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The Gifts I've Been Given by My Fibromyalgia

No, you didn’t read that wrong, I really did say “gifts I’ve been given by my fibromyalgia.”

I know, I know. I can practically hear you all rolling your eyes at me and telling me, “It’s a curse!”

You’re right, it is a curse. It’s awful, brutal and exhausting, but for me at least, it also brings with it a number of positives.

Before I get to those, I’d like to clarify that I’m not happy to have fibro, or denying that I’d prefer not to have it. I’m simply looking on the positive side (something which I can’t do every day because, like the rest of you, I struggle with the pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression and grief for a life I could have had).

When I am able to think positively, there are actually a few things I would say were good (or at least not all bad).

The first thing that I noticed years ago was that having a chronic pain condition makes you very aware of your own body. I’m talking super-aware. Like, you would trust your instincts in relation to your symptoms because you’ve lived with them for so long. Also, because you are forced to pay attention to many areas of your body because of the condition, you become proficient at recognizing when something isn’t right. Before you say it, I know that for most of us, the feeling of something not being right is a permanent thing because we have to constantly fight against our own bodies. I just mean here that fibromyalgia may help us be able to distinguish one type of pain from another.

This can be helpful when we are sick with something like the flu, or a virus (as I recently experienced). I knew the type of fatigue I was experiencing felt different. Instead of my limbs feeling like lead weights but numb all at the same time, they felt weak and wobbly. Being self-aware doesn’t stop at the physical flesh and blood version of ourselves either. We are vigilant about our moods, thoughts and feelings so that we know if we need help with them or not. We are in touch with our emotions because we’ve had to deal with them being heightened at various times due to chronic pain.

Another big reason I often see my fibromyalgia as a plus is because of the compassion it has given to me to share with those who are in pain of any kind. I am able to empathize with others who are in pain or suffering in some way. This isn’t to say I wouldn’t have compassion for others if I was healthy. I’d like to think that I still would. I was brought up to know that being nice and caring for others is the way to be. It’s just that I feel it on a deeper level when I’m around someone who is ill and feeling rubbish because I experience that feeling myself on a daily basis.

Lastly, I have been given the gift of a group of lovely online friends that I have met predominantly through fibro groups or from my reading and researching fibromyalgia over the years since my diagnosis. Never underestimate how much it means to have people who truly understand. People who know what you’re going through and who recognize how you feel without any judgment, even on your worst days. The best of these friends are people who have other things in common with us. This way, we can talk with someone who “gets it” but not always focus on the fibro and nothing else. Some of those I talk to online don’t have fibro at all, we just have shared interests. It’s the greatest way to feel human again. To remember what it’s like to interact with interesting people who appreciate and share your interest in books, or your obsession with music or art.

I’m grateful for these things and these people on the deepest of levels because thanks to my chronic illness, I have learned to celebrate the big and the small things equally, and not take for granted the things that make us able to smile or laugh or dream. To be able to really connect with someone.

So, yes. Fibromyalgia sucks and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but sometimes it helps to keep in mind that it’s not all bad.

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Getty Image by DeepGreen