My life changed about a year ago, when I was officially diagnosed with fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and scoliosis. It was a terrible year, I lost a dear friend, had a tough time working out like I used to and even simple walking affected me. I began falling a lot, which is so unlike me. In July, an orthopedic doctor wanted to perform surgery on my calf, which he said was so tight and short, but that was only one of the many places I felt pain so I refused. Then in September, my doctor called me all upset about the results of my hip x-rays showing massive degenerative changes and wanted me to schedule surgery. Again, I refused because of all the other places where I really hurt besides my calf and hips. Finally, in October, a rheumatologist confirmed what I had suspected. I had 16 out of the 18 possible trigger points. Twelve being the magic number to be diagnosed with this wonderful illness. I was just thrilled to know I was above average in something!
Having fibromyalgia has really changed me and my life, pain is a constant uninvited guest who is never leaving me. I am restrained in ways I never imagined! Looking at a tall staircase provokes fear in me. I no longer have the stamina to join friends after work due to the relentless fatigue. I have had to shelf my plans to become a Zumba Gold instructor in retirement. My physical limitations are interfering with my job advancement opportunities, due to so many days missed because of the pain. The little things I took for granted are now obstacles and I have had to alter the lens I used to see myself through. I have gained weight, become very sedentary and messy. Exhaustion from chronic pain and working full time have affected my energy levels.
I have learned some positive things having this illness. I recognize that if I am struggling with pain others might also be. My family has been very supportive. I realize how lucky that makes me, because pain is isolating and a mysterious illness, like fibromyalgia has a lot of people skeptical that it exists anywhere but our heads. I have become more compassionate, and feel the need to be supportive of anyone struggling with chronic pain or mental health issues. I have joined online support groups and see firsthand how we all need to be heard. Getting out of my own head trying to help others is a wonderful distraction from my pain!
We all need validation, especially for something like an invisible illness that alters ourselves to our very core. A few kind words to someone suffering can make all the difference and it is so easy to do! Life with fibromyalgia, though not great, is helping me rediscover who I am, someone who falls a lot but always gets up and persists. Someone not giving up on myself or others, who need a reminder of how worthy they are regardless of physical limitations. My story is elastic, ever changing, trying to find the right diet, alternative treatments, exercises, the right attitude to get through a painful day, dealing with unsympathetic coworkers and people in the medical profession.
I may not be the same person I was. But maybe I am on the road to shaping a new life, and a new me, full of new possibilities and opportunities. And for now I am okay with that!
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