Discussing Chronic Pain With Others: Life Now and When I Was Diagnosed

Karen Lee Richards Health Guide
  • 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.

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    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.  


Published On: April 07, 2008