Why Pushing Too Hard With Fibromyalgia Means, 'If You Play, You Will Pay'


“If you play, you will pay.”

That’s what one of my gazillion doctors told me about fibromyalgia. In other words, if you have a semi-good day and over do it, expect to pay for it afterwards. As a creative and artistic person who has been fortunate enough to spend most of my adult life working in the creative arts, normally a project comes with a deadline. More often than not, I can set my own hours or work from home on many aspects of the project, but when the deadline arrives, there is no leeway. The curtain goes up, the doors open, or the lights come on at point zero.

There are times when I work 70 hours a week but then not work again for four or five weeks. And as with the majority of creative people, a deadline is a big stop sign. However, even if others thought the project was finished, I always found something that needed to be fixed. So even if I finished early, I’d continue to “foo foo” – a term I made up meaning it can always be better with just one more thing. Fluffing, folding, spraying, moving or just about anything until the bell rang.

Before I knew about fibro, my husband would see me pushing and crashing at the same time. He would tease me and ask, “Have you scheduled your nervous breakdown yet?” To which I’d reply, “Yep, Tuesday morning, events over Sunday, we strike on Monday so Tuesday it is.” This meant, don’t bother me on Tuesday. What I didn’t realize at the time was what we were calling a “nervous breakdown” was really a flare-up. I always felt I could continue to push myself until I got finished with the project. I’ve been blessed with a very strong fortitude, but with every passing year, it gets harder and harder.

As strange as it sounds, I consider it a blessing that I’ve had this horrible condition most or all of my life. The reason? I’ve never felt any different. My heart aches for people who have spent most of their life healthy and then been hit with this. Until I was diagnosed in 1997, I thought everyone felt the way I did. I had heard all the excuses:

“You’re a young mother.”

“You work too hard.”

“You don’t rest enough.”

“You’re looking for an excuse.”

“It’s all in your head.”

Need I go on? I actually cried when the doctor put a name to what I was going through. I finally realized I wasn’t making it all up, but what I didn’t realize, there was nothing that could be done about it.

As time has gone by I try to pace myself but in my line of work that isn’t always possible. I just finished a project that took about two months, although the last two weeks of it were “all hands on deck.” I went from a few hours a day to 10 hours to the last week being 18 hour days. It’s been a month since we finished and I’m still flaring. More doctors, more medicines, more crashing, I’d like to say more sleeping but that’s another fantasy. I knew going into this it was going to be rough, but this flare is the worst I’ve had in a few years. This was a dream project for me that has turned into my nightmare. I can’t say I wasn’t warned, I was told if I played, I would pay. Hopefully the next time a project like this comes along, my flare will be over, I will be living my normal pain filled life and I’ll be ready once again to go out and play.

Getty Image by ImageegamI


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


Related to Fibromyalgia

A picture of people in a meeting room.

Why Fear Keeps Me From Calling in Sick for My Fibromyalgia

Sick takes on a new meaning when you struggle day-to-day with an invisible illness. You know your body better than anyone and you know you are not well, but you do not fit into the category of what most people would define as sick. You look fine. You show up to work and do your [...]
16 Ways to Distract Yourself From Fibromyalgia Pain

16 Ways to Distract Yourself From Fibromyalgia Pain

Fibromyalgia can cause a wide range of symptoms (such as brain fog, fatigue and sleep disturbances), though chronic, widespread musculoskeletal pain tends to be one of the primary, characteristic symptoms of the condition. While there are a number of products and coping techniques people may use to help manage the pain, there is unfortunately no cure or [...]

We Need to Talk About How Scary Chronic Pain Is

When I write about my life with fibromyalgia, it’s sometimes to connect with others who experience chronic pain, sometimes to raise awareness and sometimes it’s for my own catharsis. This time, it’s about stating the obvious. Or at least what should be obvious, but is sometimes forgotten while we focus on the other, more complex [...]
A young sad woman looking out of a window.

Before You Label People Living With Illnesses as 'Complainers'

“I give her credit for not complaining.” I begin by asking one question in response to this statement I’ve heard one too many times, “Why?” Why would someone give another credit for not complaining? What is this deeply intwined issue that many have with hearing a person express themselves during trying times? Does it reflect that part [...]