The drugs don’t work…

Yesterday was Fibromyalgia Awareness Day and I think my body knew it. My back is certainly making me very aware that fibro hurts. So much so that I couldn’t even finish this in time to mark the day. If I’m forced to know about fibromyalgia all the live long day, then I’m afraid you’re going to have to find out about it today.

Fibromyalgia difficult to manage. It’s unpredictable. You can hurt everywhere or the pain can focus on a new spot everyday. One day you might be too fatigued to get dressed. The next everything you eat sends your guts into a temper. It can have an effect on cognitive abilities, make your skin burn, muscles ache & head throb. Sometimes all the at the same time.

There’s no cure. Sufferers often experience constant pain. Treatment usually includes a combination of pain relief medication and non pharmaceutical interventions (massage, tens, specific exercises). Many also receive therapy aimed at helping accept chronic pain because treatment rarely results in the eradication of symptoms. Living with fibromyalgia means always feeling some version of unwell.

Whilst you can’t make any of us better, you can help. There are easy peasy ways to not make our lives harder.

Ditch ‘Get Well Soon’

Fibro is a chronic, incurable illness. We are never getting better. It may be well intended and seem like a little slip, but it’s exhausting. Luckily it’s simple to fix. You can express both your well wishes & your understanding of the situation with these words, I hope you have a better day soon.

Don’t offer magic cures.

Struggling with an illness that impacts every aspect of your life motivates you to get informed. Fibro folk don’t need your unsolicited advice. We definitely don’t need to hear about the same magic cures over & over. We’ve researched whatever diy fix you heard about in instagram. We try credible therapies available to us. We’ve considered our diets & yoga & cbd. We really don’t need to hear about how your cousin’s flatmate changed their life with turmeric. It’s patronising on so many levels. Stop it.

Invisible isn’t imaginary.

Fibromyalgia can be an invisible illness. It doesn’t necessarily leave any physical sign of its presence. That doesn’t mean it isn’t real. If you don’t know what fibro is, 10 minutes on google will be illuminating. No one is required to answer your intrusive questions. Medical records are private for a reason. If you don’t understand the condition, don’t worry about it. Extremely well trained medical professionals do. As a person with fibromyalgia it is not our job to convince you of the severity of the illness. It requires zero effort to mind your own business.

Don’t judge my good days.

Fibromyalgia is erratic. I never know how I will feel when I wake up. Sometimes I can go from reasonably ok to excruciating pain in the space of an hour. I try to plan around fibro, but nothing is ever set in stone. I can spread out appointments. Schedule rest days. Make a timetable for essential tasks, but my body doesn’t care. It will throw a painful spanner in the works whenever it pleases. The fact that I could do X yesterday is no guarantee that I will be able to today. An outing that I managed last week could easily leave me unable to function for days another time. I want to live as full a life as possible. So, on good days I attempt to get things done. The fear of being judged solely on those days is horrible. I’m not faking symptoms to avoid things I don’t want to do. I’m not lying when I cancel plans. In fact, the opposite is true. Most of the time I underplay how bad I feel. If I were to vocalise every dreadful sensation I’d never talk about anything else. I know my illness is frustrating. I hate that I inconvenience so many people. Please, believe that I am I trying my very best.

All things must pass….

Last week I finally got an appointment with the pain specialist I have been waiting see. I had pinned my hopes on this Dr having some answers for me. He did. Unfortunately it wasn’t a diagnosis I wanted. 

My new consultant is convinced that I have Fibromyalgia.  As you may know I have been living with chronic illness for some time. I have a number of debilitating digestive tract issues. I also have problems maintaining a healthy haemoglobin level, which causes a raft of symptoms ranging from fatigue to angina attacks. Along with these known conditions I have increasingly had mystery symptoms. Pains with no definable cause, intensification of pain resulting from my health issues, continual sleep disturbance despite taking really quite strong sleeping pills, confusion , memory loss & needing to pee constantly. Add that to my existing physical symptoms & PTSD and you begin to get picture of what I’m dealing with. 

Pain in particular has been taking over my life. It limits almost everything. I can’t make plans, my social life has contracted & working outside the home is impossible. Even keeping up with housework is a mammoth task. I needed help. I was clinging to the idea that someone would find a problem that could be fixed. That I’d be offered surgery or medication of some crazy treatment, at the end of which I would reclaim some of my life. I knew that my diagnosed problems wouldn’t go away, but I held out hope that these newer cryptic concerns would be cured. Sadly, that is not to be. 

There is some relief in having someone say this is what’s wrong with you. I am glad not to have been patronised or had my mental health blamed again. I just wish the outlook was a bit sunnier. Since Thursday I have been adjusting to the fact that my pain is never going away. My current condition is likely to be my continuous one. I’ve had to read up on fibromyalgia & prepare myself for all it may mean. I have also been confronted with the new knowledge that pregnancy, which was never going to be straightforward is hugely impacted by fibro. This has been a big blow. I’ve wanted to be pregnant for a very long time. Knowing that I will most likely struggle to enjoy the experience is a punch in the gut. 

So, accepting this new diagnosis is a process. However, I am by no means defeated. I will start a new medication tomorrow. It’s likely to be a rough ride as it is harsh on the stomach, but the pain relief it can offer is worth trying for. I’ve already been referred to various groups & medical professionals. I’m doing my own research; I am open to anything. Expect to join me on a journey of experimentation with pain management techniques. 

I refuse to be beaten by this. Which is not to say I won’t bitch or wallow sometimes. I’m not superwoman. I accept my body will always place limitations on me. I also acknowledge that I am nowhere near to being at peace with that. I’m angry and sad, but not defeated. I have a very clear picture of the things I need to be happy. It’s just a case of working out how to achieve them within the confines of my illness. Let’s face it, I’ve been playing with a bad hand for a while, but I can bluff my way to a win.