Over the years, I felt like something was off. Something with my body was not quite right and I couldn’t place it. As the years went on, it grew worse. After I had my second son, the symptoms seemed to be more intense, even hitting all at once. I was tired all the time. I could no longer exercise or run because it would leave me in so much pain and incredibly exhausted. My memory seemed to be slipping. My depression grew worse.
I tried diets, more exercise, less exercise, vitamins, and essential oils. Nothing I tried worked, and I was beginning to feel as if it was all in my head. It was a little over a year ago when I finally went to my doctor and admitted something was wrong. She set me up with a rheumatology appointment. They ran all kinds of tests–blood tests, motion tests, etc. The doctor did a pressure point test, and I had pain in most of the places where he pushed. The blood work came back clean, which left the doctor with a single diagnosis: fibromyalgia.
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a musculoskeletal disorder that causes widespread pain and discomfort. It can also cause a multitude of other symptoms such as sensitivity to cold, fatigue, anxiety, depression, forgetfulness, headaches, irritability, and joint stiffness, among other things. It looks different from person to person. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with it than men. It affects about 5% of the world population. It is chronic, and there is no cure for it.
Following my diagnosis, I have been on a mission to learn about my condition and to bring awareness to it, as I have found that there are a lot of misconceptions about it. Since May is Fibromyalgia Awareness Month, here are few I want to chat about:
“People with Fibro are just lazy.”
Believe me when I say that I wish I could be as active as I once was. I loved running, and now it’s something that I had to put on the back burner. Why? Because an attempt to run can send me into a full-blown flare of this condition and cause me to have extreme amounts of pain for days. I have to very careful about my physical activity or else I will regret it for days, weeks, or even a few months. I do still exercise, but it’s exercise that it very gentle on my body. It’s taken me quite a while to learn that I have limits and that when my body is telling me to rest, I need to rest. When I am resting, it’s because I must for my mental and physical health, not because I want to be stuck on a couch all day.
“The pain isn’t really that bad, you are just exaggerating.”
Oh, but it is. I’m just very good at hiding it. Why do I hide it? Because it tends to make people uncomfortable when you discuss pain, or they simply think you are a baby who can’t handle a little pain and it couldn’t possibly be that bad. My fibro pain loves to manifest as spots on my body where it literally feels like my nerves are on fire. It also is deep in my joints and muscles and will radiate everywhere. Sometimes a hug can feel like a punch.
“Well, it’s not like it’s a life-threatening disease. It can’t be all that bad.”
While it’s not a direct cause of death, fibro affects your physical and mental well-being. People with fibro are often found to have co-morbid conditions that can greatly affect their health. Many with fibro will eventually find themselves dealing with diabetes or heart disease. One of the biggest tolls that this condition takes is on one’s mental health. The constant pain and fatigue can be so hard to deal with. Fibromyalgia puts one at a greater risk for depression and suicide due to this.
Having fibromyalgia has definitely changed the way that I view the world. After all, I must move through it a bit slower than I used to. It has also made me more patient, kinder, and humble. It’s also taught me to stand up for myself more, and to advocate for my health. There is more and more research being done on this disease, so I hold hope that one day there will be a treatment that can cure this condition. But until that day, I will continue to bring awareness to it and educate those around me.