Potential – Noun: Latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness.
When I think of my desire to get well, the idea of being “cured” has never been my emphasis. Would it be amazing if one day we are all completely free of fibromyalgia? Absolutely! But in my quest to live better, I have never focused on a cure as my destination. Instead of focusing on a cure – something I cannot control, I have tried to focus on my potential for living better in each moment – something I can control, and on building momentum during the good moments and minimizing the bad. It is a formula that often works, and continues to encourage me to keep trying, even if it means I sometimes fail and fibromyalgia wins.
In our frustration with the many debilitating symptoms and lifestyle disruptions of FM, we often look for (and hope for) the quick fix. Who can blame us? But if there is one thing I can share today to encourage and inspire those of you trying to make sense of the misery of FM, it is this – focus on the things you can control, and let go of your attachment to the things you cannot. Be realistic. Understand that you can live better and that you do have a measurable amount of control over your symptoms.
Small changes can really add up to decreased symptoms and a better quality of life.
By being present and focusing on the variables you can control, you are doing the very best for yourself. Minimizing stress, eliminating sugar and gluten, exercising, etc. will not cure you of FM, but they will help reduce your symptoms and increase your quality of life. It is just a fact. A life with chronic illness is still a life full of potential and possibility, but we have a part to play to reach that potential.
Frida turned her pain into her passion.
The great Mexican artist and revolutionary Frida Khalo lived her life of chronic illness with passion and vigor – painting many masterpieces along the way. I am no Frida, but I certainly have a lot to live passionately for. Fibromyalgia or not, my life has purpose and I intend to continue focusing on the possibilities rather than the pain. And I know I am not alone. There are many of you who feel the same, so for you, this is just a gentle reminder of your potential.
And for those of you who need a little more encouragement I offer this:
Start small. Change happens slowly. This is an uphill battle we are all facing, but each baby-step takes us closer to where it is we want to be – as long as we have a realistic view of our destination. The path is bumpy, and dusty, and there are many obstacles – and even some booby traps – but with dedication and determination, it is passable.
Celebrate and build on the little victories. Again, this means you must have realistic expectations. Maybe you start walking 5-10 minutes a day. And 4 out of 7 days you do so relatively pain free. Yes! Definitely worthy of a celebration. Sometimes you will not see the results of your efforts immediately, but just know that your efforts are having an effect, and that change is happening. This is why it is so important to stay encouraged, because our bodies give us many reasons to be discouraged. Chose to focus on the potential, not the pain.
Understand that even with improvement, the bad days will still come. This does not mean that all of the good work you have been doing is lost. It does not mean that you should be discouraged and give up. It is simply a fact of a life with chronic illness – one of the facts we cannot change, so slow down, accept the setback, and prepare yourself to move forward again once you are able. Fibromyalgia is not a static condition. It changes and fluctuates constantly. Know that no matter how bad you are feeling in any particular moment, there are better moments ahead. Pain of today does not reduce your potential for tomorrow.