I'm a Doctor. Here Are 5 Lessons I Only Learned About Fibromyalgia Once I Developed It Myself.

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The mysterious fatigue and muscle pain started during my second year of medical school. Finally it was diagnosed as fibromyalgia, which started me on a crash course towards learning what it was like to have an invisible illness, one that remains poorly misunderstood and marred by stigma.

My first lesson came one day during teaching rounds, when my senior physician authoritatively announced, “Fibromyalgia does not exist.” I quickly learned that many doctors, even my closest friends in medical school, didn’t believe the illness was real and dismissed sufferers as hypochondriacs or “hysterical women.”

Prior to fibromyalgia I thought I was an empathetic and compassionate person; after all, I went to medical school because I wanted to help other people. But my experience with this disease made me acutely aware that beyond the physical symptoms of this disease lay so many additional levels of suffering created by the disbelief and judgment of others. Here are the five biggest lessons that being both patient and doctor has taught me about fibromyalgia:

Lesson 1: I believe sexism is why we don’t have a cure for fibromyalgia.

I am sorry to say it, but sexism is alive and well in medicine, and I believe it is the primary reason why fibromyalgia science is at least 30 years behind where it should be. Fibromyalgia research has lagged far behind other diseases, bogged down by controversy and a century of arguments about whether it was a “real” illness. People who have fibromyalgia are mostly female and the illness has suffered from a gender bias that has hampered it being taken seriously by medicine. If this illness primarily affected males, I think we would have a cure by now, or at the very least a well-funded governmental institute dedicated to finding a cure!

Lesson 2: Having an invisible illness is a double-whammy.

Sufferers show no outward signs of the disease and standard blood testing is normal. Having an invisible illness – one in which you look fine – is a double-whammy, because not only do you have to try to manage your symptoms and grieve the loss of your health, you also have to fight against doctors, employers and even family members that may not believe you or understand your struggle.

Sometimes fibromyalgia feels like carrying a 200-pound invisible backpack. If others could see the backpack of fatigue and pain we carry, they would better understand our limitations. And your employer may be more forgiving when you need accommodations: “Wow, of course you need an ergonomic chair, you have a 200-lb backpack weighing you down!” But truthfully, employers, family and doctors don’t always understand or see the burden, which just makes the burden heavier.

Lesson 3: Pain is a subjective experience that cannot be truly understood by another.

Everyone experiences physical pain, and doctors as humans have usually experienced the typical pain that is described to them by their patients. Bad sunburn pain, check. Ankle sprain, been there. Sore throat, yep, had one last month myself. Doctors have a personal vocabulary to understand those types of pain.

But come into the office trying to describe a deep, aching, burning muscle pain that is migrating throughout your body, and you will get blank stares. I still remember the you-are-a-crazy-person look my doctor gave me in medical school when I tried to explain that it felt like my neck was tired of holding up my head.

These days I feel like my role is to help in the translation of the fibromyalgia experience so other doctors can gain more understanding. In part I do this by using the medical lingo they are used to, but I also try to harness the universal human response to the power of art. That is why I always show them the best visual depiction of fibromyalgia pain I have seen: “The Broken Column,” a self-portrait by the Mexican painter and fibromyalgia sufferer Frida Kahlo, in which her body is pierced by multiple nails.

Lesson 4: Most doctors still don’t know much about fibromyalgia – but it’s not entirely their fault.

In the years since my diagnosis, our understanding and ability to treat fibromyalgia has made huge progress. Yet most of this information has not filtered down to the actual doctors providing care. The majority of care falls to busy and overwhelmed primary care providers who don’t have time to go searching for new treatment ideas among the sea of medical publications. And the medical journals they are most likely to read tend to neglect fibromyalgia. In fact, since 1987, only one fibromyalgia study has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the most widely read medical publication in the world.

Lesson 5: Fibromyalgia is not caused by depression, but it most certainly can cause depression.

Several of the doctors I saw when my symptoms first started in medical school suggested my symptoms were caused by depression. But they were wrong. I was indeed depressed, but only because my life was falling apart around me, my doctors could offer me no help and I was exhausted and hurt all over. Anyone dealing with that would be depressed.

We also know that pain can actually cause changes to the brain that activate the areas associated with depression. So while depression does not cause fibromyalgia, fibromyalgia most certainly can cause depression. Getting my own depression treated was vital in my ability to forge forward while carrying that 200-pound invisible backpack in order to find treatments on my own that helped me to feel better.

Ginevra Liptan, M.D. is the author of “The FibroManual: A Complete Fibromyalgia Treatment Guide for You and Your Doctor” and a graduate of Tufts University School of Medicine. She is board-certified in internal medicine and trained in functional medicine, a holistic approach that blends both western and alternative medicine. After developing fibromyalgia as a medical student, Dr. Liptan spent many years using herself as guinea pig to find successful treatments, and has fine-tuned her approach by treating thousands of patients. She is one of the few clinical specialists in the world to focus solely on fibromyalgia, and directs The Frida Center for Fibromyalgia in Portland, Oregon.

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Thinkstock photo via SonerCdem.

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22 Metaphors That Describe What Fibromyalgia Feels Like

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If someone has never experienced fibromyalgia (“fibro”) firsthand, it can be difficult for them to understand what it’s really like for those with the condition. Simply saying you are in pain or fatigued often isn’t enough to convey the full reality of the symptoms. Although just about everyone has felt physical pain at some point, it can manifest in different parts of your body, in different degrees of severity and in different forms (dull, sharp, throbbing, etc.). What pain is like for someone with fibromyalgia is likely very different than the everyday aches, pains and minor injuries the average, healthy person is familiar with.

Sometimes, one of the most effective ways to communicate how you feel is through metaphors. We asked our Mighty community to share some of the metaphors they use to describe the symptoms of their fibromyalgia. Hopefully the following descriptions can help others better understand what those with fibro experience on a daily basis.

Here’s what the community shared with us:

1. “I feel like [I’m] constantly wading through mud. Like my brain is clogged up. My limbs are heavy and every little action requires a great deal of effort. My muscles are tired and shaky. It’s just like pushing through a bog all the time.”

2. “It’s like having the flu all the time combined with feeling like someone physically beat you up. All the while being expected to function normally.”

3. “The brain fog is like the episodes of Charlie Brown when the adults talk. All you hear is the muffled megaphone when people talk. It gets all mixed up and makes no sense in your brain. When you talk to people on the phone you can’t think of the right words, you get your sentences all mixed up and you don’t make sense. People stare at you and you know they have no idea of what you are talking about.”

4. “It’s like every part of your body is bruised but [the bruises] are invisible, and sometimes you wish they were visible because then people might take your pain seriously.”

5. “It’s always wondering if anyone got the tag of that truck that keeps running you over and over and over. Day in and day out.”

6. “You’re a kite being tossed about by unseen forces floating far from reality on a tether that can break at any moment.”

7. “My muscles are so weak they feel as though I’m trying to walk while waist deep in tar with several cinderblocks tied to my legs and arms.”

8. “Stay awake for three days then fill your rain boots with broken glass. While wearing your broken glass rain boots, run laps while being shot with paintballs.”

9. “It’s like someone has a voodoo doll of you they just can’t leave alone.”

10. “Imagine your iPhone is broken. Every time you recharge it, it may show a full battery but in reality it’s always sitting at 30 percent. Your phone has many functions, each requiring a different amount of power. It’s up to you how you use your battery. If you stick to small activities like texting your battery will last longer. If you watch a video or play a game then you will run out quicker. If you run out of battery your phone will switch off completely and take longer to charge. Fibro is the same. Your body has a very limited supply of energy. You have to think carefully about what you do every day so you don’t run out of battery and shut down.”

 

11. “[Fibromyalgia is] like wearing a lead apron after pulling an all-nighter a few days after being rear-ended.”

12. “[It’s] like my skeleton is two sizes too big for the rest of me, and each bone has been twisted in place.”

13. “It’s that feeling you get when you’ve worked out too hard at the gym, but it’s all the time and all you have to do is move to get it.”

14. “Imagine the worst pain you have ever felt. Now make it 10 times more intense and across your whole body. Now imagine that feeling never goes away because there is no cure.”

15. “[It’s] like an elephant is sitting on you – you feel like you spend the whole day trying to push it off. It’s exhausting and doesn’t work!”

16. “It’s like I am a ship anchored down and all I can feel is the weight of the anchor while also feeling severe burns, stabbing, electric shocks and like I’ve been beaten and run over [by] a bus throughout my body.”

17. “It’s like you are always on spring break – you’re tired, you’re hungover, you haven’t drunk enough water, your body hurts everywhere and you’re nauseated all the time; and you keep getting older and less able to deal with the symptoms.”

18. “It is like being on a merry-go-round. You spin around and around, dizzy, aching from holding onto the horse for so long, gut clenched painfully, headache looming, and you can’t remember the word for stop!”

19. “It’s like wearing an X-ray lead apron all the time while having the flu and a sunburn all over. Every once in a while, someone comes up and pours hot water over you, or sticks you with pins. You’re tired all the time, but when you lay down to sleep you cannot get comfortable, and you don’t sleep well (or for long). And this repeats like ‘Groundhog Day’ every day.”

20. “It’s like riding the world’s best, scariest, loopy, full of all kinds of twist and turns rollercoaster over and over again without having to actually get on it.”

21. “Having fibromyalgia is like a balance beam. If you have too much rest for your left hand, you will fall off from lack of activity. If you have too much activity in your right hand, you will fall off the other side. You have to find the balance or you will fall off, and it’s really difficult to get back up.”

22. “[It’s] like waking up with the flu every day, but it never runs its course. And you have to live with it forever, and pretend it’s not there.”

What metaphors do you use to describe your fibromyalgia? Let us know in the comments below.


22 Metaphors That Describe What Fibromyalgia Feels Like
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When a Fibromyalgia 'Low Mood' Hits

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While suffering from rheumatic fever at the age of 5, I read “What Katy Did” by Susan Coolidge, and it had a profound effect on me. When Katy has an accident and is bedridden for a long time, she takes a relative’s advice about how she should behave as a sick person, and becomes a pillar of sweet and composed silent suffering. I had won praise and admiration already for how good a girl I had been, and I was determined to be every bit like Katy. I therefore endured the long-term effects of rheumatic fever, and later the onset of osteoarthritis, with smiles to hide the pain. The pelvis permanently damaged in childbirth was harder to bear, but I struggled on, as I did with endometriosis, a hysterectomy, and the diagnosis of early osteoporosis. I was determined to remain upbeat, and nothing changed when I took the latest hit eight years ago, fibromyalgia. Or so I thought.

The fact is, I have only realized recently how severe my mood swings can be. I believe my life-long determination to be like Katy had left me in denial, seeing a low mood as a “bad” thing. It isn’t bad and it isn’t wrong, though. It simply is.

As a symptom of fibromyalgia, it can be a symptom in itself with no identifiable root cause. It may sometimes be a symptom of an impending flare, however. Of course, if you are fatigued and in pain, it’s natural to feel down, but there is another category of “low mood” I’ve experienced, which seems to accompany chronic illness, such as fibromyalgia. For me, it’s rather like a brief depressive episode, as if the Dementors from the Harry Potter novels swoop down and suck the joy from your world. It isn’t the same as depression (I’ve been diagnosed with that in a couple of severe episodes), as it can lift just as suddenly as when Harry eats a bit of chocolate.

Being in denial of the fact that this can happen to a normally even-tempered person like me, I tended to overthink it and analyze too much, looking for reasons, situations or somebody to blame. I would search my memory and tell myself that such-and-such or so-and-so had been working on me until it affected my mood. Sometimes, I wouldn’t acknowledge my low mood until something upset or angered me, then I would blame it as the cause when, in fact, the low mood already existed and had triggered the reaction. It was probably something which wouldn’t have annoyed me at all on a “normal” day, or maybe only a little, and in any case, I would have handled it.

For anyone who can identify with this, I would suggest the following advice:

1. Acknowledge that your mood has swung to low without judgement. It doesn’t mean you are a negative person, or failing to cope with your condition. It’s neither your fault, nor anybody else’s.

2. Don’t think about it. It simply is. It doesn’t have to have a cause, and it doesn’t need one.

3. Since it may be a symptom of an impending flare, prepare yourself mentally and physically. Rest. Try to distract yourself with an activity you enjoy, if you’re up to it. Make sure you have everything you need.

4. Try to avoid situations which may upset you. This may include not watching disturbing news footage or engaging with certain aspects of social media. It’s self-care for a short time until you can handle things again, and is not the same as sticking your head in the sand or not caring.

5. Tell those who share your life. Have the initial conversation about it when you feel well, so that you can discuss it rationally and they can be prepared. Then simply tell them how bad you feel when it strikes so they will understand and be better able to support you. Work out what it is you need from them, and be honest.

Katy Carr was a young girl who was injured and stayed in her room being cared for until she was well enough to rejoin society. Most of us don’t have that option. We are adults who have to adapt to having chronic illness, and we push through the symptoms in order to make a living, care for homes and families, or just for ourselves.

We aren’t 19th century heroines who have to struggle with saintly good grace. We are 21st century people who can still live life to as full an extent as possible. What we need is to be honest – with ourselves and others. Low moods may be a fact of life now, but acknowledging that and taking appropriate steps allows us to remain in control.

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6 Things That Helped Relieve My Fibromyalgia-Related Dry Eye

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Editor’s note: The following is based on an individual’s experience and shouldn’t be taken as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before going on or off medication.

Recently, I haven’t been experiencing too much physical pain from fibromyalgia. I am very thankful and wish that many other fibro fighters out there are experiencing a pain hiatus too. I’ve been taking advantage of my low-to-no pain days to exercise a bit more (including housework). I forgot how much cleaning is a stress reliever. Nothing seems to take my mind off my problems quite like scrubbing a toilet with some salsa blasting on Pandora in the background. I’ve also been adding supplements to my diet, like omega-3 fish oil. I actually started taking them last month, when I got my first bout of dry eye.

 

Dry eye, if you didn’t know, is yet another pain-in-the-butt symptom of fibromyalgia. My sister, a fellow fibro fighter, told me to expect dry eye at some point in my life. I began noticing this gritty, sandy, itching feeling in my right eye shortly after getting new glasses. At first, I thought my eyes were just trying to adjust to a new pair of glasses. In hindsight, that didn’t make sense because 1) they were new frames but not new lenses, so the prescription hadn’t changed and 2) how could only one eye need adjusting when the other was just fine?

A few days later, my eye wasn’t feeling any better. I found myself icing it constantly and rubbing it like crazy. It felt sticky, yet there wasn’t any discharge. It constantly felt like there was “something” in there, like maybe a twig or an eyelash. Worse of all, lights became my enemy. I could not tolerate daylight, the glare from a TV or computer screen and especially fluorescent lights. For days, I wore my sunglasses pretty much everywhere just to avoid rubbing my eye to death.

After reading up on dry eye, I decided to try a few remedies. Here’s what I found worked best for me:

1. Gel eye drops. The brand I bought was Refresh. It’s sister-recommended! I found gel drops to work way better than artificial tears. Since it’s much thicker, it really coats the eyeball and relieves the dryness for a longer period of time.

2. Ice packs. I tried hot packs too but found they didn’t quite offer the same relief.

3. Water. Do not underestimate the power of hydration. It seems every time a part of my body hurts, chances are I’m not drinking enough water.

4. Blinking exercises. I read this one article that said to do the two-two-two exercise. Slowly shut your eyes for two seconds, then squeeze your eyes shut for two seconds then slowly open them back up for two seconds. I also made a conscience effort to just blink more in general.

5. Eye mask. When my eyes hurt too much, I would take off my glasses, slip on my trusty eye mask and let my eyes rest. The darkness was really soothing.

6. Fish oil supplements. I read how the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil have anti-inflammatory properties and can promote good eye health. Once I started taking them, my dry eye cleared up within a week.

These, as I said, were the things that personally helped me. If you ever experience dry eye, I hope whatever you try brings you relief too.

Fibromyalgia is such a challenging and frustrating condition. There are so many symptoms that present at different times that sometimes it’s hard to figure out if what you’re experiencing is related to fibromyalgia or just a stand-alone symptom. That’s why it’s so important to talk to people, connect with others who may be experiencing what you’re going through. Although chronic health conditions are in no way pleasant, they do give us a unique perspective. They allow us to relate to others in ways that people who do not share our circumstances can. We can offer support, even if all that means is listening with empathy. That’s why we share our stores on The Mighty, so we don’t have to endure alone.

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Thinkstock photo via Dirima.

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25 'Habits' of People With Fibromyalgia

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When you develop fibromyalgia, or “fibro,” you might find yourself making some lifestyle changes to better accommodate your illness. Whether it’s chronic pain, fatigue, brain fog or depression, the symptoms can affect nearly every aspect of your life. In order to manage these changes, many people may find themselves picking up “habits” or engaging in routine behaviors that help them through the physical and emotional challenges they face.

We asked our Mighty community to share some of the habits they’ve developed – good or bad – while living with fibromyalgia. Some of these may sound familiar to you, too. Let us know how you cope with fibro in the comments below.

 

Here’s what the community told us:

1. “I’ve developed a habit of not sharing my health issues with anyone, out of fear of mocking, judging or disbelief. It’s gotten so bad to the point that it’s not just [with] friends and family, it’s that sometimes I avoid telling doctors about some of my problems.”

2. “I don’t wear makeup (this could be a positive or negative), but when you get into bed multiple times a day, it’s not worth putting it on to just wipe it back off. Sleeping in it is no good.”

3. “I have a bad habit of grinding my teeth, biting my tongue or locking my jaw when I’m concentrating or in pain. I won’t realize I’m doing it until I notice the pain in my face later.”

4. “No wake up alarm, no morning appointments and my phone set to silent during my normal sleep hours. (I have to do a morning appointment with a wake up alarm every now and again, but my general rule is to avoid them.”

5. “At this point I would call being angry a habit. I feel like I’m ‘chronically’ angry. It seems like no one understands and everyone expects me to be a normal 20-year-old. I’ve had fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue since I was 4 years old…you’d think they’d all get it by now. So I’m angry.”

6. “Constantly checking the doors when I go out or to bed because I can’t be sure that I locked them.”

7. “When I’m having a ‘good’ day, I always overdo it. Every single time. I make myself do as much as possible before I literally collapse. I have so many days where all I can do is lay in bed, so when that elusive unicorn of a good day with mild pain comes around, I can’t help but try and do everything I’m usually missing out on. But I always pay for it dearly the next day, and even sometimes for a whole week.”

8. “I have on my mind constantly how to save steps. I only have so many in me (energy) and can’t afford extra steps if I am to make it through the day. I hate having to think about it all the time instead of just enjoying things as they come.”

9. “With my fibromyalgia, I have almost constant migraine symptoms. So I’ve developed the habit of covering my eyes if I see someone adjusting the lighting or if I walk into a room with motion-activated lights. Otherwise, the changes in lighting can be painful or overwhelming. I get some funny looks from people that don’t know me.”

10. “‘Packing’ for a quick trip out. I have to make sure I have water, my meds, a small pillow, a book, headphones, baby wipes (my medicine makes me sweaty) and any type of mint (meds make me nauseous). Small trips can become big deals quickly. I have to be prepared for any situation. My family now refers to my purse as the ‘Mary Poppins bag.'”

11. “[I’m in the habit of] saying, ‘I’m OK, just tired’ if anyone asks if something is wrong. Just ‘I’m OK’ if someone asks how I am in general.”

12. “Placing a pillow between my knees and/or behind my neck, under my arm, etc. My knees touching each other, my neck against the couch or bed or my skin touching a table can be so painful that I can’t get comfortable, so [I have] pillows everywhere.”

 

13. “A bad habit I picked up from years of medical stigma is minimizing my pain and sort of not talking about ‘minor symptoms’ until I deem them ‘important enough.’ Because I don’t want to be seen as exaggerating or as a hypochondriac.”

14. “Keeping a planner in my purse. Everything gets written there (in case I lose my phone), and then a Post-it note on the back of my phone with highlights/appointments for the week.”

15. “Self-care. Before my diagnosis I didn’t really think of the impact that self-care had. Now, the littlest acts of self-care can have the biggest impact on me, both physically and mentally. And with fibro, mental wellness goes hand in hand with keeping physical symptoms at bay.”

16. “Anytime I accidentally touch anyone, I immediately apologize and ask if they’re OK. People laugh at me for this, because ‘of course’ I didn’t hurt them, but it’s because little random touches can hurt me that I habitually have to make sure I haven’t accidentally hurt anyone.”

17. “A little one I noticed today: I try to carry something, my phone usually, and [when] going in and out rooms and turning on and off regular light switches, I’ll use my phone to do it instead of my hand because it hurts my hand.”

18. “I constantly manipulate my joints. I snap, crackle, pop every morning and I’m constantly rolling my neck and pushing down on trigger spots.”

19. “I am terrified of making any plans. There are so many times I have to cancel at the last minute. People get angry or they think I am making it up. I find myself getting stressed at the thought of making plans.”

20. “[I’m in the habit of] isolating. I am a very happy and social person, but I find I am spending more and more time alone. And I don’t think it’s overly healthy. It’s is just a coping skill that’s turned into a bad habit. I don’t want my comfort zone becoming smaller and smaller.”

21. “Not saying, ‘No’ when I really shouldn’t do something because I feel I’m letting people down.”

22. “Being prepared for the bad days weeks in advance. Books, movies, TV shows, full refrigerator, meds picked up, house clean, etc.”

23. “When my boyfriend or someone goes to touch me or hug me my fists immediately clench and my arms come up to cover my upper body so they can’t. I call it my fighter pose. It’s not purposeful and it happens without conscious thought. I figure it’s because I already hurt so much and its my body’s way of protecting myself from more pain as just a simple touch in the wrong area can set the pain meter to the top.”

24. “Pacing – pacing is key. I spent a lot of time timing myself doing simple jobs around the house and noting down how long recovery took and slowly working out how long I can reasonably do each activity for before needing to rest without it causing a flare. I set myself timers when I do housework to remind me to stop and take a break.”

25. “[I take] weekly Epsom salt baths with aromatherapy to help me relax physically and decompress mentally.”

25 'Habits' of People With Fibromyalgia
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After 9 Years of Pain, I Finally Got a Diagnosis

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“Nothing is wrong with you.”

“You’re very young and healthy.”

“You probably just need some rest.”

“Here’s a few days’ worth of medication. Come back if you don’t feel any better.”

These are just a few of the things I’ve repeatedly heard over the years. I’ve been in pain since I was a teenager due to a back injury. Any pain I had felt in my body since then I always just assumed was because of said injury. I had learned how to tolerate my pain for so many years, so I also tolerated any other symptoms, including the anxiety I was diagnosed with at 16.

2012 came around and I’d finally had enough. I made an appointment with my doctor to try some medication for my anxiety. While at my appointment I was also diagnosed with OCD and given a prescription for Zoloft and an emotional support pet.

 

Fast forward four months. I had been experiencing pelvic pain for about two years, and was told it was due to my IUD. The pain got so severe I had to spend the night in the ER. Pelvic exam: Normal. CT scan: Normal. Urine sample: Normal. I was sent home with nothing for the pain, no answers and a recommendation to see an OB/GYN in two weeks. I did just that, and of course everything came back normal. I’d had enough, and got my IUD removed a few months later.

Between that time and May of 2017, I had regularly visited different OB/GYN offices to get pelvic exams, blood tests, ultrasounds, etc. All normal, and the pain was always checked off as period cramps or a temporary annoyance. Then in May of this year, I was once again experiencing severe pelvic pain. This occurred after a 30-day period, followed by an eight-day period a week after that (which I had seen my OB/GYN for, and of course all tests came back normal).

I went into the clinic and had explained to the PA my usual symptoms: “pelvic pain, back pain, months of fatigue and night sweats.” She figured it was a ruptured cyst, and sent me home with a prescription for Naproxen. She told me if I wasn’t feeling better in a couple days, I would need to come in for an ultrasound. She called the next day to check up on me. I was feeling better, but still in pain. She made an appointment for me to come in for an ultrasound. Two days later I had my ultrasound, which came back normal. She sent me home with different pain med, and advised me to go to the ER if the pain didn’t go away.

Nine years of back pain (which now resulted in knee pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, head pain, etc.), seven years of pelvic pain and a countless number of times hearing the word “normal.” You can imagine how much I hate that word. I was at a loss at this point. Multiple doctors, and all the research I could possibly do, but no answers. A couple months passed, and the fatigue I’d been feeling since the holidays was getting worse and worse every passing week. I could no longer function like this. I finally took the advice of an acquaintance and made an appointment with my regular doctor to talk to him about fibromyalgia.

When this acquaintance mentioned fibromyalgia to me, I denied it. My best friend has fibro, and there was no way I did as well. Her pain seemed much worse than mine. I can’t have what she has. I kept telling myself that my anxiety and OCD were making me tired and tense.

I was wrong. My doctor diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. The F-word I really didn’t want to hear. He gave me the news, told me to get rest and exercise, gave me a sample of Lyrica and sent me on my way. After my appointment, I sat in my car and took a couple minutes to cry. It was a bittersweet experience. I was crying because of the diagnosis, but I was also crying because I was happy to finally have answers after nine years of frustration. I also realized that just because other people may seem to have it worse than me doesn’t mean I’m not in pain as well. It may just be a different kind of pain. Fibro is different for everyone. I may have a symptom that someone else doesn’t, but we share the same illness.

After being diagnosed, I had the most amazing support from my husband, family, friends and even strangers. I feel lucky to have such amazing people in my life, and hope others have the same support as well. I’ve also realized how strong I am. I’ve been through all of this and have still pushed through it all. I will not let my illness get in the way of living my life. I appreciate my life so much more now. I realize I do need to rest, and I won’t be able to do all the things I want to do, or the things other people are doing, but I’m still going to do everything I possibly can. I refuse to let my pain and exhaustion stop me from doing the things I love. My diagnosis does not define me. define my diagnosis.

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Thinkstock photo via Good_Studio.

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