photo by Mariusz Prusaczyk on Pexels.com

For most of us, our lives are basically pretty boring and mundane.

But what if one day you woke up and everything had totally changed?

Sometimes for a brief split second we have a thought and visualise it becoming reality.

How strange and unusual it feels.

Just for a moment now,

stop 

and take yourself to that thought.

                                 💭  💭  💭  💭  💭  💭

What did I think of?

I imagined I was free of fibromyalgia

and visiting the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

I’m looking out onto a perfectly blue sea; staying in a floating hotel 🏨overlooking the reef. I’m going snorkelling around the reef; an I was getting an underwater camera 📸ready to take pictures of the coral reef and the fish.🐠🐟

How did I feel ?

Totally free and like I was visiting a giant tropical fish tank. Swimming around the coral reef, the water was warm. The coral looked like a fantasy underwater garden; the different colours changing as I swam past. 🏊‍♀️

person takes photo of tortoise
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I hope I have been able to illustrate how it feels to be totally free and able to do anything you want.

The opposite is true living with an invisible illness like fibromyalgia. Plans are broken all the time;

constantly letting others down because your illness is so unpredictable.

Just meeting a friend for a meal is fraught with problems.

Planning what type of food you can eat;

Could it trigger my IBS?

Does the restaurant have chairs with padded seats that are comfortable to sit on for about an hour or more?

Could it start my lower back pains if I am forced to sit on a wooden chair?

On the day I planned to go out, I woke up with pain in my head and feeling disoriented, I’m unable to drive. The meal is cancelled.

Now you are thinking;

and perhaps you’re feeling sorry for anyone with an invisible illness.

Having empathy for someone is a better response; rather than sympathy.

Or to explain this in a better way a quote from the novel,

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.”

Just putting yourself in that persons shoes can give some insight into our version of living; our different view of the world we face on a daily basis.

Perhaps now you could repeat the above exercise, but this time, imagining you have fibromyalgia.

I’ll start you off with how my day can start….

You wake up and you’re legs are aching, as you move to get out of bed a muscle in your back twinges in a spasm. Your in intense pain for a moment, luckily the pain softens. You manage to get out without any other area going into spasms. As you start to get dressed your head feels achey. Your chest feels painful as well…

A great way to start the day and I’ve not got to work yet!

On the beach 🏖

bird s eye view of ocean during daytime
Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric on Pexels.com

It’s a wonderful feeling walking along a beach; watching the sea touch your toes as you walk.

I enjoy walking all year round winter and summer.  It’s a good way to exercise and keep the weight off.

There’s no better time to start exploring new surroundings on foot during summer.

Being a fibromyalgia sufferer, my joints feel less painful and movement gets easier during the warmer months.

If I can try to increase my exercise by walking a bit further each day in summer. It can help to prepare for when autumn and winter limit my movement. 

I first started walking regularly before I had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia.  I had been suffering with lower back pain, which had got progressively worse.  I had been unable to work and my doctor said I need to go to physio first and suggested walking.

At the time I thought it was really unhelpful advice as I could barely move, let alone walk anywhere!  But after the physio got me mobile, I started with short bursts at first of 5 to 10 minutes, progressing to longer walks.  Now I do a regular walk every day and have not suffered from back pain so much; I also have more energy to do things.

beach water steps sand
Photo by Adrianna Calvo on Pexels.com

I look forward to my walk everyday, sometimes twice a day if I’m not too tired later on. I am fortunate that I live near a park and I can vary my daily walks through wooded areas and quiet residential streets.

I usually spend about 25-45 minutes on each walk and vary the terrain. On really cold or wet days when my symptoms are worse, I go for a walk at a local covered shopping centre, which means I still get exercise but I’m not exposed to the elements as much as outside.

If you have started walking recently or plan to begin and have not exercised recently you may want to consult your doctor or health professional beforehand.

If your joints are very stiff it might help to try gentle exercise at your local heated swimming pool first. Exercising in water supports the body and would free up joints. If you are a wheelchair user some pools have special equipment to access the water easily.

Throughout the UK free regular guided walks are provided by  Walking for health  which is funded by the UK People’s Postcode Lottery and Macmillan.  They offer different short walks for beginners which are for 20-30 minutes long. The route you walk over is easy terrain as they are specifically designed for people who are not very active. Some walks are suitable for wheelchair users and people with buggies.

If you are a wheelchair user the UK website Walks with wheelchairsis dedicated to routes for wheelchair users.  All walks have been tested by wheelchair users.

The NHS Walking for health site gives helpful advice for anyone wanting to start walking.