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Living with Fibromyalgia

I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia at 16, but I started having extreme leg pain when I was about nine. It usually occurred at night. The only relief I received was when my mom rubbed my legs for hours and from Icy Hot, which I still use to this day. At first, my parents thought it was growing pains, but when the pain worsened as I got older, they knew something else was causing my pain.

At the time, Fibromyalgia wasn’t well-known. It was still in the does-it-even-exist-or-are-people-making-up-their-very-real-pain phase, kind of like MS. (There are still doctors who don’t believe Fibromyalgia is real. Even my own doctor isn’t completely convinced Fibromyalgia is real. He knows that his other patients and I feel pain, but he thinks Fibromyalgia may or may not be the culprit. For now, he treats the symptoms until medical research tells him otherwise. To be honest, I can understand where he’s coming from as long as he helps me with my pain. 😉) After my older sister was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, my mom decided to have me see a rheumatologist, and the rest, as we say, is history.

What is Fibromyalgia?

For those who are unfamiliar with Fibromyalgia, according to WebMD, it “affects the muscles and soft tissue. Symptoms include chronic muscle pain, fatigue, sleep problems, and painful tender points or trigger points, which can be relieved through medications, lifestyle changes and stress management.”

Other symptoms of Fibromyalgia include:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • IBS
  • Insomnia
  • Brain Fog

Throughout the years, different people have asked me what the pain feels like. The only way I can describe it is a cross between the flu and what I imagine having a bunch of nails hammered into my muscles all at once would feel like. Not very fun, eh?

For me, most of the pain happens around my joints. But, it’s not limited to them. The pain started in my legs, but I also feel pain in my neck, shoulders, back, and hips. Occasionally, I’ll feel pain in my arms and hands too.

There’s no rhyme or reason to Fibromyalgia; although stress, diet, and lifestyle does play a role. It’s no wonder that Fibromyalgia, depression, and anxiety often go hand in hand. Anyway, sometimes I’ll go months without an episode. I once went five or so years without an attack. It was wonderful! Currently, pain is my constant companion. I’m suffering daily attacks, which makes life a little bit difficult right now.

What Helps Me?

Over the years, I’ve found things that help me when I’m dealing with an attack. Icy Hot, Ibuprofen, and Tramadol are my go to’s as they help me the most. However, I do rely on other things too, which include:

  • Rubbing the affected area
  • Hot baths
  • Heating pads
  • Destressing
    • Reading
    • Blogging
    • Playing the piano when my back and hands allow me to
    • Watching TV and movies
    • Diffusing essential oils
  • Resting (naps)
  • Light exercise (mostly walking)
  • Diet (low sugar/carbs works best for me)

The best thing I can do, though, is take time for me, which means sometimes I have to say no to things and others. It’s hard because I want to do all the things, but I have to remember I can’t do all the things. If I ever have to say no to you, please don’t take offense. More than likely, it’s because I need to destress and take care of myself.

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A Life-Changing Decision

If you’ve been a blog reader for a while, you may have noticed some changes. If not, that’s okay. I’m about to tell you about them anyway. 😂

I recently read FURIOUSLY HAPPY by Jenny Lawson* and it was kind of life-changing for a couple of reasons.

I realized more profoundly than ever before that I’m not alone as I deal with my mental illnesses and chronic pain and there are others, like Jenny and me, who need constant love and support.

I read FURIOUSLY HAPPY on my Kindle and I’m glad I did because I highlighted passages that spoke to me, which isn’t something I normally do (not even with my Kindle). This passage spoke to me the most:

“And when we see celebrities who fall victim to depression’s lies we think to ourselves, ‘How in the world could they have killed themselves? They had everything.’ But they didn’t. They didn’t have a cure for an illness that convinced them they were better off dead. Whenever I start to doubt if I’m worth the eternal trouble of medication and therapy, I remember those people who let the fog win. And I push myself to stay healthy. I remind myself that I’m not fighting against me … I’m fighting against a chemical imbalance … a tangible thing. I remind myself of the cunning untrustworthiness of the brain, both in the mentally ill and in the mentally stable. I remind myself that professional mountain climbers are often found naked and frozen to death, with their clothes folded neatly nearby because severe hypothermia can make a person feel confused and hot and convince you to do incredibly irrational things we’d never expect. Brains are like toddlers. They are wonderful and should be treasured, but that doesn’t mean you should trust them to take care of you in an avalanche or process serotonin effectively.”

Depression and other mental illnesses are hard to live with. Even now that I’m in a really good space, I’m afraid I won’t be in the future. It’s a constant fear; a worry I needn’t have but I do because there is no cure. I can only treat the symptoms for a while.

I thought that if I documented my day-to-day struggles not only would I selfishly help myself, but maybe I can help others that struggle with mental illness and chronic pain too.

I laughed so much while I read FURIOUSLY HAPPY. So much. This is huge! I don’t laugh when I read. Authors might as well be telling their jokes to a robot for all the good it will do. I usually don’t or won’t get their humor.

Why was laughing while reading FURIOUSLY HAPPY life-changing? I’m an Aspy, you see. An Aspy is someone with Asperger’s Syndrome. Or, if you’re in the United States like I am and want to be “technically correct, the best kind of correct” (ten points if you know that reference) and realize Asperger’s Syndrome is no longer a “diagnosis,” then you’ll know I’m on the Autism Spectrum.

Being on the Autism Spectrum is new for me. Well, being on the spectrum isn’t new, but recognizing that I’m on the spectrum is new and it matters quite a bit. My mannerisms, my reactions, my focuses, even how my mind deals with my mental illnesses and chronic pain is affected by ASD.

(PS, does this mean that everyone with ASD doesn’t laugh while reading? No. It just means that’s my experience and that’s why reading FURIOUSLY HAPPY changed me.)

What does this mean for my blog? It means I’m not going to be focusing on books anymore. I’m still going to be reading, of course. I may even post a review here and there. But, I’m shifting my focus to more personal posts and life in general. I’ll focus on my journey to get healthy and what it’s like living with the myriad of health issues I have.

🥂 Here’s to the beginning of a new journey!

*I need to add that FURIOUSLY HAPPY is not for everyone. There’s quite a bit of profanity and the humor is often quite crude. However, if you’re not easily offended and you or someone you know suffers from any kind of mental illness, I highly recommend reading this book. It’s funny, heartfelt, honest, and very insightful. I’m glad I read it and I’ll read more from Jenny Lawson as I feel like she and I are kindred spirits.