Discussing Chronic Pain With Others: Life Now and When I Was Diagnosed
A couple of days ago I received a call from a massage therapy student who had one final assignment to complete before her graduation at the end of the month. The assignment involved interviewing someone with fibromyalgia. As I answered her questions about types of pain, energy levels, how FM has changed my life, etc., I found myself giving her two-part answers. First I would tell her how I am doing now; then I would describe what it was like for many years prior. The longer we talked, the more I realized how much my life has changed.
I generally find that I pay attention to what is currently bothering me and tend to forget what is no longer a problem. That’s perfectly normal. But it can be both valuable and encouraging to occasionally look back and take stock of what has improved and/or what has gotten worse. If you’ll bear with me using my own experience as an example, I’ll explain.
I first got sick a little more than 18 years ago. For the first 10 years, I gradually and progressively got worse. As I related my story to my interviewer, I found I was still able to vividly recall waking up each morning, feeling drained of energy before the day even began. I remember lying in bed trying to decide if the pain of lying there was worse than the pain of getting up. Every day I woke up feeling like I couldn’t possibly go to work, but somehow managed to force myself to get dressed and go anyway. I had no choice; I had to support myself. I drove home each evening, fighting back tears and wondering if I could make it inside my apartment before I collapsed. My weekends were spent in bed, trying to recover enough strength to face another week. I had no reserve energy for hobbies or a social life. During that period of time, my life was just about survival.
Finally, one day about eight or nine years ago, I decided I couldn’t live the rest of my life that way. I re-evaluated my priorities and made a commitment to take charge of my healthcare and my life. Things didn’t change overnight, but looking back I can see that was the turning point. From that day until now, I’ve made slow, steady progress – both in my health and in my life. I began to find treatments that gave me some improvement. No single treatment was the answer, but one by one, I eventually found ways to lessen the pain and ease the severity of my symptoms.
No, I don’t have my “old” life back. But a combination of medication, alternative treatments and lifestyle adaptations has given me the ability to support myself and enjoy my life and my family. I may still have fibromyalgia, but fibromyalgia no longer has me.
Why have I taken you with me on this stroll down memory lane? I’m hoping to offer you some encouragement. Ten years ago I thought I faced a bleak and painful life ahead. And even when I began to see some improvement, it often seemed frustratingly slow. Thankfully, time has given me a new perspective. There is hope for improvement – and it’s worth both the work and the wait.