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What Photographs Mean to Me as I Live With Fibromyalgia

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but in reality, it is simply one moment. The viewer does not know what happened a second before or after that photo is taken and the audience only sees what you wish them to see.

This year I went on a holiday with my partner and my family. We stayed somewhere beautiful, the sun was shining and we took many happy photos that were often shared with our family and friends. What people couldn’t see was how awful, exhausted and sick I was feeling every minute of every day we were away.

You see, I have a chronic illness. I have fibromyalgia.

I was in so much pain, my whole body was aching. I was dizzy and had migraines most days we were there. I was constantly vomiting and had to carry bags with me everywhere I went in case I was sick. I spent a lot of time laying down or sitting, and we only walked for short periods of time. I didn’t swim in the ocean once while we were there, because I was too exhausted to try and walk through the sand and the waves. I was happy because I was with the people I loved, but I was struggling.

These pictures do not reflect how I was felling, how exhausted I was, how sick I felt or how guilty I felt. For that moment, I was able to hold myself a little higher and plaster a big smile on my face.

I can’t speak on behalf of everyone who has an illness or disability, but for me it is a constant struggle of not wanting to show how weak I feel and wanting people to understand what I go through. This is especially true when it comes to sharing photos. I don’t share photos of myself when I’m sick or curled up in bed, just as I don’t post videos of me struggling to walk when the pain is bad. If you look on my social media accounts you will only see pictures of me looking happy and healthy, amongst shared links that promote awareness of my condition.

Perhaps it is because I don’t want people to pity me or think I’m incapable of doing anything, but then I face the struggle of people thinking I can do more than I’m capable of on that day or that I am cured. That’s my anxiety kicking in and causing me to overthink about something that isn’t important in the grand scheme of things…And that’s why I need to look at my photos in a whole new light. It does not matter what others see, what matters is how I feel when I look back on those memories.

So, whilst the pictures I have may only capture a second in time and not the whole story, I’m thankful to have them, because they reflect the love we have for one another and my strength. These pictures serve as a reminder to me that even on the tough days, when I feel terrible and I just want to crawl into bed, that I am strong and I am lucky. Lucky to have a family and a partner that love me unconditionally and will always be there to support me.

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