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Chronic Illness? Early Symptom Management Is Important

“And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”J. K. Rowling

In 2002 after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia I spent a month at the Fibromyalgia Day Program at St. Joseph’s Hospital in London Ontario.

One month later I returned home provided with information that I could use to manage my chronic illness. At least that was the plan.

But I chose NOT to do anything. Instead I settled into a life of complacency and self pity. Soon my symptoms spiraled out of control. Mental cloudiness, fatigue and pain became unmanageable. This became my turning point. Time to act!

The plan

Manage symptoms

Mental Cloudiness

Mental cloudiness put my safety at risk. My balance was impaired and my reflexes were sluggish. I’d had several falls. Overall my brain felt “foggy”. I was taking several prescription medications and thought it was time for a review. So I booked an appointment with my psychiatrist and we worked together to come up with a medication plan that worked for me.

Then I began keeping a daily activity and symptom journal.


Fatigue affected most of my activities of daily living. I was tired all the time and I had so little energy that I didn’t enjoy life. I felt guilty and I was sad.

I contacted the local home care agency and arranged for an Occupational Therapy assessment. She recommended a few things that would make my life easier and safer.

We discussed energy saving tips for work in the kitchen. She suggested sitting on a chair instead of standing. Frequent breaks were also important and use of a timer was an option. I also used these pacing techniques for other tasks.

I bought a bread maker and a slow cooker. The quality of our meals improved. And nothing smells better than freshly baked bread! My kids loved it.

For a short time I accessed the use of a local home support service that included volunteer drivers and housekeeping services. It was difficult accepting help, but knowing that I wasn’t as stressed about home management made it worthwhile.

Then I started to get active. I began slowly doing muscle stretches, strengthening and cardiovascular exercises. My inactive muscles had gotten tight and out of shape. I started to notice an improvement in my mobility and balance.

Finally I applied for a disability parking permit to make errands and travel easier. I didn’t use the permit when having a good day, but I was grateful to have it when not feeling well.

All of these strategies made me feel more energized. I was able to do more with my family. For the first time in a few years I felt hopeful. Getting out of bed, dressed and back into the world was a wonderful thing.


Next steps were to address pain management issues. I was now in the frame of mind to tackle these.


It’s been 16 years. I still do most of these things to manage fatigue. I’ve also implemented some new strategies. To live a healthy life you need to self manage every day.


As part of your plan, make yourself a priority. Do something for yourself every day such as spending time outdoors or reading a book. Keep a gratitude journal. Or call a friend. You are worth it!


When did you know it was time to take action and start to manage your symptoms?










Chronic Illness? Early Symptom Management Is Important

Sharen Skelly

Sharen Skelly is a retired Registered Nurse from Ontario, Canada. She has a diploma in Nursing from Algonquin College and a Certificate in Community Nursing from Sir Sandford Fleming College. Despite diagnoses of fibromyalgia, trigeminal neuralgia, rheumatoid arthritis and depression, Sharen lives a productive life. She is a host and community producer at Rogers TV, Grey County and a freelance writer. In addition, she is a peer leader/community health educator with the South West Ontario Local Health Integration Network, Self-Management Program for people with chronic conditions/chronic pain developed by Stanford University. A single mother of 2 grown children, what Sharen likes to do most is spend time with her family and friends. Follow Sharen on Psych Central at Chronic Illness Conversations.

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APA Reference
Skelly, S. (2018). Chronic Illness? Early Symptom Management Is Important. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 17, 2018, from


Last updated: 18 Jun 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 18 Jun 2018
Published on All rights reserved.