Learning to Improve my Mental Health through Self-Care

Learning to Improve my Mental Health through Self-Care

This is my journey through Fibromyalgia and learning to improve my mental health through self-care. It all started in 2000 as we were going through the adoption of our daughter from South Korea. I had already birthed three healthy sons, but something was pulling us to adopt a child after watching a news show by Diane Sawyer about the overcrowded orphanages in Romania, and so the adventure began. International adoption is a long and tedious process that involves a ton of paperwork, interviews, lots and lots of patience, and an overwhelming amount of stress. Fast forward to July 19, 2001, and our daughter came home from Korea at 15 months old as a “waiting child.” We celebrated her homecoming, had her baptized, and all was good.  

Getting a Diagnosis

Until January 2002. I was having trouble getting out of bed in the morning. I could hardly walk or stand up straight. My then-husband had to literally grab my hand to pull me out of bed. I was in a lot of pain and had no idea why. When this continued for several weeks without relief, I finally called my doctor. He thought it might be Lyme Disease. Living in the Northeast, it sounded very probable, and my symptoms warranted that to be the culprit. He tested me for Lyme, multiple sclerosisLupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, to “rule out” what we can with bloodwork and go from there. Thankfully, they all came back within normal limits or negative. So why was I still in so much pain? I looked fine on the outside, but on the inside, my body and muscles were killing me every day. I had trouble thinking, or what I now know as fibro fog.  I could hardly move some days and was so tired all the time. My doctor didn’t leave one stone unturned. He felt it might be Fibromyalgia but wanted a second opinion, so he sent me to a local rheumatologist specializing in musculoskeletal conditions. He did a tender point test and pain index and confirmed my doc’s Fibromyalgia diagnosis.  

Keeping my Mental Health in Check

I have been living with fibromyalgia for over 20 years, and it is more widely known than it was back then.  My mental health has been suffering for years, though, because of it. I figured out quickly how stress and anxiety play a crucial role in my pain level. So, if I wanted my mental health to stay in check, I had to learn a whole new way of taking care of myself, which is hard when you’re raising four kids and working part-time. Throw in a divorce, rotator cuff surgery, a return to school, and two children with mental health disorders, and I sometimes wonder how I’m still standing. After my diagnosis, I researched fibromyalgia treatments because I was NOT going to let this bring me down. I had a lot of life to live and children to enjoy.  This is where my yoga journey began and, to this day, is my savior. I learned how to say “no,” which was often very difficult. Over the years, when my children were little, I was room mother; Cub Scout den mother; Girl Scout leader; team mom for the boys’ baseball, football, and basketball leagues; cheerleader mom; cook; housekeeper; and caretaker for the family dog and cats.  

Self-Care and Mental Health

I have learned over the years to try putting myself first instead of everyone else (self-care). Easier said than done, but I’m getting better. I’m part of a Yoga tribe that has become a tight circle of support for my health and well-being. Yoga isn’t all about being on the mat. It’s also about taking it off the mat by breathing, relaxing, feeling, watching, and just being. I started meditating using an app called https://insighttimer.com/ and do nightly guided meditations to calm myself for a restful sleep. I am here for my kids; even though they are 22, 23, 28, and 30, I don’t drop everything as I used to when they claim there’s a crisis. I’m a better me for them because of it. I take supplements to help with my fibromyalgia and anxiety daily. And I’m happily married to my “new and improved” hubby, celebrating five years at the end of this month 🙂 He gets me and is very supportive of what I need; a warm bath, a back rub, a nap, etc. That in itself makes a world of difference.  

About the Author

Dani Reichert is a VitalGuide on Vitalxchange, a digital platform that empowers and enables parents to make informed decisions & engage actively in their child’s care by providing them personalized parenting ‘prescriptions’ that match their needs.  Check out Dani’s page on Vitalxchange to talk to her about topics such as preparing for IEP meetings, dealing with your child’s mental health challenges, and advocating for your child.

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