Sunday, 17 March 2013

Winter is coming


(And sticking around for far too long this year might I add.)

The weather. If you’re like me and you’re British it’s probably a popular subject of grumpiness and moaning on an everyday basis. However, finding myself paying particular attention to it wasn’t something I expected to be a part of being chronically ill. The only conclusion I can come to is that I’m clearly a Stark* – I know when winter is coming.

Actually, hot and sunny weather isn't the cure-all you might think it is either. Extremes of temperature at either end cause problems for Fibromyalgia sufferers, but I'll stay consistent with the time of year for now and cover the effects of warmer weather when it finally arrives.

I’ve reached the point where I can wake up in a morning, tentatively flex limbs and know instantly if it is raining outside without looking, purely from the particular quality of pain and aching. I do a remarkable impression of my Dad despite not sharing his rheumatoid arthritis.

Fibromyalgia: a more accurate prediction for rain than a field full of cows lying down. Fabulous - I’m a walking superstition.

November onward last year and so far this year has being particularly challenging, but then again it is my first winter with the Fibromyalgia having set in properly. Since moving up to York I’ve tried to go out on every dry day even if only for a quick walk just to get some fresh air, and it took me a long time to realise that my sudden sharp spike in fatigue was due to the cold. I walk fairly briskly and because of that I didn’t feel the below zero temperatures so much. Petunia definitely did, however. I found an annoying tendency to have to sit down and have a warm drink at some point during a short trip to town, purely because I was too sore and tired to make it there and back in one go.

For someone who has been incredibly active all her life, this is incredibly galling.

 Dry cold I can just about combat. Thermal base layers are a must and reasonably inexpensive to procure, thick socks (multiple pairs works just as well) and I never go out without gloves any more. Even if I don’t end up using them, it’s not worth risking a few days of my hands being crippled just for the need of having brought them out with me. I can mostly cope with snow providing it’s a crisp and cold sort of a day and not the kind mixed with damp and rain that usually occurs here in Britain. We can’t even get snow right most of the time for goodness sake.

Wet and damp weather however renders me fairly useless. Clearly I was born in the wrong part of the world, as the UK has quite a talent for wet weather.

I can still go out if I really have to, but I pay for it for at least the rest of the day if not the next as well. Damp weather outside means no matter what I wear or how many blankets or duvets I get curled up under, I cannot get warm inside. 

Usually my Fibro pain, whilst always present, moves around a little and concentrates on the same areas – shoulders, hips and hands are my particular hot spots. When it’s wet, it’s EVERYWHERE. I can only describe it as the sensation of pain deep down into your very skeleton, and every movement creates a spike. I also start to stiffen up very quickly and have to keep having a wander up and down the flat to loosen my shoulders and hips off. I’m replaying an old RPG called Baldur’s Gate II at the moment so I don’t appreciate such interruption – the mind flayers will get me if I leave!

Yes I could press pause, but I tend to forget that. A lot.

I haven’t really found any effective way of combating this beyond having hot baths as often as I’m able, so if anyone has any suggestions I’d be most grateful to hear them. I’ve tried heat pads in the past for an old back injury and I never found they worked too well. The heat is a nice sensation, but not very effective beyond that. I took some of these pads with me to a festival last year in the hope of gaining some relief from my tired (and very painful) shoulders – it was too hot and sunny for the pad to be comfortable and my shoulders remained obstinately achey, so it would be fair to call this one of my less successful attempts.

My one main source of comfort is to do some form of exercise indoors to warm up, and to take general mothering advice of making sure to have hot meals when it’s cold out. I’ve found Pilates to be my particular go to, although I appreciate that might not be right for everyone. However, being able to do some form of gentle exercise just as close to a warm radiator as possible definitely has appeal.

And if all else fails? Get settled under a duvet and grab a hot water bottle - or the cat.**

*I’m not up for having my head cut off, before anyone makes a wise crack. I may be from Sheffield, but I’m not Sean Bean .

**My cat does not necessarily always care for this suggestion. 

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