When Everyone Thinks You're 'Lazy,' but They Don't See Your Fibromyalgia Pain
2003. Saw a rheumatologist for the first time. Fourteen of 14 “hot spots” positive. Diagnosis: Fibromyalgia.
I had just turned 23 in June. I had a 2-year-old son and a 1-month-old daughter. For years, I had trouble getting out of bed, pain throughout my body. I never got enough sleep. I cried when no one was looking.
When I told my husband about my appointment and the doctor’s diagnosis, his response was, “Don’t think you’re going to just lay around and be lazy like [friend’s wife] does… It’s no excuse.”
Lazy. That’s what I was. Working 40+ hours a week. Taking care of the kids and house. Doing the shopping. Paying the bills. Cooking the meals.
Lazy. Because I had to pull myself up when I bent over. Because I left my clothes in a basket after putting everyone else’s things away. Because we had cold sandwiches for dinner. Because I waited to shop at 3 a.m. after the kids were asleep.
Lazy. Because fibromyalgia isn’t real. It’s just an excuse to be lazy.
Lazy? Managing a household and two children? Pushing myself to exhaustion because I had no help? Crawling from room to room to make bottles, change diapers, gather laundry? Going without meds because they are “addicting and unnecessary?”
OK. I won’t be lazy. I’ll keep doing everything and saying nothing. I’ll take care of everyone, not myself. I’ll make sure everyone has everything they need. I won’t bother anyone with my pain or tears. I’ll push myself past my limits to make sure everyone is happy and content.
The first time I wanted to die was 2009. I didn’t want to kill myself. I just wanted it to be over. When I saw the basket of dirty laundry, I was a failure. When my kids went to bed without a bath, I was a failure. When my husband screamed at me as he heated up a can of soup for dinner, I was a failure.
I was a failure. Not a wife, mother, caretaker, housekeeper, chef, maid.
Lazy. Not unable to function, just unwilling.
“If you’d just get out of bed, you’d feel better.” OK. Out of bed. Made it to the couch. Spent three days on the couch.
Lazy. For 11 years, that’s what I was to everyone. No one saw the clean house, the happy kids, the hot meals. All they saw was a mother who neglected her kids by putting on their favorite movie to keep them occupied, who didn’t finish the laundry and always had one basket of clothes that weren’t put away, who would pull clean dishes out of the dishwasher for every meal and never just put them away.
I neglected myself, to ensure my family had everything they needed. I didn’t matter. My pain and exhaustion didn’t matter. As long as my family was taken care of. I didn’t see the doctor regularly, because nothing was wrong with me.
I was just lazy.
I wasn’t lazy. I worked my ass off. I cared for everyone around me, made sure they were happy and healthy. I smiled and laughed. No one, not even my husband, knew the truth. I hid everything, because if I didn’t, he would get angry. I barbecued for his friends, because I was an excellent cook. I cleaned everything up, because they were guests! They shouldn’t have to do the cleaning. They are there to enjoy themselves, have a good time. ‘I’ll take care of it, no worries.’
No one saw. I didn’t let them. I didn’t want pity or attention. I just wanted to be happy, for my family to be happy.
I spent three days on the couch. My mom came and got the kids, because my husband couldn’t keep me awake. He didn’t know what else to do. In brief coherence, he told me I needed to go to the hospital, because I wasn’t acting normal. I refused. I told him I was tired, that I just wanted to sleep. He let me sleep.
When I finally woke up, we talked. I told him everything. The fatigue, the pain, the tears. He asked if I had taken something I shouldn’t have.
I hadn’t taken something I should have. I didn’t take meds, because they were “addicting and unnecessary,” but I should have. I didn’t ask for help because I didn’t want to fight, but I should have. I didn’t let myself rest because I didn’t want to be lazy, but I should have.
He cried. I cried. We divorced four months later.
Do not hide. Do not push past your limits. Do not think your loved ones won’t understand.
Make them understand.
You’re not lazy. You’re not a failure. You just have fibromyalgia. And it sucks.
It gets better. But it can’t if you try to do it alone. It’s OK to ask for help. It’s OK to take your meds. It’s OK to let that basket of laundry sit for another day.
Fibromyalgia is real. But no one will ever understand if we hide.
Getty photo by Punnarong