Sideview mirror showing road behind with text overlay: Looking Back to Move Forward with Fibromyalgia

Looking Back to Move Forward with Fibromyalgia

I stood in the middle of my office feeling completely overwhelmed again. As I mentioned in my post Just Do One Thing, I’m completely re-doing my office. The closer I get to being finished the harder it gets. Now I’m dealing with all those things that I don’t really want to get rid of, but don’t have a place for anymore.

As I stood there looking disgusted my husband came in and asked what was wrong. As I explained how overwhelmed I was, he reminded me of how much progress I had already made. “In our 20-plus years of marriage” he said, “I’ve noticed something about you. You tend to only look at the present and future, and you don’t look at what’s behind you.”

He was reminding me of how far I had come in my office, but then he said, “You do that with how you’re doing with your Fibromyalgia too. You always forget the end of 2012.”

He’s absolutely right. I do tend to live in the present and future. It’s served me well in many ways. I tend to look at ways to make life better now, and I don’t spend a lot of time mourning the “old me.” I have struggled with my ‘new normal’ – more than I like to admit sometimes – but I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about ‘the good ole days.’

Living in the present and looking forward to the future can be helpful, but sometimes it can be just as helpful to look back.

As I said in my post Lessons from the Grandpa Tree and Measuring Progress with Fibromyalgia, progress is not linear. Because flares and co-morbid conditions can make us better or worse from one day to the next, it’s often hard to feel as if we’ve made any progress at all. In fact, sometimes we may even feel we’ve taken some steps backward.

Looking back at where we’ve been can give us a more objective look at how we’re really doing.

We don’t have to rely on our feelings; we can see the actual markers that show where we are today in comparison to where we were at an earlier time.

For example, when I look back at 2012, what I remember most is that I went from being a strong, active person to someone who was practically bedridden. When I compare my day-to-day life now with how I was living then, it’s easy to see how far I’ve come. I just can’t always feel that in the moment.

Looking back can also help us see our way forward.

When we look back, especially if we’ve documented our journey, we can use the information we’ve gained so far to help us know how to move forward. As we look at our records, we can ask ourselves

  • What worked?
  • What didn’t work?
  • Is there anything that seemed to be helping but I stopped? (You know, those things we start, but fail to make a habit, and eventually they fall by the wayside.)
  • Is there anything I didn’t try that might be worth looking into?

We definitely don’t want to spend a lot of our time looking backward. The past is gone, and we can’t change it. We also don’t want to spend so much time mourning our ‘other life’ – our ‘pre-illness life’ – that we can’t enjoy the present.

That doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from it though. We can be encouraged when we look back and see where we’ve made progress, whether it’s physical progress, a change in attitude, or learning acceptance, etc., and we can use the lessons of the past to help us live full lives regardless of our circumstances.

Do you ever look at the past to gauge progress or plan your next steps in your self-care plan? Please share!



rearview mirror with view of road behind with text overlay: Looking Back to Move Forward with Fibromyalgia

rearview mirror with view of road behind with text overlay: Looking Back to Move Forward with Fibromyalgia


    1. Thank you so much Wendi! I appreciate your kind words. Hope you’re doing well. Blessings to you!

  1. It may sound funny, but the way I look at life in general is the same way that I drive. You need to pay the most attention to what is currently happening, occasionally glancing in your rear view (past) mirror. There is a reason that the windshield (what is happening and whats ahead) is the largest window in the car. But you always have to look out the side windows and mirrors or you will miss the forest for the trees. Does that make any sense?

    1. I love it Grace! That’s a great way to look at things – focus mostly on what’s at hand, but keep an eye out for lessons the past may have for us. Hope you’re doing well sweet friend! Hugs!

  2. I’m not sure what works. I know what doesn’t work: pushing myself to do more physical or mental work than I can handle. Also, an inordinate amount of stress or frustration. When I’m having a relatively good day, though, it’s difficult to not cross that invisible line between doing just the right amount of an activity and doing too much. Even after being sick for 32 years, my brain still thinks I can do what I did in my old life. It constantly makes plans for me to do more than I can handle. I try to live in the moment and appreciate the good days.

    1. Thanks for sharing Janet! I think sometimes knowing what DOESN’T work is as important as knowing what DOES, especially when we live with chronic illness. I know what you mean about crossing that fine line of doing enough/too much. My brain forgets I have those limitations sometimes too, and then my body reminds me. Blessings to you!

  3. I am similar Terri, though every now & then I do get hoodwinked by the ol’ energized Jennifer 😉

    Keeping perspective in my new norm & being very grateful for what I can do rather then focusing on what I can’t works for me…

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Jennifer! I love what you said about keeping perspective and focusing on what you CAN do rather than what you can’t. Blessings to you!

  4. I’m a reflective learner and enjoy pondering on the past Terri. I’m grateful that after a few years of battling with fm/fatigue, I managed to alter my perspective and make improvements but there are numerous times I forget those early years and need to remind myself to practice gratitude. Some days gratitude just doesn’t cut it and then it’s time to practice acceptance, remembering it’s ok not to feel ok and reminding ourselves that this too shall pass! Great post and photo!

    1. Thanks so much Marie! Like you, I really had to alter my perspective in order to move forward. I had to stop fighting myself all the time and learn to live with my ‘new normal.’ I love what you said about reminding yourself to practice gratitude and acceptance. It’s hard to feel grateful sometimes when I’m in the middle of a flare, but when I think back to that first year, it helps me realize I have a lot to be grateful for. Hope you’re doing well sweet friend. Blessings to you!

      1. As they say, making the best of a bad lot but realising there is so much to be thankful for! All the better thanks to your wise posts and lovely friendship. X

      2. You are far too kind, my dear friend! The friends I’ve made here are the thing I love most about blogging. Sending hugs your way!

  5. Hi Terri, I do look at the past sometimes especially the posts I write. I will look at this time next year to see if I was feeling like I am now, but we have to look forward as flares can come at any time. Take care x

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Bar! It’s interesting that you mention the posts you write – that’s one place that I’m able to see my progress with how I’m feeling, because when I look back, it seems I had a lot more not-so-great days 2 years ago than I do now…. You’re so right that flares can come at any time, sometimes out of the middle of nowhere. Sometimes progress isn’t measured in how we feel physically, but how we’re able to deal with these flares and move on. Blessings to you sweet friend!

  6. This is a great read Terri. It is so true, I often associate looking back with comparing my life to what it was before Fibromyalgia. This is not helpful so I try not to do it. However, comparing now to the worst of times can only be a good thing. I hope your office comes together just how you want it to. Sentimental items are the hardest to deal with, even the most organised person can become a hoarder at this point. Good luck making the right decisions for everything. x

    1. Thanks so much Susan! Like you, I find looking back at life before Fibro unproductive, so I try not to do that. It’s been really helpful for me to look back at that first year when I start feeling I may not be making as much progress as I’d like because I realize that even though I may not be where I want to be, I’ve come a long way from where I was. You’re so right about the sentimental things being the hardest to deal with. The things I’m having the hardest time with are things that, most likely, anyone else wouldn’t see value in. Their value lies in the memories they bring back. Thanks for the good wishes! Blessings to you!

  7. I tend to not look back at all. I would need to work on this. I can’t seem to look back without picking on the bad choices or bad events. Yes, I’ve come far and I recognize that. However, I don’t have any room for thoughts of yesteryear when there’s so much NOW and future coming 😊

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Holly! I think you’re smart to know yourself well enough to know it’s not healthy for you to look back at this point. Sometimes we have to keep our feet firmly planted in the here and now in order to thrive. Blessings to you sweet friend!

  8. Absolutely right, Terri. There’s a lot of emphasis in living ‘in the present’, to the point that looking back can be classed quite negatively, like we simply shouldn’t do it. But it can be helpful, and I think it’s also important if you’re trying to move forward or work towards acceptance, to be able to deal with all of those thoughts, feelings and emotions from your past. I know I’m long overdue in trying to do a little review and get a ‘bigger picture’ view of where I’m at. Your tips – gauging how far you’ve come and seeing what worked/didn’t work and what other avenues could be explored as a result – are all incredibly useful. Sometimes we need to give ourselves a break and celebrate the positive changes, the things we’ve learned and the ways in which we’ve grown as a result.
    You’ve got a smart hubby there, he’s a keeper! 😉
    Wishing you all the best with the study renovation, too!
    Caz xx

    1. Thanks so much Caz! You make a great point about the emphasis on not looking back, but there’s an old saying that says something like, “those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it” and I think we can use our past to inform our present and future. That doesn’t mean we need to live there, and of course, if we know it might cause us to get “stuck” we should just stay in the present or look toward the future during that particular season of our life. I agree with you about my hubby – I think I’ll keep him around! 😊 Thanks for the good wishes for my office too – I’m finally closing in on the finish line. Yippee! Hugs!

  9. I could relate to what you are saying here so much that I felt I had to comment. I often feel the same way and forget to look at how far I have come. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing Suzanne! Sometimes it’s hard to remember how far we’ve come, especially when we’re flaring or so exhausted we can barely move. That reminder of where I started helps me know what’s going on is temporary (at least at that level) and that I can continue to move forward. Blessings to you sweet friend!

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