There are many memorable days in my life. A few of these unforgettable days are the day I learned I was pregnant for the first time, the birth of my first son, the birth of my youngest son, the day my divorce was final, the day my dad died, the day my mom died, the day I met the love of my life, my grandson’s arrival and the first time I held him… You get the point. There were highs and lows, but each event changed me profoundly. In the undercurrent of the ebb and flow of the tide of my life lurked an invisible illness. A chronic illness I had never heard of.
However, I will never forget the day I learned this new term. I had been to see my doctor and had several tests. The pain I was experiencing was increasing, and this was only one of many issues I was having. I needed answers. I was prepared to fight whatever diagnosis I was given. Then, my doctor came in and stated, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is, it’s not cancer or lupus. The bad news is it’s fibromyalgia and there is no cure.” I looked at her with disbelief and asked, “What now?”
I simply could not accept that I had to live with searing pain, burning skin, muscle spasms, brain fog, insomnia and chronic headaches. For crying out loud, it was 2008! She said, “Go home. Get some rest. There’s nothing to do.” I “fired” her and got a new doctor.
I was diagnosed about 10 years ago, but in reality I have had this chronic illness most of my life. As a young child I had begun learning coping skills. It hurt to run and tumble and play like the other children. It hurt to sit on the hard tile floors at school. Yard work and other chores would cause me days of pain. I learned to keep to myself and always smile. It is amazing what a smile will hide!
As the years progress, people around me joke and say it’s because I’m old. No, I’m not that old. Yes, the fibro has progressed along with me. I have been called lazy, stupid, a hypochondriac and a few other things too. Truth is, I’m not lazy. I push myself to muscle failure and then some each day just to appear normal. I’m not stupid. I’m pretty darn smart. I have learned to live with this chronic illness and hold down a full-time job in healthcare. I have raised a family, and I was my mom’s hospice until she died in my arms a year ago. I am certainly no hypochondriac! I am not seeking sympathy. I want to work. I want to be an important part of my family. I want to be able to enjoy life! And I really want to be a useful, contributing and functioning member of my little corner of the world.
I love caring for others. It is one way I hide my chronic illness from myself. My patients need me to be present for them. So I ignore the muscle spasms, the stabbing pain, the aches, etc… but the brain fog is what gets me and brings me to my knees! It is so difficult to hide when I have lost all my words or look at something I have seen a million times and it looks completely foreign to me! I want to run and hide when people talk to me like I am incompetent.
Fibromyalgia isn’t who I am. I’m still in here. I’m still the intelligent, reliable, responsible, tough person I was. My chronic illness may seem invisible, but trust me, it is not.