In a nutshell, the answer has to be to a barely significant level which may come as a surprise considering the impact Fibromyalgia has had on my life in general. To understand this, you have to be aware of both my relationship with exercise and how I quantify what counts as exercise. I think the simplest way to approach this is to tell you a bit of a story so grab a drink and get comfy, no spoilers but chocolate may help at times too.
The Formative YearsWhen I was young, (I so just had a Bridget Jones moment ?) I did as kids do, I ran around and played games, I did laps of my friends back lane on my bicycle, I attended Dance Classes and practised around the house. I was active. Things continued this way into what we call the ‘tweens’ nowadays.
The Teen PhaseAs a teenager, I was still having mandatory sports lessons at school as well as taking P.E. as a GCSE option. It was purely for the theoretical side because at that point in my life I was thinking about being a nurse. Why oh why did we have to decide our educational choices at a point in our lives when we had no real clue about the world of work. Let’s just say P.E. was a ridiculous decision for me and retrospectively I would have chosen I.T. which I do believe had started by then. Sorry, I’m going off-topic… I was still having my dance classes at this point too, although, like most teen girls there was a lot less running around and a lot more sitting about when it came to socialising. But there would be games of rounders and other physical activities through guiding. Other than the sports lessons at school, there was nothing I would label exercise though. That labelling is a hint of what is coming.
A Young AdultWe are getting there now, the eighteen to twenty-five-ish phase that gets to the heart of the problem and when things began to change really. There are the simple reasons but there are also some deep-seated causes, and I don’t think I would be honest with myself never mind you if I didn’t open up and address them too. Let’s start with the simple things though. School ended which meant an end to compulsory sports lessons. Exercise became something that was done at gyms and places or at home in front of a T.V. with a Video to guide you. There was no longer instant access to facilities without paying for them and the sport I enjoyed like Tennis needed a partner to play with which is not something I had on hand. I did occasionally try an exercise video, but the only memories I have of those are being made to do sit-ups, I’m pretty sure I have never had stomach muscles, and it was agony even after two or three. Looking back, I would have done a much better job of exercising by just riding a bicycle, or running around a bit. If I am honest with myself, though, I think any deliberate attempts of exercise I tried I always self-sabotaged. I slightly referenced this in my letter to myself as a young adult. As well as the experiences I had that led me to believe it was more important to be intelligent than attractive, there were some other events in my life, things that I don’t want to go into detail of that led me to believe life would be more comfortable if I were fat. In fact, I partially subconsciously and slightly knowingly built a protective layer for myself. This belief continued to be reinforced by incidents that litter my memory where men made comments that had a lasting impact. One such comment came from a married man in his fifties who looked at me and said if I was twenty years younger… you just had to look at his face to read his meaning, but the person with me who should have defended me didn’t see his face, and no doubt assumed he meant had more energy or some other trivial comment. The person who said that knew what he meant though and in my small way I understand the battle that actresses are waging. They want to and need to remain in good shape for their careers and let’s face it the beliefs I had were far from healthy.
Adult Life Before FibroI think I can honestly say by the time I had worked myself through the emotional problems I had; the physical journey back was tremendous. The number of times over the best part of twenty years I said to myself “If only I could wake up slimmer I will look after my body.” The number of times I started to diet and hit brick walls. Don’t get me wrong I know the responsibility lies with me, and it is my journey to make, but the issue I do have is the overwhelming social belief that people who are overweight are lazy. Anyone who genuinely knows me knows I love to be productive. To the point that on our first holiday together Michael struggled with the fact that I found it hard just to relax and do nothing. I am reasonably confident saying that I can’t be the first person in the world to have a similar approach to the experiences I went through. I agree there is some work happening under the general umbrella of anti-bullying but that is to address the actual behaviours and comments of people, not their understanding of the relationship weight can play in mental health. So before the Fibromyalgia arrived small steps were being taken in the direction of exercise, one of these steps was the walks Michael and I liked to go on together.
Exercise with Fibro?So, here we are now. The walks we liked to do, have pretty much dried up, we try to get to the coast occasionally and walk along the beach, but now I am thankful if I can do a mile. Other than that there has been no change if you are talking about exercise in it’s most real sense. If however, we look at exercise at the most basic level of moving your body well yes, there has been a significant impact brought about by the arrival of chronic illness. I am no longer travelling to a place of work each day, some days I don’t even leave this floor of the flat. I am no longer singing with the choir and processing around the Church doing it each week. It is a much rarer occurrence that I go to a shop and something as significant as a visit to Ikea needs planning with plenty of rest allocation. The sad thing is the journey needed to get back to a healthy weight seemed of epic proportion before the Fibromyalgia landed, now with the Fibro it is beyond daunting.
So what would I like you to take away from this story? There are a couple. Firstly, if you see someone who is obese do not assume that person is lazy and just can’t be bothered to exercise. You don’t know what that person is going through, or has been through in the past. At this point, I want to shout out companies like Simply Be who sell clothes for larger girls and ladies under their #WeAreCurves. Even if someone is on a weight loss journey, or is, in fact, not ready to take that step yet, they are far more encouraged to lose the weight if they can feel good about themselves as they currently look. The other critical point is that young people now are still going through everything they did when we were young but with the added pressure of the existence of social media, on the one hand, this brings support right to their phone if they reach out for it but also, more critically it brings judgement. Once again at this point, I want to show some gratitude for the work that is done by the Heads Together Campaign. If organisations like this had existed when I was younger, I might be writing a different post about how Fibro changed my ability to exercise, or maybe I would never have developed Fibromyalgia. But then I also may not have met Michael, so I have no regrets, but I do very much hope that the current young girls of today will not be writing stories like this in the future.