Walk Before You Run

I went for a run last night. I ran the five miles in the loop around my town. It was a beautiful evening and I felt great. It didn’t take long to get a good sweat on and I got into my stride very quickly. I’m not a natural runner, it really pisses off the real joggers and runners when they see me dressed head to toe in football gear, but I have a style that works for me. Time is of no relevance, it doesn’t matter how long it takes me to run the route, I get more enjoyment from the freedom running provides.

Putting one foot in front of the other for 5 miles is not everyone’s idea of fun. Just like golf can be a polarising sport, running/ jogging can be the same. Some people love it and some people are easily bored with the monotony of it. I love it and I also like ‘people watching’.  That is catered for on the route as well. With all the financial constraints that have been imposed lately, gym membership is falling and more and more people are just running, jogging, walking, power walking to get some good, and indeed cheap, exercise. Believe me; one lap around the town really proves that we do come in all different shapes and sizes.

When you are running you can enjoy an immense freedom. I love to use the time to clear my head of any issues or thoughts I have. There is no phone, no television, no radio and no body to distract me. It’s just me and my thoughts and because my route is a loop, turning back is not an option; I have to keep moving forward. I decided to buy my first home and my first car while out running. I even decided to move abroad after going on a particularly long run many years ago. (I got lost in my thoughts of whether to go or not and ended up running further than I ever had before or have done since)

I took up running to fill the training gap that was left after I stopped playing football.  Through running and Pilates I was able to keep myself in pretty good nick. The fact that I worked in a physical job helped and all in all I was happy with my fitness levels. I would never be as fit as I was 10 years ago but I would keep pushing myself.

I didn’t go for a run last night; in fact it is well over two years since I went for a run.                                  

I was reminded of that yesterday as I was on my way in to yet another physio appointment. It was a similarly beautiful evening and I longed to be pulling on my gear and hitting the roads for some good, honest training. That was not to be however. Instead I went into the physio who worked for an hour to try and loosen my muscles and take away some of the pain in my body.

I miss training hard and I miss the feeling of being physically fit. I do exercises to keep as much flexibility as I can in my body but it’s not the same. As with everything concerning fibromyalgia it is a slow process and patience is vital. I’m reminded that I have to walk before I can run.

I don’t really like walking. I view walking the same way some people view jogging. It is boring, it’s slow and it is of no great benefit. My ability to be patient will be tested as I have to build up my walks very slowly. At the moment my programme is ten minutes walking, then 3 minutes slower and then another 10 minutes. After that I am finished, energy-wise, for the day. In the same way pre-season training used to tire me, that walk does the same now.

My programme of walking is virtually nothing but I can’t even do that at the moment. My body is so sore, tired and tight that it is too much. It is not easy to get my head around. I used to play football and run as often as I wanted but now, even walking to the shop can be too much for me.

Slowly, I will start walking again and then start to build from there. With patience, I may even be able to walk to the shops once, this week. Like my young niece I’m learning to walk before I can run. I’ll stay positive and hopeful but I have a funny feeling she’ll be running well before me!

What are you giving up?

So Pancake Tuesday is upon is. Pig out today because there’s a hard couple of weeks ahead. Giving up something is a typical thing to do for Lent but I’m finding it hard to think of anything this year. It’s not that I’m perfect and couldn’t do with giving up a few bad habits, it’s just that I’ve given up so much in the last year that I’m wondering if I should be picking something up instead?S

Many, many years ago I was a little barrel of a child. I was able to change my physique through a combination of increased exercise, reducing my calorie intake and educating myself about the correct types of food to be eating, in order to maintain a healthy diet.

I pushed myself to the limit in every training session and I learnt the importance of a proper diet. Chocolate, sweets, cakes etc. had been my weaknesses but once I realised I could only eat them in moderation, provided I was on a healthy, balanced diet and training hard, I was on to a winner.

I never denied myself anything, be that chocolate, a couple of pints or a bag of chips from the takeaway. I always felt that if I denied myself completely, I would then over-indulge when given the opportunity. Instead I went for ‘everything in moderation’, knowing full well that if I ever went too far I would have to work extra hard in training to run it off.

The first symptoms of my fibro were pain and fatigue. In order to avoid missing any time in work, I would spend my free time either in bed or just trying to save up energy. In my determination to stay working, training, understandably, took a back seat. Very quickly a lot happened, I stopped training, I hadn’t the energy to cook balanced meals for myself, despite knowing that convenience foods weren’t good for me, buying them saved precious time and energy and so on.

In the past year I have given up a lot of things which I enjoy. That’s what the idea of Lent is, isn’t it? Giving up things that we enjoy or get pleasure from. My consumption of biscuits, chocolates and cakes has taken a big hit. They don’t give as much pleasure when you can’t go for a good five-mile run and they are going straight to your stomach or wherever you put on weight first.

I haven’t had a pint in 6 weeks. I always enjoyed a few pints watching a match or a glass or two of red with dinner. The tablets I’m on don’t really mix with alcohol, unless of course you fancy debilitating headaches, stomach cramps and three-day hangovers, to name just a few of the side effects.

It’s hard to top the feeling of returning from a run with the endorphins flowing and feeling like you could take on the world. It’s the same after completing any sporting activity or exercising in any way. I can just about walk 20 minutes a day now, but it just doesn’t get my juices flowing like getting a good sweat on used to. I loved training and I can’t do it anymore.

So in the last year I’ve given up; working, training, alcohol, most tasty desserts and sweets, convenience food, processed food, takeaways. That is not forgetting things like socializing with my friends and staying out past 10pm which are happening on rarer and rarer occasions.

My fibro fog has probably led me to forget something obvious in this piece but I’ve also given up re-reading most things. I’ve only so long before the headaches come on and my concentration levels disappear so I had to give that up as well!

So it’s nearly Ash Wednesday and this year I’m not giving anything up for Lent. Instead, I’m going to be positive and take something up. I’m going to take up a course in Mindfulness. This is a type of meditation that will help me slow down and focus my mind on my thoughts and actions in the present, without judging myself.

I will give it a go and see if it works for me. it can only have a more positive effect on me and my state of mind than re-enforcing a negative thought by denying myself.

That’s the theory at least……


Stay Positive

It is not always the lesson that is important, more the timing of that lesson. I was reminded of that again this week.

About ten years ago I had a couple of serious knee injuries. I had my fair share of injuries over the years. To be honest, I wasn’t called ‘sick note’ for nothing, so I probably had a few other players’ share of injuries as well.

Between secondary school and college I spent plenty of time on crutches. I even did my Junior Certificate exams while on crutches. I disturbed lots of other students with my clumsy and loud efforts to leave exam halls on crutches.

There were times before operations, while I was training alone or when I was struggling around the school that I would think ‘why me?’, ‘how come it’s always me who gets injured?’

I got frustrated, I would be angry and I would lash out at those who were trying to help me. My parents often tried to say that, ‘things could be worse’, or that if I couldn’t play football anymore, ‘there were plenty of other things I could do’, but I never listened. As my mother drove me to the hospital for yet another appointment, I was feeling particularly down and upset.

Outside the hospital there was a young boy in a wheelchair. I was walking by on my crutches and he smiled and said hello. Whether he was in a wheelchair because of an injury or would be in the wheelchair for ever I don’t know but his positivity struck a chord with me.

In the waiting room I talked to my mother about the boy and how upset I would be if that had been me in the wheelchair. We talked about having some perspective and because of the timing I was prepared to listen and absorb the lesson that it’s important to stay positive in the face of life’s challenges.

I had a particularly bad flare up this week. I took on more than I could handle and I wore myself out. All the pain, stiffness, fatigue, headaches, dizziness and everything else came flooding back with a vengeance. I felt I had gone back to square one and all the little advances I had made these past few months had been undone.

Yet again, I thought ‘why me’, ‘why can’t I just take a tablet to make it better?’, ‘how come a few good days must be followed by a few awful days?’ I was frustrated and angry and I was particularly down and upset.

Recently I had the good fortune to be given a tour of Barretstown and hear about all the good work they do there. I was blown away by the attitude of the staff, the facilities available and to hear about all the children, and their families, that Barretstown have helped and continue to help. It offered a lot of perspective on some of the challenges fibro throws up for me and the timing turned out to be perfect.

A fibro flare up is my challenge at the moment. So as I crawled into bed yesterday wishing the pain, fatigue and everything else away, I thought back on my visit to Barretstown.  I thought of how it reminded of the lesson I learned ten years ago and I made sure I found something to smile about before I fell asleep.

It’s important to stay positive in the face of life’s challenges.

Dear Mr Liddle

Dear Mr Liddle,

Despite the fact I am about to vehemently oppose your views, I’m still going to be polite and call you Mister. I could use some other choice phrases but I won’t, maybe it was the way I was brought up?

I’ve been feeling “a little peaky” myself for about 18 months now. Unfortunately for me it hasn’t had a chance to last for “decades” yet but you never know what the future will bring. I’ve never in my life been accused of being in any way cool but it’s good to know that now for once I will be, because “being disabled is incredibly fashionable”.

It’s apparently easy to get money from the government for being disabled and you “might get one of those badges which let you park wherever you want………And you can use those enormous toilets……..without feeling too guilty about it.” Good God if only I knew, I wouldn’t have forced myself to continue working until I became a danger to everyone.

 Thank you for letting me know my fibromyalgia “is one of those new invented illnesses.”  If it was up to you I’d have to work until I collapsed behind the counter or maybe until I fell asleep on the drive home. My fibromyalgia is so invisible and invented it even managed to ‘fake’ two serious seizures last year which both required me to be hospitalised. I was also so wiped out physically and mentally at Christmas time, that I stayed in bed for nearly 4 days and can remember virtually nothing of that period, due to fibro fog. But hey if fibromyalgia is just a new illness then those things must just be a fig roll of my imagination!

I’ve been on sickness benefit now for some time. All my experience and qualifications are in physical and demanding jobs. I’m learning how to cope with my fibromyalgia day by day and I will get on top of this. I shouldn’t let the fact I can’t get out of bed some days or if I walk to the shop for the paper (no, not The Sun) that that could be all I can do on that day. I might not even be able to read the paper that I walked to the shop to get.   

Yes I’m aware that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit but it’s the only way to respond to such an awful piece. Just because you have a vehicle for your views, thankfully, doesn’t mean that anyone must take it seriously. Thank you Mr Liddle, no more than a football manager can write an opponent’s team talk by taking the piss out of them, you’ve made the writing of my blog for this week a doddle!

You take care now and I pray for your family’s sake that you never have to suffer through a debilitating, chronic and painful illness. You see, as hard as it is on us who have a chronic illness, it’s just as hard if not harder on our families who must try to understand and support us,

Yours etc,



Gloves and Socks

The Tia Maria sat in the bottom of the shot glass waiting for the Baileys to be delicately added to the top in order to make the perfect Baby Guinness, as I had done hundreds of times before in the pub.

A bowl full of pasta sat in front of me, it was piping hot on a cold winter’s afternoon and the garlic focaccia bread smelled beautiful beside it.

It was my first evening to meet everyone on the Living Well with Arthritis course and being 6 foot tall and looking fit, the caretaker made his way towards me with the catering teapot in order for me to take over and pour for everyone.

These three scenarios would seem unrelated and they would definitely remain that way were it not for the tingling, numbness and shaking of my hands which accompanied all three. All three incidents brought tears to my eyes. These were not crocodile tears but large, unrestrained teardrops and deep, heartfelt sobbing.

One of my mates noticed my tears in the pub and took over for me. My parents tried to console me as my pasta went cold. My appetite had disappeared because I was so upset that I couldn’t hold my fork. Finally, were it not for the quick thinking and awareness of the course facilitator I would have had to explain myself, instead she stepped in and poured tea for everyone.

The numbness and tingling comes and goes in my hands. I don’t mean once or twice a week but once or twice an hour. If you ever see me clasping my hands, they might be cold, but more than likely, I’m holding my hands in order to stop them shaking. It is such a frustrating symptom of my fibromyalgia but I’ve been forced to live with it on a constant basis. The examples above are merely that, they are examples. I could have picked from an infinite amount of occasions.

It is purely from my wrists to my finger tips that I experience the ‘pins and needles’ and also a deep burning sensation. The only way I can describe the burning sensation is that it is similar to putting your bare hands into a bucket of ice and the sensation you would then experience. This burning can be accompanied by either hot or cold hands.

When it began, I was obviously very worried about the symptoms. It made driving very difficult as I could not be certain of always feeling the steering wheel in my hands. For that reason, I stopped driving while I was checked for epilepsy and other illnesses. Thankfully I’m now cleared to drive and have my independence back. But just one thing, if you ever see me driving with gloves on, on a summers’ day, please understand I’m no poser, the gloves are doing a vital job for me!

I also experience the same burning, tingling and numbness from my ankles to the tips of my toes. This is just as bad an experience as my hands but I can hide that much better than my hands. It does not stop me being frustrated and angered by it though. As it involves both my hands and feet, I’ve heard it described as gloves and socks syndrome. This explains exactly what areas of my body are affected.

About 25% of us with fibromyalgia will experience tingling, numbness, ‘pins and needles’ or a burning sensation as part of our symptoms. It can affect any area of the body but for me it is confined to my hands, feet and occasionally to my face. To feel your cheek quiver and tingle is a most unnerving sensation. It hasn’t happened to me yet but imagine if my cheek went numb while I was eating or drinking? In the words of Chandler Bing, that would scare the ‘be-Jesus’ out of me!

Burning, tingling, numbness and ‘pins and needles’ in my hands and feet; I have got used to this being the case for me. It is constant, sometimes it will be obvious to everyone and sometimes I’ll be the only person to know. It doesn’t make me cry anymore but I’m still upset that, at any time, I may drop something, spill something or not feel something in my hand. It is strange but it is all part of the wide spectrum of symptoms fibromyalgia entertains me with!