To celebrate National Health Blog Post Month, WEGO Health is hosting a 30 Days, 30 Posts Challenge for health-related bloggers. Each day, they have a different topic for a short blog post, with a Facebook page for posting links. Today's topic Veteran’s Day For all our veterans and family members, we celebrate this day because it marks the end of WWI, at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month. Do you have a task you complete every day at the same time that helps you with your chronic illness? How long have you been doing this, how has it helped?
Something I do every day at the same time that helps my illness? Easy. That has to be my daily nap.
When I first learned about CFS and saw the CDC's information about it online, I went to the library, sat down in the health area, and looked for books that might tell me more. I found two books and brought them home: Dr. Bell's fabulous The Doctor's Guide to CFS: Understanding, Treating and Living with CFIDS and a memoir/nonfiction book called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Comprehensive Guide to Symptoms, Treatments, and Solving the Practical Problems of CFS by Gregg Charles Fisher. Both books blew my mind (for the first time in a year of illness, I was reading about a condition that exactly matched my own experience), but Fisher's book brought me to tears.
As I read about Fisher's experiences (he and his wife both got ME/CFS at the same time and were severely disabled by it), I sobbed on my couch - every bit of it was so familiar to me. This was the first time I learned about the exercise intolerance inherent in ME/CFS and understood why I kept crashing. Fisher explained something else in his book that changed my life - the concept of proactive rest. He explained how people with CFS need to rest before we feel like we need it, how we need to bank rest ahead of time, and how a habit of proactive rest can help us to feel better all the time.
I have been taking Fisher's advice for the past 10 years. I take a nap every day after lunch, no matter what else is going on in my life, and it helps me cope better with my limitations every day. Without that nap, I am a wreck by 4 pm and useless in the evening. With the nap, I can usually manage to make dinner for my family and enjoy their company. Occasionally, I can even manage to go out in the evening with friends. On a really bad day, I take two naps - one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
Sure, it kind of sucks to live my life according to a toddler's schedule - I never schedule anything in the afternoon because I know it's the time of day when I feel my worst - but the alternative (crashing every day by dinnertime) is much worse. I even take that nap when we are traveling in the car (eye mask, ear plugs, and a pillow help) or when we are away from home.
My nap does not interfere with my nighttime sleep; in fact, I sleep much worse when I am over-tired from not resting. It took some practice to get into a routine where I fall asleep every day, but now it is a habit. To help fall asleep at nap time, I take 2-3 Valerian tablets (a mild herbal sedative, like chamomile, that wears off quickly for me), put on warm socks (I read a study where warm feet help you fall asleep quicker and it's true!), make my room as dark as possible, and read for about 15 minutes. I usually sleep between 45 - 90 minutes every afternoon.
So, that's my daily habit - what routine helps you to feel better?
(Although Dr. Bell's book is still fabulous, it is a bit out of date, but I was happy to see that Fisher's book has been updated and is even available on the Kindle now).