Moving sucks. There is no way to slice it. The packing, the taping, the hair pulling while moving around boxes to make room for more boxes, hauling your stuff from place to place, unpacking, trying to figure out which box “that one thing” is in, and more often than not, living out of boxes for longer than any human really should because in the end you usually give up on unpacking at least once before you’re done. Now imagine you suffer from chronic pain and you have to deal with all this with a body that may or may not be up to the task.
Unfortunately, the unpleasantness of large tasks such as moving are compounded for those of us living with a chronic condition like Fibromyalgia. The long hours and mental/physical stress of the process can trigger our already active symptoms, cause them to 'flare-up' and possibly even trigger other symptoms on top of what you already deal with on the daily- thus making an already arduous process overwhelmingly difficult.
It’s important for the able-bodied community to understand that daily life is harder with fibro, but it’s also important to explain that completing a mounting, physically intensive task is harder for us too. This is not a pity party; this is real talk. During times like this we may need extra help, because no matter how carefully we plan for something like a move, there are always contingencies. Things happen that we may not have planned for, or we may get overwhelmed mentally and/or physically, and in the end, not matter how much we may want to, we may or may not be able to handle these things on our own- and it’s important for the people in our life to understand why.
Like a lot of people living in high-rent markets, I move almost every year as rent prices increase, so it's not like moving is a new process for me, but it's still daunting. Perhaps even more so because I know EXACTLY what I’m getting into as I do this as often as I do (and I also have A LOT of stuff I’m not willing to part with [mostly books, heavy, heavy books]). Add to that with my *real* fear over-exerting myself (because it usually leaves me in incredible pain and exhausted and useless and bedridden (and depressed) for days afterwards. Thanks Fibro.) and the thought of moving is pretty scary.
I mean, let’s face it, the beginning/middle/end of a move is not a great time to be bedridden for a few days, especially if you can’t afford much help (if any), and/or don’t have a great support system and have to manage the process all on your own. Plus, even if you do have a good support system, oftentimes moving a lot means you’ve already called in all your favors in regards to asking people to help you move; and when you have a chronic pain condition, you can’t exactly return the favor, and it doesn’t seem fair to keep asking the same people to help you when you can’t help them in return, even if they do “understand you need the help.”
So where does that leave us? Those of us struggling with expensive chronic conditions in expensive rent markets who may or may not have enough help. People with chronic pain conditions struggle with the line between doing “too much” and “not enough” as, as previously mentioned, too much exertion can lead to our symptoms worsening, but you also have to get done everything that needs to get done. It's a catch-22.
So, FYI, I just finished moving. Again. I gave myself more than a month to prepare, thought I’d be able to have everything boxed and ready to go, was so sure I gave myself enough time to do it all in, and got enough people to help me- but then Fibro happened. As usual.
I had originally planned to do my move in two consecutive Saturdays. Each Saturday I’d have a few (different) friends to help me do a day of moving, and I’d have a week in-between to move some small things on my own and recover enough to be able to do a full day of moving again the following week. Unfortunately, that plan went to shit and I ended up having to call movers last minute to help me because my body just couldn’t do it.
It’s never easy to handle, your body betraying you, but living with this condition for 17 years has taught me to pivot. If something doesn’t work, try something else (please note: this does not mean I can pivot with grace or without crying or whining [maybe that ability will come later?]). When you have to make it work, you have no choice but to find a way to make it work. So if that means calling in favors you might feel terrible about asking for because you don’t feel like you can repay them, then that’s what it means. If that means you have to put the price of a moving truck and movers on your credit card and figure out how to pay for it later, then that’s what it means. If it means doing it all yourself and taking a week off to recover (assuming you can afford to take the time off and/or have vacation days available), then that’s what it means.
All that being said, the next time someone with Fibromyalgia or any chronic condition mentions something major coming up- like an upcoming move for example- know that there is a lot more going on for them than there would be for an able-bodied person. You may not see them for a while as they focus on or recover from their task. They may ask for a favor, or even several favors, but instead of getting annoyed, try to exercise some empathy and understand why. Maybe even take it a step further and offer your services in regards to packing, comparing moving quotes, or offer to pick up their groceries or make them dinner so they can conserve energy- there are an infinite number of ways you can help, and the proactive nature of your offer may help ease some of the guilt of asking for favors, or help ease some of the anxiety they may be facing at such a time, and I can guarantee you it will make the person feel supported- which is EPIC.
Obviously, you can help out your differently-abled friends at any time, and I feel like people know that help may be especially welcome during a symptom flare-up, but I wanted to say also that help is welcome during busy times as well. Even just asking how things are going, letting them vent, whatever- any little thing like that makes such a difference to a chronic pain sufferer because it shows you GET IT when so many people don’t, and living in a world where people may not or believe in your pain or understand your needs is almost as exhausting as living with a chronic pain condition.
I hope reading this made you a little more aware of what life with Fibro/chronic pain is like, and how you can be a supportive ally to us.
Thanks for reading!
*This post was originally featured on our Founder’s personal (discontinued) blog, and was copied to The FSC Blog with full permission.