What It's Like Working When You Have Fibromyalgia

You may find yourself asking, “I have fibromyalgia, can I work?”

There is no simple answer to this. Like most chronic illnesses, it depends on how you feel and how the condition affects you. However, I have found ways to manage my fibromyalgia while at work.

I’ve been struggling with fibromyalgia since 2013 but I was only diagnosed late 2016. My arthritis contributed to the late diagnosis as rheumatologists overlooked any symptoms of fibromyalgia – and to be honest, so did I. Once I received my diagnosis and researched the condition, I could relate to all these symptoms: widespread pain, stiffness, fatigue, poor sleep quality, cognitive problems, headaches, irritable bowel, dizziness and depression and anxiety.

Over the past five years, I’ve been working as an employment specialist for a mental health charity and my fibromyalgia rears its ugly head daily while I work. From the minute I wake up, I feel like I haven’t slept a wink after a restless night of sleep. I push myself to get up, get showered, dressed and to get ready for the day ahead. It sounds like I don’t want to go to work when I say that, but I do. I enjoy my job and find it rewarding, so that gives me the push to go. I plan and organize my day and make sure I have micro breaks to stretch my legs, get some air or even just to switch off from it all for a few minutes.

The fibro fog always pays a visit and I write to-do lists, which keeps me on track – apart from the days when I forget what goes on the list! The pain is always there no matter what I’m doing and the micro breaks keep me moving and stops me from seizing up.

I can have this overwhelming wave of feeling hopeless and experience low moods. The anxiety can kick in, taking over my mind and sending me into a downward spiral. At my worst, my depression and anxiety took over and I found it difficult to manage work. It took me a long time to understand that I was burning my body out, focussing completely on work and spending weekends recovering. Last year, I spoke with my employer and took the decision to reduce my hours to part-time and dropped one day per week. At first, I felt a little defeated that I had to reduce my hours but it turned out to be one of the best decisions I made.

Having a Wednesday off breaks my week up perfectly and gives me time to rest and recover both mentally and physically. It’s my rest day and there is not expectation for me to do anything else. I need that day. I’ve started to identify triggers that will case flares: stress, alcohol (not when I working), physically pushing myself to do tasks and cold environments. It’s been a slow process and sometimes I can’t avoid flares and must take the time off work.

The most important thing I would say is listen to your body. You know what you can and can’t do, so don’t push it. Disclose your condition to your employer, take micro breaks, write to-do lists, do part-time hours, identify triggers and have that rest day.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock Image By: Digital Vision.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Fibromyalgia

28 Unexpected Coping Techniques That Help People Manage Fibromyalgia

28 Unexpected Coping Techniques That Help People Manage Fibromyalgia

When you’re battling the pain, fatigue or brain fog of fibromyalgia, there’s not always an easy solution for relieving the symptoms. Although some may find relief from certain medications, there is certainly no one “cure-all.” Often those with fibromyalgia must go through much trial and error to find methods that alleviate or at least distract from the symptoms. To [...]
A watercolor illustration of a woman, with paint splashed around the face.

4 Things I've Learned in the Midst of the Chaos of Fibromyalgia

​I think we can all agree that fibromyalgia and anything associated with it sucks. However, it isn’t all bad, and like any situation it isn’t simply black or white, there’s a lot of gray areas. One thing I have learned through it is to appreciate the small victories and moments of relief. I also learned [...]
A woman outside, with a serious expression.

The Trouble With Having Medical Conditions That Won't Go Away

I want to start off by making one thing perfectly clear – I am incredibly thankful that I do not have a terminal illness. I am in no way making light of the tragedy of those living with a very clear expiration date. Struggling is not a competition, and that’s not what this is about. [...]
woman getting a back massage

How a Sports Massage Helped Relieve My Back Pain From Fibromyalgia

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 beginning any new treatments. I don’t know about you, but one thing I really struggle with is back pain. No matter how active I am, how much rest I get or how careful I [...]