Any teachers out there; how do you cope with FM?

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Recently diagnosed with FM and am returning to work beginning of summer term, after 6 months off work sick. I am 'bricking' it as they say! I have to go back due to financial reasons and scared that I will not be able to cope. I am a secondary subject specific teacher, working in a PRU which is going through massive reorganisation; new Head; new primary type curriculum; having to interview for 'new posts'; more students to teach with less TA support; have heard that 'Inadequate' lesson obs. are becoming the norm; 5 of 7 teachers including me taking redundancy. Just worried to bits about how I am going to cope with my FM over last term although going back with a phased return. Any advice to help me please?

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  • Posted

    Hi Jeannie

    As a former teacher (albeit of adults) I know the energy it takes along with the stresses and pressure. Fibro unfortunately competes for your energy and the accompanying brain fog can make it worse still.

    The best advice I can give is to find out what you can about pacing yourself. There's a fair bit of advice online but your GP might be able to refer you to an outpatient department that offers pacing advice. When I got this it came under 'occupational therapy'.

    Recently, someone told me about Matcha tea - I also have CFS. I started drinking it a couple of weeks ago and am finding it really helps with the tiredness.

    Try to be as organised as possible and make sure you get to bed at a sensible time. Have a cut-off point in the evening where you do no more work - no marking homework or lesson planning late at night as it keeps your brain active when it needs to be calming down for a good night's rest. Make sure you have a good breakfast that will keep you going until lunch - and don't skip lunch :-). You need the fuel to keep you going. Try not to feel and react to pressure and stress. Easier said than done, I know, but it will make a difference.

    GW

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  • Posted

    GrannyWeatherwax

    Hi, and thanks for the good advice. Will check out the 'Matcha' tea. Where are you buying it from? I drink a lot of herbal tea but have not come across this one.

    Luckily I am organised but think I am going back into something that is organised chaos if my colleagues are to be believed!

    Lunch LOL. Have not had time for one of those for about 4 years since starting at this school. We only got 30 minutes and between clearing up after one class and preparing for 'next lot' and having stomach problems (diagnosed last year with IBS - both my brothers have Coeliacs Disease). Now the lovely new Head has decided that we can have 20 minute lunches, 10 minutes supervising students after their lunches; she is 'rushing' not just teachers, but the kids too. Imagine the stomach problems of the future. Victorian times are back, in the guise of 'efficiency' and 'progress' IMO.

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  • Posted

    Hi Jeannie

    I get mine from Teapigs as it was recommended for being high grade. There's lots of info about Matcha on the web. It is apparently vastly superior to other green teas because it uses the whole leaf and is grown in the shade. There are all sorts of health claims ,made for Matcha but it seems these have at least been scientifically tested.

    I had a feeling you'd say you didn't have time for lunch. Isn't twenty minutes illegal? In your place I would get some backing from your GP unless you don't want the Head to know about your condition. How can you (or your colleagues) fulfil your duty of care to the kids under those circumstances? Can your union help? At the very least take in some sort of sustaining healthy snack. By the way IBS is often part of Fibro and there's a lot of advice about it on Fibro forums.

    If I can help further, feel free to ask. I am 61 and my symptoms started when I was 21. I was only formally diagnosed last May. Fortunately you are living in a time when Fibromyalgia and CFS are being acknowledged by the medical profession as a real condition. I endured forty years of being treated as a hypochondriac. It was a relief to finally have my symptoms taken seriously!

    GW

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  • Posted

    I am also 61 and have been ill for about the last 2 years, really bad the last year. I have yet to see a rheumatologist. I take Gabapentin but really it only seems to help with my dizziness. I don't know how you coped for so many years and how awful to be this ill as a young person.

    I am going to try the tea to see if it helps. I found the website. The tea is not cheap though, so better work LOL.

    I understand that 20 minutes is just fine and legal for lunch. Who makes these asinine rules for goodness sake? Must be our government; lovely people not! Apparently the new Head is 'two-faced and a liar' say colleagues, and I have already caught her out in a 'lie'. Do not expect much from this Head therefore. If it becomes unbearable I will go on sick again. I have been a very good and dedicated teacher; I had literally no social life to speak of. So any 'evils' as another colleague put it, and I will be out the door!

    Thanks for the 'tea'; will let you know how it goes.

    xx

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  • Posted

    Remember that you can choose where you go to see the rheumatologist. I looked at the websites of the two I was offered and neither mentioned Fibro. I did some further research and often for a hospital out of my area that did have rheumatologists that specialised in Fibro. I was offered a week as an inpatient where I was given physio, hydro and occupational therapy.

    I tried Gabapantin and it did very little for me. I then read that I was likely to need higher doses as I became accustomed to it and that it might be difficult to come off it. I decided to stop taking it.

    I too was a dedicated teacher and loved my job. I miss it very much but know I can't go back to it as I don't have sufficient energy and can't commit to being reliable.

    I tell myself that at least it isn't life-threatening and it could be something a lot worse. Most of the time it helps.

    GW x

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  • Posted

    Hi there!

    I'm a teacher here in Poland (English for adults and companies) and I'm obsessed with organising and routinising everything, from class preparation to bills and taxes to food shopping and cooking. Since, like you, I don't have much time for lunch, I drink 0.5 veg juice a day. I never skip breakfast, go for a walk 3 times a week at least (other forms of exercise seem too tiring),rest at weekends and avoid social life LOL. I take opiates for pain (not too much as it impairs cognitive skills a bit) and just started acupuncture.

    What I find difficult is the flareups. I never seem to have enough time to recover and need to take time off work to manage fatigue (as a self-employed teacher I'm worried about money when not working regular hours). But I believe the most important thing is positive attitude and sticking to activities that bring you joy and cheer you up (the walks, living with 2 cats, watching silly movies, whatever takes your fancy). Organising and routinising helps but it is soooo boring!

    Gentle hugs,

    Doris

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  • Posted

    Hi Jeannie,

    I am not a teacher but I can share with how I manage to live pretty well with my fibromyalgia and cope decently with its related symptoms.

    I have tried many treatments to manage many of my fibro invisible symptoms and, after a very long exhausting journey of trials and failures, I can say that I have found the best "recipe" that works for me.There is nothing miraculous in this approach and you may read similar advice given by various health professionals but you may be amazed to find out that combining various techniques and mental attitudes could be the key that opens up new avenues to calm down your symptoms and improve your quality of life..

    I don't really know what is more important to begin with but for me a mix of some activities listed below proved to be quite efficient.

    understanding of the pain physiology and what triggers it

    physical exercise ( go for a walk, do gentle exercise, yoga and pilates for beginners),

    pacing ( not pushing myself despite feeling tired, sleepy, and so on ) and

    stress management techniques (guided meditation or mindfulness, body-mind relaxation, practice different breathing exercises- see cirpd on youtube and john kabat zinn ).

    I don't do all of these things in one go, of corse, their choice depends of how I feel and which context suits me better at a certain time. I always try to find the amount and type of activity that makes me feel better and need to listen to and respond kindly to my needs which is not so straightforward! It took me many years and many tours of "shopping therapies" to reach the stage of staying or trying to be positive and in control of my illness ( keep an eye on the new research findings in fibromyalgia, reading other people's stories, listening to various webinars on chronic pain and fibromyalgia- you can find plenty on youtube, listening to my body needs and being kind to myself).

    When I stop searching for any powerful medical treatment to "cure" my condition and I truly accepted its permanent presence in my life, the good and bad days it comes along with, I've finally managed to put together all pieces of advice and information received and learnt over many years but tended to ignore. To my great surprise, I felt more in control and empowered than ever. At this particular stage only, I was ready to accept and include in my personal recipe some medication (20mg of amitriptyline) that helps me to get a more restorative sleep that, in turn, has a positive impact on my fatigue, muscle stiffness and pain. The dose is extremely important (10 mg didn't do any better to me).

    Since then I've started paying more attention to my daily routines, lifestyle, emotions, thoughts, what I eat, and I invest more time in listening to my body carefully and practice my new learnings. However, I still think there is a lot more to learn and PRACTICE.

    Also, you may find helpful to join a support group and try other alternative interventions such as massage and acupuncture although there is not a STRONG evidence of their effectiveness. However, some people with FM have found them very helpful.

    Take care,

    Ana

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  • Posted

    GrannyWeatherwax & doris7 & Ana

    Many thanks for help and ideas.

    GWw: Any chance you could tell me the hospital/rheumatologist you attended/saw? I found out Guys Hospital, in London has an FM department. London is quite a trek for me but will go there if necessary. 'Yours' might be closer perhaps? I'm also not liking the Gabapentin; have noticed 'side effects' like anxiety, ringing in my ears and just a general feeling that 'feels' weird. Need to see a good rheumatologist for sure.

    doris7: Walking; I am trying to get into a routine. Not sure if it will work when back at work, but will give it a shot, even if it's just weekends. It is the fatigue and flare-ups that will get to me. I will probably be given some kind of 'warning' about being off sick again within the next 3 months, yet what can I do if I cannot cope with work? Have to play that one 'by ear', as they say.

    Ana: "understanding of the pain physiology and what triggers it

    physical exercise ( go for a walk, do gentle exercise, yoga and pilates for beginners),

    pacing ( not pushing myself despite feeling tired, sleepy, and so on ) and

    stress management techniques (guided meditation or mindfulness, body-mind relaxation, practice different breathing exercises- see cirpd on youtube and john kabat zinn )."

    Yes to most of this, particularly exercise and 'pacing'. Pacing will be interesting with work, now I know I have FM; before I just thought I was getting 'old' and 'tired' LOL.

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  • Posted

    I went to the Mineral hospital in Bath. In the week I had as an inpatient (coping skills course) some of it was excellent, some not so good. It is designed for people (like me) who want to take control of their condition, rather than those looking for medication. One downside is that you get three half hour sessions a day: occupational therapy, physiotherapy and hydrotherapy. These were great when they were spaced out but often I had hydrotherapy followed by physio with half an hour in between and there wasn't time to get changed and dried and I was so exhausted by the hydro I didn't have sufficient energy for the physio. That said, I took some useful stuff away with me. They believed that medication didn't really help. Possibly one of the tricyclics (nortiptyline/amitryptiline) can help and painkillers. I learnt that pain isn't a symptom of Fibromyalgia, rather it's the disease itself. The reason painkillers never completely get rid of the pain is because in Fibro the brain magnifies it! Something to do with amplified pain signals being sent along the neural pathways.

    The only medication I take for it is the occasional dose of Cocodamol - when the pain is so severe I can't relax anything. I'm in the middle of a flare now and the pain is exhausting. A shower or a bath helps somewhat but mainly it's a question of riding it out and trying to stay positive.

    The fatigue is another thing entirely and sleeping for 5-7 hours a day is not uncommon for me. The one and only thing that seems to be helping is Matcha tea. It was recommended to me by a fellow sufferer and while I didn't expect much I was pleasantly surprised when I went a week without a daytime sleep.

    I thought Ana's post was excellent and agree with everything she wrote. I am currently reading about mindfulness as it fits with my belief that thought plays a huge part in our health. Changing the way we think is extremely hard work but I think it will help tremendously. I know when some years ago I began to think more positively it was life-changing, so learning to live 'in the moment' and increasing awareness must be a good thing too.

    Jeannie, find a hospital that looks good to you. The trek will only be a couple of times and the right treatment could make all the difference. (IMO).

    GW xx

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