I'm writing to seek counsel from those of you who understand this complex illness! I'm 32, approaching my third year of marriage, and have one 8 month old baby. Before getting married I was an elementary school teacher. I absolutely loved my job, but the pain and fatigue I suffered made it difficult to do the excellent job I wanted to do. Somehow I did it, but weekends never seemed long enough to rest and try to feel better. I was embarrassed that in our early morning meetings, I sat there in a fibro-fog, trying to get my pain meds to take effect and feel better. I never wanted to complain to my co-workers because I wanted to behave professionally, but I REALLY struggled in the early mornings. Teachers have so much to do after school hours (planning, preparing) and sometimes I would go home and crash. I could tell my team of teachers were silently judging me because I didn't have my lesson plans done until the weekend before, I hadn't stayed after school to copy papers or plan something or collaborate with them, etc. The truth is that I am EXTREMELY organized when I feel well, but I was in soo much pain, I had to go home after school! Forget exercising! I would collapse into bed after a day of needy little first graders! If I had to stay up late and complete a project at night, the next day I felt like a zombie. Teaching can also be very stressful depending on the class of kids (and parents). Many of them have problems and require LOTS of attention and work outside of just teaching them lessons. It's energy-consuming.
The year I got married, I thought that if I de-stressed by only subsitute teaching rather than teaching full-time, my fibro would be under control. I planned to get more rest, exercise, etc. Well, the fibro had a mind of its own and I got worse, not better. I was on the birth control patch but got pregnant anyway. It was a horrible pregancy being off my meds.
Now she's 8 months old (and sweet as can be) and my husband would like for me to return to work. We are living in a new town, and he would like for me to contribute at least $20,000 to our annual income. With his income alone we are barely above the standards for public assistance! We do not qualify, but we do not make enough to live comfortably.
I feel as though I am giving all of who I am to take care of my baby and home. I can not imagine a job on top of it. Yet, we need the money.
To further complicate things, my husband has bi-polar disorder and ADHD so he does not take care of the household or baby at the standard I am comfortable with, and I know he would not do 50% of the work around the house if I went to work. He says he would, but I know better. It would be VERY stressful for me and our marriage if I had a job AND had to take care of my current responsibilities. We do not have relatives or babysitters nearby.
I push myself so very hard to accomplish just getting up and raising this baby and doing household things. I can not imagine having an entire classroom of stress at this point and I don't know of another job I would do.
My husband's parents are also pressuring me to work (contibute income) and it is quite apparent that we are living a sub-standard lifestyle. We need a vehicle, we need clothes, we have no savings, we can't go out for any entertainment, etc. due to lack of $. Of course, no massages or even a membership to the rec center to swim!
We have discussed this situation, argued about it, and discussed it again many times. so now I'm at the point that I need advice. Thank you so much!
Sorry to hear you are in this heartrending quandry. It's a very difficult situation all round. I can't give you a solution ... you're gonna hafta work it out ... but here's a few braindrops (whatcha get when ya brainstorm) that you could consider if you haven't already done so.
First & foremost, my heart aches that you don't have a support system. Your family & DH need to be there for you, not forcing you into more stress. That is #1 counterproductive. Do they understand the diagnosis, or do they think you are just a lazy whiner? Sounds like the latter. There are different ways to educate folks: send them to a website, have your doc talk to them, find a good book for them to read, or a DVD to watch. Personally I would preview any info I give them, there are many viewpoints on fibro.
Second, I would re-evalutate where you're at medically. Please, please, please have a thorough eval (not just a screening) of various hormonal functions. Thyroid disorders, adrenal malfunction, estrogen issues -- even testosterone (ya, & even for females) --can all play a role, and these are highly treatable things.
Sounds like, even with whatever meds you're on, life is not great. What does the treating doc say about this? If you are not making progress, consider getting a second opinion. Many of us with fibro have been helped more with alternative med approaches than with standard antidepressant & painkiller regimens. If you're unfamiliar with the wide range of treatment options for fibro, I recommend the book, From Fatigued to Fantastic, by Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, a fibro specialist who is himself a fibro sufferer.
Third, I would evaluate what can be done on the occupational front. While classroom teaching is stressful, have you considered that an ed degree is quite flexible. I know former teachers who consult to homeschoolers, others who took a few extra courses to get certified as educational testers, & that is fairly lucrative, can be done from home. Educators are in demand with companies that produce textbooks, as contributors, editors, and proofreaders. Ed software & companies that do internet-based education need educators, and these are often work-from-home jobs. You may still need some child care, but hours would be flexible ... break things up, work part-time, whatever. And probably the work would have less stress than a classroom.
Don't underestimate the potential value of services to the homeschool community, tutoring, working one on one with special needs kids. A portion of this work could be done bartering housecleaning & child care. Many homeschooling parents are on the lookout for such "deals," and it would be a good one for you. In our community, an hr. of educator time is worth about 4 hrs. of household cleaning, or 6 to 7 hrs. of child care.
Fourth, household responsibilities. Work with your DH to figure out what he does best & consistently & will agree to take care of regularly. Maybe it's mowing, or vacuuming, or laundry or grocery shopping. If you need some counselling together to get this figured out, it will be worth it. Most communities have some form of sliding-fee counselling available. If you are a member of a religious congregation, your pastor/religious leader may be a skilled counselor, and the service may be free. On the other hand, most of us find that hubbies are like puppies: they can be trained to do "tricks" around the household, and generally respond very well to appreciation and petting for a job well-done.
Find a local fibro support group & see if it holds any potential for support, information, finding a doc, or finding reasonably-priced massages if that's what helps. Is there a massage school in your city? If so, you may be able to get services there at a reduced rate.
Sometimes a little progress on every front can have a synergistic effect, where the result is greater than the sum of the parts. I hope you will find something that works.
I have to agree with Elmhar. All of that is fabulous advice. There are lots of diifferent ways to use your degree. Helping those that homeschool is a fabulous option as is doing tutoring. That way you're focused on a smaller group with less work involved. So even on days that you're not feeling your best you'll still be able to do what you need to. I was in a position last August where it looked like I would have to go back to work after being home with my son for over 3 years. (i've been home pretty much since he was born) My husband wasn't getting a new job or a contract and our funds were beginning to get depleted to a level that concerned us. My doc said no because I was flaring really bad at that point...the next day hubby was offered his current job. The best piece of advice my doc has ever given me is "listen to your body and do only what you can. the rest will come together"
As far as your husband, we spent the first 7 months of our marriage in therapy. Through that we are able to better communicate, its not perfect, but better. We also determined how much hubby needed to help and which chores were best for him. We came up with trash, feeding the cat, cleaning litterbox and any other quick errands on the way home that I might have forgotten during the day from the fibro-fog. I know my hubby doesn't fully understand, but he does see daily how much I hurt etc whereas my inlaws who also think i should work, don't. My MIL simply doesn't get it. My SIL thinks my son suffers because he doesn't spend all day every weekday in daycare and that workign would help me. Hmmm, how would working help when I don't know which days I'm capable of doing anything.
I feel you here. I've been there. Still am to a certain extent. The thing is, have the heart to heart with your hubby..but it must be hard as well with the medical issues he has...you need to validate that so its not about you but the couple and what is the best strategy for the family. Don't worry about the inlaws...do what's best for your family unit...once you and hubby make that agreement together and present it as such it will feel much better. I know it helped me. Even though my IL's still think I should work or don't get it with the fibro, I know my hubby is 100% supportive of my being home.
Emma, I can't improve on the advice elmhar gave it was fantastic. I know your situation is tough and many years ago when my children were babies my hubby and I made the decision that I would stay home and take care of them. Like all young couples we struggled through the early years.
My advice, would be to tell your in-laws to BUT-OUT! I did that many years ago with very pushy IL's and it was a big help. The medical advice elmhar gave was great, after having a baby the thyroid can sometimes go bezzerk. A lot of times the docs tell you everything is ok, but if the levels aren't ok for you then they are not ok.
I have a friend I exercise with that is a tutor in her home mostly and does very well. There was great advice about how to use your ed degree in other than the classroom. You said your husband is bi-polar, is he not on medication? The people I know on meds (liththium) for bi-polar are just fine and you wouldn't even know they had a problem if they didn't mention it. ADHD can also be medicated but I don't know anything about that. Husbands have a tendency to use any excuse to not do things they don't want to do! They seem to revert to being children, as much as we love them and as good as gold that they can be, they are still hubbys.
Emma do what you and your hubby know is right for your family, don't listen to SIL or MIL or FIL or anyone else (I guess that includes us...LOL) and take care of yourself because without you, your family would be lost.
Ladies, I can not begin to tell you what an impact you have made on my day!! I needed that boost of your friendship and your understanding so very much. THANK YOU for taking the time to read my post and answer so thoroughly!!
You know, a lot of the suggestions you made are ideas that I had bouncing around in my mind, knowing that they are the right answers to my questions, but you all helped me to solidify those answers.
My DH's disorder seems to affect the compassion he has for another person's pain. Just this year he has begun to take medication and it has made a HUGE difference, but the changes are slow and his understanding/compassion is inconsistent. I didn't want to write too much about it because that's a whole nother message board! I've asked him to read books, etc. but he hasn't really devoted very much energy to learning about fibromyalgia except through listening to me. I think the idea of having my doctor talk with him is great! DH seems to put more credence in what comes from the mouth of an M.D. than what comes from the print of a good book (the opposite of my view). Also DH has chronic back pain and he thinks it is comparable to fibromyalgia. He thinks that since he goes to work every day despite the pain, that I should be able to function just as well. I know he sees me as a strong person.
Also, DH has a problem with following through on his commitments. We have discussed a few household things for him to be in charge of. Often his "chores" are not done and he leaves them for me to do. Then we have to have a discussion about it and it's a constant struggle. It's partly ADHD and partly immaturitY... and also partly the fact that he was a bachelor for 29 years. I know that counseling should really help us. It is necessary! I plan to contact a social services organization. Thanks for giving me that push!
I have been reading about your thyroid info, Elmhar, and had decided to definitely have further testing done. I've also been wanting to get to the library to get the books you've preciously recommended! I need to wean my baby and get back on muscle relaxers or on supplements. Currently I can't try herbal supplements due to breastfeeding.
I love your ideas for jobs! I've tutored a lot. I've also led phonics/reading workshops for homeschool moms in the past. I REALLY should find an organization in this town and get that going again. I guess I lost sight of how valuable my training and experience as a teacher really is.
I am so thankful for the time you took to help me today! Take care!
I'm glad you're gonna explore "outside of the lines" for career options. Sounds like you already have relavent experience for a nontraditional career path.
One thing you might consider is asking your pediatrician if it is OK for you to take fish oil or cod liver oil while you breast-feed. It may actually be good for the little one, as long as you don't exceed a reasonable amt. FO and CLO can be helpful for pain & flexibility issues. A nursing Mom should ck. that the brand she takes is 3rd party lab certified for purity, absence of heavy metals & PCBs. Nordic Naturals & Carlson's are 2 brands I would recommend. From past experience, I know that Nordic will send samples to try if you contact the company.
There's been a lot of research done on the effectiveness of EPA concentrate fish oil in bipolar disorder. It tends to make meds more effective ... some people in the studies were able to reduce their meds when on high-dose EPA. (But I don't rec. the EPA-only fraction for a nursing Mom; babes need the DHA component for brain & nervous system development).
-- Fish oil shouldn't be used by anyone with a bleeding or blood-clotting disorder, as it does thin the blood some.
Well, you can research this stuff if you want, when you have time & energy, after the wee one graduates from high school ...