Crashes and Flares: Signs and triggers

It’s been a while since I’ve done a post, either here or over at LiveKen, and I’ve decided it’s time I get myself back on track. So I have to consider what causes my crashes and flares!

Why haven’t I been posting?

I just haven’t had the energy or the time to do it.

Over the last few months, I’ve slowly increased the amount of paid work I’m doing from nothing, to aiming for at least 8 hours a week. This is a big deal for me as I haven’t been able to work at all for over 2 years now!

This has been great for my self esteem, but it’s had a major impact on my ability to pace and the routines I had set up for myself to cope with these illnesses. In fact, I feel like I’m starting from scratch again in setting myself a routine that works.

For at least the last 2 weeks I’ve had almost no energy and a very high level of brain fog. Thankfully, my pain is remaining fairly constant although slightly higher than what I had managed to get it stable at. I would say that at this point I’m about at the same point in my health journey as I was 12 months ago. In that time I’ve had a major crash (around Christmas last year) and have slowly built myself back up. I have no idea why I crashed then and I am worried about the same thing happening again this year. The whole thing has me thinking about what causes these crashes.

Signs I’m overdoing it – Crashes and Flares eminent!

Last night, as I lay in bed struggling to sleep due to pain and extreme fatigue (contradictory I know), I spent a lot of time thinking about how I can tell when I’ve done too much. The key signs I’ve identified are:

  • Increase in fatigue. When I have done too much I fall back into needing to sleep during the day, something which I haven’t had to do regularly for months. I end up sleeping most the morning or falling asleep on the couch in the afternoon.
  • Increased brain fog. My ability to focus, find the right words, and actually contribute to normal life goes out the window if I’ve done to much. This is usually one of the first signs and usually my husband picks it up before I do because of the brain fog.
  • Sore throat and headaches. When I overdo it my throat feels like it’s burning and very dry. My headaches (which I get daily anyway) increase to a point that I literally can’t do anything. It generally goes from a constant tightness and ache to sharp stabbing pains and throbbing.
  • Inability to sleep. Even though I become even more fatigued, my ability to sleep at night goes out the window when I’ve done too much. This is what happened to me last night. Unfortunately, lack of sleep can increase my symptoms so it becomes a vicious circle unless I somehow manage to get more sleep.
  • Increased pain. Thankfully, this seems to happen less often now days but overdoing it can cause an extreme flare up of my pain levels.

Potential Triggers

Flares and crashes lead to a lot of the symptoms above but they don’t always occur from overdoing it. As I stated above, I had a major crash just before Christmas last year (from which I’m still recovering) which doesn’t seem to be related to overdoing it. Here are the triggers I’ve noticed seem to affect me:

  • Too many steps. If I don’t maintain my step count I notice an increase in symptoms. I’m working to very slowly increase my step count. Before Christmas I was up to 7,000 steps average a day. Right now my upper limit (avoiding crashes and flares) is 5,000 steps and on bad crash days I aim for at least 3,000. This is something I’ve built up to slowly from 1,500 steps at Christmas. I’m aiming to get back to 7,000 steps average over the next few months.
  • Sensory overload. Attending events where there are lots of people, bright lights or lots of noise tend to cause an almost immediate increase in brain fog.
  • Weather changes. Hot weather seems to increase fatigue and brain fog and cold weather seems to increase pain levels.

I’m sure there are many others, but there the ones my brain is letting me come up with right now…

What are your signs and triggers?