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It's Fibromyalgia Awareness Day

Approximately 13 years ago I was talking on the phone with my doctor about some long-term pain I’d been experiencing. At the time it was just my arms that ached inexplicably. In trying to come up with a way to explain it, I told him, it’s kind of like how when you work-out after you haven’t exercised in a while, or when you try a new workout routine that focuses on a different muscle set than you’re used to, and then those targeted muscles ache for a couple of days. Only in my case I hadn’t started a new exercise routine and the pain had been problematic for several weeks. His response, “Oh, no! I hope you don’t have Fibromyalgia!” (facepalm) Okay, so clearly he wasn’t the best when it came to his bedside manner.

During the weeks that followed, I went through testing to rule out things like thyroid problems, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and a myriad of other neurological disorders, rheumatic diseases, and mental health issues before a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia could be established. Over the years since that diagnosis, I’ve become intimately acquainted with many of the other side-symptoms that go along with this painful condition. Chemical sensitivity is one of the most frustrating. It’s very difficult to find a medication to treat my symptoms because I’ve had unpleasant and sometimes even severe reactions to new medicines. Headaches, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, depression, trembling, muscle twitching and cramps, itching and burning of the skin, noise, light, and smell sensitivity, and memory problems – pleasantly dubbed “fibro fog” – are just a handful of the more mild side-symptoms associated with Fibromyalgia.

Finally assigning a name to my pain was at least a beginning in facing the future. I remember telling my children, who were much smaller then, that I was “delicate” so they would learn not to poke at my arm when they wanted my attention. (It’s amazing how much a 6-year-old’s finger-poke would radiate pain through my whole arm.) Over the years, I’ve learned walking is the best, low-impact way to exercise that won’t induce major flare-ups. In addition, I know that anytime I need to do major housework, like cleaning the showers or scrubbing the floors, or even vacuuming more than one room, I can fully expect a day or more of increased pain levels. As a result, I have a housekeeper who comes once a month to help with those flare-up-inducing chores. (Thank you, Amy! You’re the best!)

I don’t often talk about my Fibromyalgia. It’s something I’ve adjusted to and learned to live with. But I bring it up for today’s blog post because it is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. Believe it or not there are still some physicians who don’t think Fibromyalgia is a real condition. The first Rheumatologist I was referred to for treatment was one such doctor. She would not-so-gently push on my tender-points, and while they were, indeed, very tender, she felt it more important to inject me with Vitamin B-12 shots and have me take vitamin D supplements. Even though my pain-level never changed as a result of her remedies, she continued in the same course of treatment. Eventually I found a new physician who recognized Fibromyalgia for what it was and sought more accurate methods to help me function. 

Thankfully, I've been able to live a mostly normal life. Occasionally I will have to modify my routine, but I know my limits and try to live within them to reduce out-of-commission days. Living with this illness can be frustrating. If you know someone who claims they have Fibromyalgia, be understanding and patient with them. It's not just an excuse. 

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