Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. My blog and the Fibromyalgia Fridays segment is simply a documentation of my life. My views expressed here are my personal opinion and should not be taken as medical advice. The topics I discuss in this blog are methods that have been helpful for my own struggle with fibromyalgia. Please speak with a medical professional before making any changes to your daily routine.
I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia since 2007– writing that down seems shocking. I have had this chronic pain for 6 years.
Some sources such as WebMD, link the onset of fibromyalgia to hormonal disturbances, chemical imbalances, stress, illness, or trauma. When looking back on my own diagnosis, I see a strong link to stress and the onset.
You see– a year before my diagnosis several tragic and high stress events occurred. I experienced death of a fellow classmate in a four-wheeling accident, my brother was hospitalized for a month after a motocross accident, and my father underwent surgery after a heart attack. This all happened in the months spanning from September 2006 to January 2007.
Don’t get me wrong– there are people who have had it much worse. In the midst of this struggle, my family had a lot to be thankful for, my brother and father survived. Our family remained intact, and in many ways grew stronger.
I spent many nights at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital (OLOL) and witnessed the hardships of recovery first hand. Reflecting back, I was very observant of how individuals dealt with stress. My mother became very much so our rock, stability in our current situation. We were exposed to a different side of my father as well– a more emotional side, which clearly reflected his love and loyalty to his children. Finally, my sister some what distanced herself from the pain until she was ready to open up.
As for myself, I really thought I was handling things just fine. Now that I look back almost 7 years later, I see how I just threw myself into other things– work, academics, etc. Anything really to get my mind off the current happenings. Really, it was a matter of being strong for my family. I remember crying briefly when my father called to say that Adam was being airlifted to OLOL, and again, when they said my father had a heart attack. After that one short emotional break down, it was time to survive it. I was the healthy one; I had to be the strong one.
Of course, this happened at a time when I needed someone to talk to the most. The stress continued to build. Almost a year later, as my family began to see the light– Adam was walking again, Dad was recovering–, my pain began. When it first started, I feel like I was in bed for two weeks straight. Sharp pains were present in my lower back, my wrists and ankles ached, and my left leg went numb from time to time.
Doctors. Then it was doctor after doctor, test after test–MRI’s, nerve scans, etc.– and nothing. The “we are not sure” and endless referrals were frustrating. At times, I know I even questioned whether the pain was real and not just only in my head. Six months later, I was told that even though I do not have all the pressure points, my diagnosis was fibromyalgia.My doctor told me there were several steps for my pain management– healthy diet, enough sleep, exercise, stress management, and medication for inflammation and pain.
Now maybe it was the 16-year-old kid mentality, but I was furious. In my mind, I was in pain for months to only be given a less than definitive diagnosis when all other tests returned negative. My anger was misplaced– the doctors were doing all that they could. However, telling me here is a few pills and “do not stress” was not exactly what I wanted to hear. Chronic pain is miserable, and it does not bring out one’s best qualities.
My anger was really feeding my pain, and besides pain medication. I did not do much else to management my fibromyalgia. At some point, I transitioned from pain medication to Cymbalta and took that every day for several years. It was miserable– if I forgot to take it one day, I experienced nausea and severe headaches. I felt like those side effects were worse than the fibromyalgia at times and decided to stop the medication a year or so into college.
No medication is a scary thought for someone with chronic pain. Honestly, I feared the next time my fibromyalgia would act up. I wish I could say that I had some epiphany that changed my ways and I saw the light, but that is not the case— a lot of trial and error was involved. I also did a lot of research and for a college paper, I spent several hours of participant observation at a clinic that specialized in fibromyalgia treatment. It was here I learned about truly listening to my body and that fibromyalgia, although its working are little known, does not have to hold me back.
With an adaptation of a healthy lifestyle, I have finally found my fibromyalgia management. I still hurt, and my joints still ache– in my opinion, too much for a 21-year-old– but I am understanding my diagnosis better. This trial and error has also given me an understanding to my fibromyalgia’s onset– stress. However, I also believe that everyone is different, and the path to healing begins with understanding your struggles beginning.