I’m Angela. I make resin jewellery and own A Pocketful of Stardust.
Oh yeah, and I have Fibromyalgia. Eugh. It sucks. Pain. Pain. Pain. Every. Single. Sodding. Day.
So, what is Fibromyalgia?
According to the NHS website, Fibromyalgia, ‘also called fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body.’ Sounds simple, right? But as all fibro sufferers know it’s not simple. Fibromyalgia can be a debilitating illness which can knock us off our feet for hours, days, months even years. Other symptoms include hypersensitivity to pain, fatigue, muscle stiffness, insomnia, headaches and something called “fibro-fog” (a problem with our mental processes and concentration) among a whole host of other things. In fact, I’m writing this when I’m having a flare. It’s not a particularly bad one so I can at least function on some level. Flares (for those who don’t know) are basically periods in time when our symptoms “flare-up” or get worse. These flare-ups can last days, weeks, even months.
SO how can I do anything with this hanging over me?
I decided a while ago that this illness wasn’t going to define me. I wasn’t a fibro sufferer, I was a person who happened to have fibro. Maybe it’s just playing around with words, but for me, it worked. I turned the focus from the fibro back on to myself, a person. This won’t help everyone because all of us are different and have different ways of coping with our pain. But for me, it seemed to unlock something in my mind.
So then I decided, instead of concentrating on what I can’t do, maybe I should try and look for what I can do. This is where Art Therapy proved invaluable to me.
What is Art Therapy?
According to the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT), Art Therapy is “a form of psychotherapy that uses art media as its primary mode of expression and communication. Within this context, art is not used as a diagnostic tool but as a medium to address emotional issues which may be confusing and distressing.”
When I was having a bad day and the pain was in danger of becoming all-consuming, I used art as a way of distracting myself. I’d grab some paint and canvases and just painted whatever came into my mind. I was crap at it but it worked as a distraction tool for me.
So where does resin come into this?
I’d been dabbling with paint and used Pinterest to get some inspiration. Pinterest is an app in which people post pins which then can get re-shared. Pins can be pictures of anything, cakes, desserts, art, funny memes. If you’ve never used it, I urge you to go and have a look, it’s an absolute treasure trove of inspiration and beautiful pictures. You can find me here.
It was on Pinterest that I found resin and making resin jewellery and art.
I stumbled upon the most amazing jewellery made with resin and I wanted to give it a go, so, I took my Christmas money and bought resin from Amazon, along with moulds and glitter and anything else I could get my hands on. After using resin for a few months I was getting quite good at it.
I found resin just at the right time because my mental health was beginning to suffer. How was I supposed to work with this condition? I’d been a stay-at-home mom up to this point but, as my daughter grew up, I knew I wanted to do something else. I wanted to work. I wanted to have my own money. But it looked as if that was going to be impossible. Who’d want to employ me with all of my issues?
Inspiration hit! I could use my talent with resin to do something positive, to do something despite the pain. It was then I came up with my business which I called A Pocketful of Stardust.
A Pocketful of Stardust.
A Pocketful of Stardust is where dreams are made. It’s where my dreams are made!
A Pocketful of Stardust is a place where you can find unique resin jewellery and crafts made by me. Find me on Etsy here. (Etsy is an incredible online marketplace for those selling unique handmade goods.)
And here on conscious Crafties. Conscious Crafties is a little bit special as it’s a place where people with chronic illnesses (like me) can show off their talents. It’s a marketplace where people with disabilities and chronic illnesses can sell handmade crafts, or sell their skills, whilst making friends in a safe environment where people respect one another and understand our daily struggles.
So, what are these ten tips you’ve promised?
So, that was my journey from diagnosis to now. This is what I’ve learned on my journey from pain, to diagnosis, to where I am now:
- Remember you’re human. You didn’t cause this. It happened to you, but it is not all that there is to you. You are more than just your illness.
- Read. Read. Read! Get all the information you can about your condition. Knowledge is power after all.
- Then you can use this to identify your personal triggers. Triggers are what cause our symptoms to worsen. It can be stress, doing too much, or even the weather.
- When we’ve identified our triggers we can sometimes avoid them, but when this is not possible (we can’t control the weather after all – the cold, for example, is notorious for making symptoms worse) we can be prepared.
- Find something that can distract you, especially when you’re at you worse. For me, it was Art Therapy that really helped. It took my mind off the pain so that I wasn’t focussed solely on the pain. You need to find something that helps to distract your mind. It doesn’t have to be art, it could be crosswords, knitting, writing, or whatever. I was lucky, I found something in art that helped straight away. It might take you a while to find what works for you.
- And when you do find something that distracts, remember, it won’t always work. There are going to be days where you can’t knit because your hands hurt, or you’re too tired to even get out of bed. You are going to have bad days. There are days when I can’t pick up a paintbrush or even a pen to write. Learn to accept these days as bumps in the road. It sounds simple. It’s not. It will take time. Be patient with yourself.
- That’s why you need to take care of your mental health. This is important because pain and mental health feed off each other. Pain can get worse when we feel stressed or depressed. And when we feel pain we become stressed and depressed. What really helped me was CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). It helped me to turn my thinking processes around. I was someone who dealt with the pain by internalising it. It didn’t work! You need to ask for help.
- Learning to ask for help is extremely difficult. I hated it. But, you know what? I have learned that I’m only human. Pain sucks. Sometimes I’m the most impossible person to live with when I’m grumpy and in pain. I’m learning to speak up when I’m in pain so that people know. I’m learning to ask for help when I need it. Whether it be from friends, family, online forums, pain clinics, doctors or therapists.
- Learn to say NO. This is very important. You’re not a robot. You need to rest. Overdoing it makes things worse. Don’t overdo things. Don’t feel obliged to say yes if you know that saying yes to something is going to be detrimental to your wellbeing.
- Learn to know your body. Rest if you need it. Don’t overdo things. But also make sure you do keep doing some sort of exercise. But be patient with yourself.
What are your top tips for dealing with chronic pain or illness?