Getting sick as a fibromyalgia thriver is not easy to cope with. Being sick as a parent has its obstacles, too. But being sick as a parent dealing with fibromyalgia? Forget it. Count me out. No, thank you. I have zero time or energy to deal with a nuisance virus on top of fibromyalgia (fibro). Being sick means all the normal fibro symptoms amplified, as well as, all the traditional symptoms accompanying a cold or whatever else is ailing the body. To say it’s challenging is an understatement.
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This article first appeared in The Fibromyalgia Magazine, November 2017. Get the digital copy of the magazine from Pocketmags.
Tips to Surviving a Cold as a Fibromyalgia Parent
I wish it were easy to say ‘no thanks’ to getting sick and continue about my day. Actually, there would be no greater joy for me than to be able to do just that today. As I’m writing this article early on a Monday morning, I’m battling chest congestion, a sore throat, extreme fatigue and increased body pains caused by some respiratory bug. However, daily activities do not stop simply because I’m sick.
When I know there’s a possibility of me falling ill, I immediately run through a checklist to prepare the best way I can for being in bed for a few days. These preparations are what work best for my family and me, and are merely shared as advice from a fibro parent. Further in the article, I share tips from other fibro parents from my closed Facebook group, Fibro Parenting.
Stock up on ‘sick items’
Since I’m usually sick soon after my kiddos are sick, there’s a good chance I already have the sick items I need. But, regardless, I double check. These items include cans of chicken broth, vegetable soup, herbal teas (caffeine free), popsicles, and tissues. These are the items that go the fastest because they are comforting to each of us when we’re feeling under the weather.
Meals for the week
Being put on bed rest because of fibromyalgia flares, surgeries, and illness is nothing new to my kiddos. In fact, when I have been bedridden in the past, I believe there has even been a bit of joy. Not that they like me being ill, but they know when their dad is flying solo, takeout and pizza delivery is going to happen. Unfortunately for them, I, too, know that this will happen and have started to prepare for it in the last couple of years.
To avoid the costs of eating out night after night for our large family of six, there are a few things I do. The first is to see how many freezer meals I already have on hand. These meals can go straight from the freezer into the oven or slow cooker (as indicated on the outside of each freezer bag). This makes it easy for my husband, Tim, to whip up a great homemade meal without becoming overwhelmed from juggling everything alone. If there aren’t enough freezer meals, I’ll cook double batches of everything for the next few nights while I’m still well.
Don’t worry though – I don’t suck all the fun out of me being sick. Like most kids (my husband and I included), ordering pizza or takeout is a treat every now and again. Each time a neighborhood kid is selling a coupon book for their school, I usually buy one. Most of the time the cost of the book pays for itself with the use of just two coupons (if you get a good coupon book). There will be a ‘buy one pizza get a second one free’ and for less than $20, it can feed our large brood with some pizza leftover! The kids get pizza, my husband, Tim, looks like a hero, and I’m happy about the savings. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Tackling daily chores
As someone living with fibromyalgia, tackling the daily household chores is challenging enough on a good day. It’s impossible for me to get all the chores done in one single day, so it’s usually done in smaller, more manageable pieces. Thankfully, my kids are at an age where they can help with many of the chores. Most of the time these chores will be done with minimal complaining and arguing.
On a sick day, the cleaning standards are drastically lowered. Tim is already juggling work and the kids alone while I’m bedridden, so chores are the least of our worries. I don’t stress about them not getting done, and neither of us have the guilt of them being temporarily neglected. The few chores that may get done – depending upon the need for it – are laundry and the dishes (paper products are usually used during this time to minimize the dirty dishes).
Be sure to communicate your well-being to your spouse and kids. “Sucking it up” and “pushing through it” without telling your loved ones you’re ill will only cause more problems down the road. As soon as you’re sick, tell your support system you are sick and need help, then get the rest you need. Your body already struggles with body aches, fatigue, and other symptoms, so don’t add unnecessary demands on your body.
Kids, Kids, Kids
Speaking of kids…One of the most difficult tasks for me to handle when I’m sick is caring for my kids. There’s a gap in time between the kids coming home off the bus from school and Tim getting home from work. While they understand I’m sick, they are kids and still need attention from me. What I do is to temporarily relocate certain activities to my bedroom.
These activities include school work, reading, and spending time together. Fortunately, I have enough room on my bedroom floor to accommodate all the kids and their school work. They each grab a section of carpet with their bean bags and start working on their homework. I’m here to answer any questions, I ensure they are working and not getting distracted, and their homework is done before Tim gets home. This means less work on him while cooking dinner and getting them in bed at night.
When all their school work is done, they will either play outside with their friends or hang out with me until Tim gets home. I’ll read a book or color with them (if I’m able), or watch a movie of their choice. Watching a movie is my favorite choice because we’ll whisper funny commentary throughout the movie. The movie serves as a good distraction for them to talk to me about anything that may be bothering them. Being sick sucks, but having dedicated time with them is the best for them and me.
Keep needed items nearby
As much as I love my home, the stairs leading from the first floor to the second floor can be exhausting on a good day. When I’m flaring or sick, the stairs are nearly impossible. To avoid using the stairs, I keep the items I need the most within arm’s reach. These items include a diffuser for essential oils and the oils I use in it, pain cream for body aches and congestion, an extra blanket, a trash can, and the house phone. The house phone is more for using the intercom feature instead of shouting for help.
Extra rest and fluids
With fibromyalgia, our bodies need more rest than the average body. Maintaining any kind of endurance and strength on a regular day takes more energy from us. Throwing in a virus or bacteria for your body to fight, in addition to your daily struggles, will leave you feeling more exhausted and worn out. Do yourself and your body a favor by increasing your rest periods and taking occasional naps. I know from experience that this is hard to do, but as a fellow fibro parent states below, an illness will hit a fibromyalgia body twice as hard, and recovery will take twice as long.
Increasing fluids while sick also helps your body to recover in a timelier manner. Getting fluids doesn’t have to mean drinking glass after glass of water. Having a popsicle, drinking tea, and eating soup are all ways I stay hydrated in addition to drinking water.
Tips from fibro parents
I asked fibro parents in my closed Facebook group, Fibro Parenting, to share their tips when they are sick.
First one is you must be kind to yourself. Second is communicate to your spouse and family. Whatever it is, it will likely hit you twice as hard and last twice as long, and those numbers increase exponentially depending on how hard you try to ‘push through it”…Try to be a part of the family anyway, even if it is sitting at the table while others eat – don’t completely isolate yourself. And the one I am really not good at, ask for help. – Sean
When considering becoming a parent knowing I had fibro, a mental health counselor advised me to consider the fact that kids intrinsically know when a parent isn’t feeling well. Knowing that they “come with” this understanding is helpful to know. Not that they will behave perfectly, but they seem to change a bit when you’re not feeling well. There’s a part in even the youngest that is empathetic by nature. – Isabella
When I’m ill I make a point to take care of myself. I see the doctor when necessary, I take my medication, and I make sure to get rest. This may mean we lay in bed and watch movies and read together for a couple days. If I have respiratory (coughing/sneezing), I wear a mask as to minimize her chances of getting ill. – Victoria