My Lost Employment

It’s nearly two years now since my last day of paid employment. I drove away from the pub that night presuming I’d take a couple of weeks off, feel better and return to work. Little did I know that nearly two years later and barely 4 weeks ago, I would be driving away from the pub once again but this time I knew I’ll never work in a pub again.

On May 1st, 2008 I got the keys to my first home. I was in a full-time position, had started a pension and could see my career path laid out in front of me. But as we all know, Fibromyalgia, and more latterly Psoriatic Arthritis, is no respecter of age, sex, status, career plans or relationships. So what happens when you can’t work anymore?

Just two years ago I was working in a job I loved and I could see my future ahead of me. I’ve always worked in physically demanding jobs as a lifeguard, gym instructor and most lately as a barman. There are numerous physical demands made of bar staff, including long hours, working shifts, standing all the time, taking deliveries, changing kegs. That’s not to mention the mental demands of concentration, remembering orders, working with cash and being ready for whoever may walk in the door next.

The job while being demanding provided me with financial rewards, the opportunity to work with and meet lots of people, socialize and chat to people and also the psychological rewards of self-confidence, achievement and self-worth.

Now I have none of these.

I am unable to work and unable to socialize with my friends without extreme planning and sacrificing a few days either side of going out for dinner. I have lost friends and relationships due to my fibromyalgia and even when I can go out, I haven’t a bean in my pocket to spend as it is all earmarked and spent on bills and my mortgage. I have all day everyday off but ask any teenager about their summer holidays and they’ll tell you how difficult it is to pass the time without spending even a little money.

I’ve written here before about my depression and about how my confidence and self-worth have been eaten away to reveal a man wracked by stress, anxiety, isolation and devoid of self-confidence. No one could choose this as a lifestyle, I am unable to work and as well as the financial loss I’ve borne it has impacted on every aspect of my life.

The final straw in my pub career came on a Saturday night after a big rugby match. I was completely worn out and in agony. Who would want to be served by a barman falling asleep on his taps, limping as he walks, unable bend to pick up a glass and whose hands shake so much he can’t guarantee a full-pint? Frustration, pain and fatigue brought me to tears and I, the same man who fought back  to play football after two cruciate knee ligament operations, walked away from my counter.

And here I am in 2013 and what’s changed since I bought for my home? I have fibromyalgia and arthritis, I’m no longer in paid employment, I live in a home I can’t afford, I have no career path, I’m single, I’m depressed, I’ve no self-worth, I can’t socialize with my friends like I want.

I say none of this to play the poor mouth, I say it because it’s true. Using my medications and treatments I am much better than I have been but still not good. As someone once said; “a lot done, more to do”. This has been my experience and I would need to do more investigation to know if where I am now was inevitable once I lost paid employment.

I think this is how it has worked for me; Pain, fatigue, etc. etc. led to my physical difficulties, which made my job impossible and since both of these happened I’ve suffered the social and psychological impacts in my life. It’s not important whether the illnesses or the lost employment had a greater impact on my life. Truth is it doesn’t matter, this is where I am now and I need to get better as a man and treat all aspects of my life.

Weighty Issues

“It’s great to see him but he’s put on an awful lot of weight” she whispered, hoping I wouldn’t hear. My Granny doesn’t whisper though and I clearly heard what she said to my Dad. Wasn’t I glad I had decided to come over to visit my Grandparents in the nursing home? We soon got down to talking, well my Granddad was asleep, and all was forgiven. It didn’t need forgiving to be honest; truth is I couldn’t argue with the facts.

Questioning my diet and any weight I have gained was brought into stark focus in the last few weeks. As you know I was unable to type or use my hands efficiently for a number of weeks. I was put on a course of steroids by my rheumatologist to try and minimise the pain. It did have a little effect on my pain but it was something else it brought that surprised me.

This time last year when my sleep specialist described me as ‘obese’ I settled down to losing the weight as quickly as I could. I became very strict on the food I brought into my home. Sugars, starches, preservatives, oils, fats, sauces; everything went off the shopping list. Fresh fruit and veg, water, grilled lean meats, porridge, homemade brown bread became the order of the day. I was unable to train as I wanted so my food intake had to change. By being strict as hell at home and allowing myself to indulge a little outside I lost the weight and felt the better for it.

I have been on courses of steroids before and always found them successful in short bursts. This last time, however, a new side-effect raised its head. I was overcome with a constant, gnawing, single-minded desire for food. I was so hungry all of the time and even large meals would not satisfy me and I would continue to eat and eat and eat.

On the worst occasion I found myself roused from slumber at 3am, with an overwhelming craving for food and an emptiness and pain in my stomach. One large bowl of porridge later I was back in bed, yet when I rose at 8am I was as hungry as I have ever been despite my ‘midnight’ feast!

The problem is I’ve gotten lazy recently.

Little by little desserts, chocolate, sweets, biscuits and cakes have crept back into my diet and onto my shopping list. I have a naturally sweet tooth but this got much worse on the steroids. When I got that empty, starving feeling no amount of brown bread or vegetables or anything else would do, sugar, in any form, was the answer. Plus it doesn’t really matter what you’re chewing on when it’s late at night or early in the morning and you should be only dreaming about food.

So the time has come for me to be strict once again and remove most of the nice food out of cupboards. Having spent most of my life training my backside off, this requires a lot of will power. Training 4/5 times a week allowed me to enjoy the extra biscuit or bowl of dessert, while still keeping as trim and fit as possible. Trouble is I’m getting older and a 40 minute walk twice a week is about the limit of my training. That doesn’t leave much room for a chocolate biscuit!

So with no opportunity to move more it’s up to me to eat less. Eat less and eat smarter. Next week’s shopping list should be a barrel of laughs but it’ll be worth it in the long run. I’m back with my sleep specialist in a couple of months and there is no way she’s going to tell me I’m obese. That’s the plan anyway.

It’s Good To Be Back

Forgive me Mr/Mrs WordPress it’s been 6 weeks since my last post.

It has indeed been 6 weeks since my response to Eilis O’Hanlon’s article was posted. Thank you to everyone who read it, commented on it and backed me in my outrage at the piece. It has been incredibly frustrating not being able to follow-up that piece much sooner than now.

To finish the story for you before I move on with today’s post; Eilis O’Hanlon emailed me four days after I sent her a link to my post on Twitter. I did ask her if I could post her response on this blog but as I got no reply, I don’t want to break any confidentiality her email is entitled to.

Suffice to say that she stood by her article, insisted it was written in a darkly humourous and sarcastic tone and accused me of not being able to appreciate or understand dark humour. No one I have spoken to or heard from felt it was in any way humourous so I’m disgusted that I couldn’t reply sooner and follow-up my piece to keep people talking about mental health issues. Depression is a worthy foe for me at the moment so please continue to support myself and others who are in a similar position.

Anyway, why have I not posted in 6 weeks?

Around the time of my last post I began to feel incredible pain in my wrists and hands, hips, ankles and feet. My fingers swelled up, became red and burned with the inflammation. My wrists also swelled and I was unable to fit my watch around them and my dexterity was severely restricted for everyday tasks such as belts, buttons, laces etc. I have dealt with pain for the best part of 5/6 years through my fibro but this most recent pain was different, much, much worse and not related to fibro.

It was a little harder to convince my GP of this unfortunately. He has been fantastic in treating my fibro but as he increased the dosages of both painkillers and anti-inflammatories with no response, I couldn’t convince him to take some bloods to test, refer me for x-rays or to a rheumatologist. I don’t blame him because since I was diagnosed with fibro, lots of doctors have dismissed any symptom as being part of my fibromyalgia. I’ve done it myself too so there is absolutely no problem for him to do it.

So after a few weeks I decided I had to step up and take charge of my own body. I rang around all the rheumatologists near to me and told them all I had my referral letter. Once I had the appointment I then rang the GP clinic to get the letter. Sometimes a little creativity helps!

So here’s the latest news hot off the presses.

Fibrofella has yet another diagnosis to deal with and to be honest with you I’m over the moon to get it which a lot of people struggle to understand. I have arthritis and will be returning to the rheumatologist in a couple of weeks to plan my long-term treatment for it. His examinations, my medical history, as well as the blood tests and pelvic x-ray he ordered will show him exactly what we are dealing with and how we treat it. This diagnosis does not replace my fibromyalgia but is rather an additional condition.

In case you’re wondering why I’m so pleased with the diagnosis there are a few reasons for that. Firstly it validates the pain I’ve been in for years now, secondly there is more public understanding and thirdly any treatments I get for arthritis may reduce the medications I have to take for the fibro. I will not however be changing anything about this blog. I will always Fibrofella who also has arthritis, not the other way around. Another reason is that it is now also my responsibility to ensure that the public awareness of fibromyalgia grows to the level of understanding that exists for arthritis.

I’ve hated not being able to keep up with my writing recently. I hadn’t noticed how much of an integral part of my overall treatment my blogging has become. Thankfully the pain and swelling in my hands has reduced a little so I should be able to write more posts over the next little while. I have so much to share about my fibromyalgia, my arthritis and my ongoing treatment for depression that as long as my hands will let me I can’t wait to get back into my routine. Just to give you an example, I started this post last Saturday and I’m hoping to wrap it up soon. The pain may have gone down a little but it’s still there and must be managed through short bursts of activity.

It’s great to be back and I’m looking forward to sharing my stories with you all again. To my blogging friends around the world, I have read all of your recent posts but responding to them has been impossible and is something I’m hoping to do again soon.

Talk to you all soon.