Why the Term 'Fibro Warrior' Doesn't Resonate With Me
I was formally diagnosed with fibromyalgia in February 2018, but have been searching for answers to my pain for six years. Since my diagnosis, I have poured myself into researching fibromyalgia as millions have done before me.
Throughout my readings I keep running across the term “Fibro Warrior.” As a sociologist, yoga teacher and project manager, I believe the way we frame our thinking shapes our interactions. If I were to lead a yoga class or project team with this adversarial mentality, I don’t think the results would be positive. I started to ask, “Does anyone feel like they truly ‘winning’ their ‘war’ with fibromyalgia?” But before I delve into the merits of why the Fibro Warrior term doesn’t work for me, I’d like to tell you a little bit about my journey with fibromyalgia.
I experienced my most intense flare up after the birth of our daughter and because of this I was forced to slow down. I couldn’t return to my lucrative career in project management, I could barely handle the essential tasks of caring for myself and my new baby. In a matter of months, I went from the primary wage earner to completely dependent. Until that point I was in the business of busy-ness, an endless quest to acquire what I thought was success and control of my life. I simply could not accept that my body and future were a big question mark, rather than something I could mold and anticipate.
It took me two years to come out of that flare. But throughout those challenging two years, I was there for our daughter’s every milestone, her first giggle, her first word. I got to see the synapses firing in our daughter’s rapidly developing brain. I documented everything in her sweet baby book and took endless videos. As a sociologist, it was like having my own little Galapagos Island experiment with a test subject I was deeply in love with. At the same time, I fell in love with my husband more deeply, too. I saw the depths of his resolve as he took care of our new baby while I struggled to get better. I think I finally came out of that flare because I had an awakening. An awakening that I was grateful for my suffering.
You probably read that sentence in disbelief, “Did she just say grateful for suffering!” Yep. I now view my fibromyalgia as a gift. I know it’s a radical idea. It flies in the face of questions like, “Why me?” and “When will this end?” I try to view my fibromyalgia as a forced invitation to slow down, to balance my life in measure, to enjoy the free pleasures that do not cost a thing. Before my awakening I did not meditate regularly, I did not have faith in God and I did not truly appreciate my body or my life. I viewed my life and body as something I could shape and maximize rather than something I would have to learn to dance with. Sometimes the dance is clumsy and frustrating, but rather than wishing things were different, I try to find a way through it with as much grace as possible.
Today I have deeply physical and spiritual experiences regularly. My daughter’s hug is medicine for my soul when I feel overwhelmed by my fibro. When I practice gentle yoga, I no longer mourn the aggressive yoga poses that are no longer possible for me, but I am instead filled with gratitude that I found a practice to help me with my pain. When my husband and I make love, I am deeply grateful that my pain is low enough at that time to be with him. My suffering has made me grow with such intensity in such a short amount of time, I’m scared to think of what I would be missing if I were the “old” me.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines warrior as “a person engaged or experienced in warfare; a person engaged in some struggle or conflict.” Conversely, the famous yoga guru, B.K.S. Iyengar said that an injury should be viewed with the same compassion you would give a sick child. I do not want a lifetime of war with my fibromyalgia. My fibromyalgia makes me special, spiritual, loving and strong. I have compassion for everyone I meet because I have endured my pain in a unique way. I think of myself as a Fibro Angel because I am compassionate, legendary and resilient, reminding all those who know me that gracefully moving through life despite suffering is possible for anyone who is willing to step into it with their arms wide open. I invite you to lovingly welcome your fibromyalgia or unique condition as a legitimate part of your uniqueness. If you do it could be one of the most profound teachers you have ever known.
Getty image via Ustynskyy