Fibromyalgia,  Health,  Reviews

Secrets to Keeping a Full-Time Job with Chronic Pain

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor do I claim that if you follow all of these techniques and tips you will be able to keep a full-time job with chronic pain because chronic pain is different for each person. I just hope to share some of the things that have helped me in order to hopefully help you.

Also, I am getting no money from this. They are all suggestions from the bottom of the heart. So, if I sound like I am trying to sell something, it is just because I believe in it so much.

A few years ago, my advisor for student teaching asked me whether I was sure that I could be a teacher full-time considering my health. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if it would be possible for me because I was bending over in pain about every 15 minutes. 

After several doctors, I finally found out that I have Fibromyalgia. No cure. Ways to cope and manage became my top priority. I can now happily say that I have been able to keep a full-time job as a teacher, one of the most stressful jobs in my opinion, going on three years. 

Want to know my secrets?

I wrote down everything I could think of that helps me get through the day. Many of these might be large purchases upfront, but they reap big rewards for health.

Theragun

I thank my husband for this one. He read online that it can help with chronic pain, and, after using it, I have been able to go to work on days I would have otherwise had to call in due to inability to move from the pain.

It is a little expensive on the front end but has saved my husband and me way more money in massage therapy than we paid for it originally.

What does it do?

It gives 40 lbs of punch to whichever area of your body you want. It breaks up muscle so that lactic acid can escape. This makes it so that I hurt a lot less after working out. I have to work out in order to keep my pain down, so this was a wonderful solution.

 
Write

Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash

I love both traditional writing and typing. There is something so cathartic about letting my thoughts roll out of my head and through my fingers. A good journal can be inspiring. I just want to write a new adventure on those blank pages. I particularly love writing in the Write the Word journals from Cultivate What Matters.

Write the Word – Cultivate Hope

This is the one I am working through right now. I have found it very refreshing. Plus, it is in my favorite color.

Exercise

Photo by Jacob Postuma on Unsplash

I’m not going to lie. I had to go to physical therapy in order to get strong enough to do any real and regular exercise like what I do now, Pure Barre. My physical therapists (Benchmark) did a great job helping me push myself enough to continue to improve but not so much that I would have a flare-up. They were so understanding of my high pain days. I was rather upset the day that my physical therapist said that it probably wasn’t a good idea for me to run anymore considering how it almost always triggered a fibro flare-up for me. She was right though, and I am thankful that I have a more sustainable plan.

So, now I go to Pure Barre which focuses on strength. This is very important for those with chronic pain because much of pain can come from not having a strong enough core or other area of the body. I have realized that, because of my fibromyalgia, my muscle tone is lost 2x as fast as a normal person. This means that I have to stay on top of my exercise. I have to be disciplined, otherwise, I literally go back to where I started. A lot of crying ensues. Thankfully, I have had my husband to hug me during some the hardest moments when I was crying on the floor in a ball because of the frustrating pain that was making it almost impossible to even finish an at home Pure Barre exercise.


Giving Myself Grace

This is the most difficult thing for me to do. Sometimes I just can’t do anything. Instead of making it worse by beating myself up for not being able to do it, I am learning to realize I am just making things worse.

Lunya Pajamas

I am so thankful to my husband for this one. At first, my fibro wasn’t sure it was a fan, then I realized that it was helping my bad circulation and thus my pain especially after travel or exercise. My husband got a great deal on the Restore Shirt, Leggings, Sleep Mask, and Socks.

Heated Blanket

Especially for those cold winter months. Sometimes I can’t get myself warm enough in order to fall asleep. It also has a certain weight that was comforting and could hold down my twitching limbs.

Fuzzy Blanket

Oh, my, goodness, this can be so comforting. I have one in my favorite color from Kate Spade. It is a great comfort to me.

Tea

A cup of warm tea always calms my nerves, but Peach Tranquility (Teavana) has chamomile which actually has a calming effect on the nervous system.

Photo by Morgan Sessions on Unsplash

Fitbit

I can’t always wear mine because, depending on my pain level, I can or can’t wear a bracelet. When I do though, it helps me to remember to move around and helps me understand where my anxiety level is according to my heart rate.

Fitbit Weight Scale

Not only is this highly motivating, but it also reminds me that, if I don’t work out, my body fat increases quickly and significantly. 

Air Purifier

My husband and I both have quite a bit of allergies. The air purifier worked well for us because I am allergic to dust and my lungs can’t have all that much moisture in the air. My husband gets terrible seasonal allergies, so it is great during pollen season, etc. It is amazing how much can get into your house without you realizing it.

Dare to Set Goals

I had always been afraid to set goals for fear that I would have a fibro flare and be unable to fulfill them. After reading Cultivate by Lara Casey, I had hope for the first time in a long time that I could make progress toward my goals, even if it was, “Little by Little”. I have been using the Powersheets this year, and it has been so motivating to watch as I have changed into the person I have always wanted to be.

Go to Counseling

It is really freakin’ hard to live with pain every day. It does something to you psychologically whether you believe it or not. There is a certain mental and emotional fatigue that comes from being in physical pain. Learning that it’s okay to not be okay is wonderful.

I must caution you to make sure that the counselor that you go to is good because a bad counselor can make your mental state worse.

Meditation

I use the Calm App almost every day. They even have a series called 7 Days of Soothing Pain. They had a very good point in it that pain gets worse when we react negatively to it. Of course, this is our natural reaction to pain. If you enjoy pain, then you need a different kind of help.

Automatic Vacuum

After getting frustrated by how much vacuuming exhausted me, my husband surprised me with an automatic vacuum. I feel so much better inviting company over when the floor is clean which also helps me to develop community. Developing community, in turn, helps with the reduction of pain.

Cleaning Service

I still feel weird writing this, but this helped me pull out of the pit that sometimes follows a major flare. There is something about a literal clean slate of a home that gives me more motivation to clean up my little messes. It is easier to maintain than to try to start from scratch. I used Amazon and was very satisfied with the service.

Community

Having people around me who, although they may not understand the pain I am in, respect what I have to go through daily and ask how they can help. Many times just knowing that I have friends that I can invite over when our home isn’t perfectly clean and know there will be no judgment is what makes pain seem less all-encompassing. 

Comfy Clothes

I have found that the only pants I can wear on any day, even my worst flare days, are the Lululemon On-the-Fly Pants or Align Leggings. I tend to go for Lou & Grey tops because they are more professional than most Lululemon tops.

Take Sick Days

This is something I still have to work on, but I encourage you, especially if you tend to be a workaholic/perfectionist like me if you find that you are not feeling well, even if it is just spiritually, take the day off. Allow yourself more time to dig into God’s word, sleep, and take time to rest. Many times it is when I don’t actually take Sunday as my day of rest that I have to take a sick day. I am learning to not feel guilty when I have to take a sick day. Everyone gets sick, just because I have chronic pain, doesn’t mean that I’m not allowed to say I’m “sick” once in a while to deal with it.

Make the Scary Doctor Appointments

For the longest time, because of my terrible experiences with doctors believing that what I had was “all in my head,” I hated setting up doctor appointments. Who am I kidding? I still do. Every time I have actually gone to a new doctor since getting my diagnosis, I have actually been met with understanding and professionalism. I was finally able to go to a new gastrointestinal doctor and a new pulmonologist. Both helped me get my body to a better place. Because I don’t have as many acid reflux/IBS issues and recurring bronchitis, I am able to consistently work out. This means I can skip the frustrating backtracking that always comes from getting sick.

I still need to make some doctor appointments, but I congratulate myself if I make one doctor appointment a month. It is scary, but it is so worth it.

Colostrum

I thank God that my husband found this. Because of my weakened immune system, I can get sick a lot easier and quicker than others. For a teacher working in a public high school, this is bad news bears. I used to get a cold if even one student I taught had one. That cold would turn into bronchitis which would then turn into not working out. This would then lead to a large flare-up. Thankfully, with colostrum, I am able to head all of that off before it ever becomes a problem. I know you may think, uhh, the first cow’s milk that they make for their calf? That’s kinda gross. Well, probably just as gross as drinking the cow’s milk, to begin with, which we do on a regular basis, right?

It is important to take colostrum correctly and take the right kind. I do not recommend the pills because the amount that I take daily to get the results I have would be covered by taking an entire pill bottle, and those aren’t cheap. So, buy the powder in bulk like Nick and I do. Get the good stuff though, otherwise, it is just so nasty tasting you will have a hard time eating it. I have found that by taking a swig of Light Chocolate Muscle Milk, then a tablespoon of colostrum, and repeat, it actually tastes kind of like a chocolate milkshake. It is very satisfying and filling.

Update: There is a really great recipe that helped me to be better about taking my colostrum every day. I found this recipe online, but I can’t find the link right now. If someone knows the link, please let me know. I want to give credit where credit is due. i have changed the recipe a bit to fit my lower sugar, dairy-free needs.

Orange Julius Copy Recipe

2 cups orange juice

1 cup coconut milk

1 1/2 cups ice

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 teaspoons collagen powder

3 heaping tablespoons Suthrival Colostrum Powder

Epsom Salt Bath

This helps with my muscles when they are in pain. When take a warm bath and put two cups full of Epsom salt into the bath, my muscles relax and the pain is less.

Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

Diet

I try to avoid inflammatory foods. I cannot eat wheat or dairy because they make me very sick. My body doesn’t understand how to digest them. I also try to eat antinflammatory foods like berries.

That’s is all that I can think of right now, but I am certainly open to suggestions. Please drop any you might have below in a comment. If one of these techniques has helped you, I would love to know how and what you used!

2 Comments

  • lee

    Hi Elizabeth, I believe that teaching is a stressful, full on face to face job so I am amazed that you have managed to keep going. It is a worthy profession. Then I saw your ideas – so many and so good. Some I have never heard of like Theragun, which sounds like something I could use. No-one else seems to understand those hard lumps of muscles that i get except fellow spoonies.
    I was considering an automatic vacuum but did not know if they were just a gimmick. Do they work well?
    Thanks for so many great ideas and ones that I have not seen elsewhere. Best wishes for working in the new year.

    • Elizabeth Auwarter

      Thank you so much! I’m so glad that my post was helpful! As far as automatic vacuums go, some are great and some aren’t so great. My husband is amazing at finding deals on good products and found me one that is marvelous – Samsung POWERbot R9250 Robotic Vacuum. We got ours at Best Buy. It does a great job of really picking up dirt, hair, etc. but can be a little loud. I tend to run it while I take a nap or when I leave the apartment. The robot memorizes rooms so you can program it to only vacuum a certain room or spot.

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