The Trouble With Routine and Fibromyalgia

I have tried, innumerable times over my life, to establish a routine within my life. To say that “on this day I do this and this, on that day I do that and that, and at this time I do this thing”.

It has never worked. I manage the routine for a week, maybe two, but then I inevitably crash and burn and the routine is gone and I go right back to feeling like this is one of my biggest failings, that the problem is all to do with me and how I approach the world.

It took a dear friend pointing out that I am not reliable because my health is not reliable for me to realise that maybe some of the blame isn’t on me, but rather on my illness. So I looked into it a bit more, experimented a bit (okay none of this is truly scientific, but it still worked for my purposes!), and came to the conclusion that while yes, some of my inability to maintain routine does come from my mentality, a lot more of it stems from my sometimes catastrophic flare ups during the initial part of establishing the routine.

I tried to establish a routine where, once I have had my breakfast, I use a daily mantra app to find a mantra that resonates me that day and write it down in my 2021 diary. It worked for almost 2 weeks until one morning I could barely keep my eyes open to finish my breakfast and slipped into a fatigue haze that lasted 5 days. It was such a simple little routine – manhandle the phone, pick up a pen, and write a pithy sentence in glittery ink – and yet once that fatigue hit, even thinking about picking up my diary and a pen was exhausting.

It is said that it takes 21 days to establish a routine, and a further 90 days to establish a lifestyle change. Well what happens if, on day 13, you become so fatigued you can barely browse Pinterest? What if you’re like this for three to four days before slowly climbing back out of a haze of fatigue, to come back to full functioning a week later? Well that routine you were trying to establish is gone, and with the failure, it feels pointless to re-attempt it. It’s even harder to gain the motivation to re-attempt the routine when all of your energy is put into recovering, and you cannot gather the spoons to spend on the willpower needed to begin again.

That’s routines and fibromyalgia. Because willpower costs energy, and when you’re low on energy, you’re also low on willpower. You’re also riding the low of failing, yet again, to establish a routine. This combines into a perfect storm of nope which, in my case at least, has effectively prevented me from getting any kind of routine past ‘get up, feed animals, feed and caffeinate self, go back to sleep on the couch’ in the mornings.

It’s going to take me a very long time before I can comfortably and reliably ‘give myself a break’ for not managing routines, for ‘falling off the bandwagon’ as it were (not with alcohol, fortunately, but definitely with sloth). It will likely take me even longer to figure out how to come back from that heavy fatigue and begin to re-establish the routine again.

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