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3 Valuable Lessons I've Learned from Fibromyalgia

My body is a traitor – it no longer seems to obey me despite my best efforts to placate it.

I thought I was finally getting better. I was feeding my body with organic food, exercising regularly and trying to stay on top of my self-care by minimizing my to-do list and making sure I had enough sleep. But this January was a rough month for me. I was hit by a chronic fatigue episode so intense that most days, it felt as though I was sleepwalking through life.

This felt like a huge step backward. This felt like pure betrayal.

All I wanted to do was sleep and cry. And then sleep some more. I worried rather irrationally if the best years of my life were going to pass me by while I rested in bed. Eventually, I felt that the moping had gone on too long for my liking.

“Pull yourself together Charis,” I muttered to my reflection in the mirror. “This sucks but try to think of the positives instead of the negatives.”

So I did. I wrote about all the things in life that I was appreciative of. And that’s when it struck me: I wouldn’t be the person I am today without fibromyalgia – the debilitating chronic pain syndrome that I live with. While dealing with fibromyalgia has been difficult, it has also taught me many valuable things that I am grateful for:

1.Fibromyalgia has taught me the importance of rest.

Before my fibromyalgia diagnosis, I was strongly opposed to the concept of rest. It almost makes me feel ashamed to admit it now, but one of my mantras used to be “sleep is for the weak.” I would repeat this over and over in my head while filling my schedule with endless activities that I felt I had to do in order to succeed in society’s rat race. I was the president of numerous clubs in school and volunteered extensively all on top of maintaining near perfect grades. It was exhausting to say the least.

While I found fulfillment in those activities and genuinely enjoyed doing them, I had neglected to schedule rest time for myself. These days, I make self-care my priority. While I still push myself to get good grades, I make sure that it does not come at the expense of my health. Once a week, I treat myself to a do-nothing day where I just curl up in bed with a face mask and my favorite books and TV shows. Sometimes, rest really is the best medicine.

2.Fibromyalgia has taught me the importance of eating well and exercising regularly.

My body may not be perfect, but it’s the only one I’ve got (unless AI becomes advanced enough that we are able to upload our brains onto computers in this lifetime) so I should do my best to take care of it! In the past, I would fill myself up with cheap convenience food and never exercise. In retrospect, I wonder if these behaviors were the outcome of me not valuing my body. If food is fuel, then I want to fill my body with the best quality possible to make sure that everything runs smoothly. My current diet includes a lot of fresh meats and vegetables and I try my best to avoid anything processed or with sugar in it.

Granted, eating well is not going to cure me of fibromyalgia, but it does make a huge difference in the way I feel. If I were eating my previous diet of fast food and potato chips, I would be feeling far worst right now. When I feel that I have enough energy to, I also do some light yoga and stretching which not only helps to relieve my body aches but helps improve my mental clarity as well.

3. Fibromyalgia has taught me the importance of being open and vulnerable.

Pre-fibromyalgia, I saw myself as being some kind of superwoman who was capable of anything. Fibromyalgia has forced me to confront that false image of myself that I had projected to the world. Schoolwork had become increasingly taxing, and where I once prided myself in being a fast learner and high achiever, I was beginning to really struggle in school. This forced me to swallow my pride and ask my peers for help, which was something I would never have thought to do before. But you know what, I’m much happier for it. Being open with others has given me opportunities to share more and raise awareness about my condition. Not only that, I feel that it has also strengthened my relationship with my family and friends and allowed me to connect with them on a deeper level. I know that no matter what happens, I will always have them as my support system.

I would be lying if I said I do not grieve the life I had before fibromyalgia. The difference is that I am at peace with the life I have now. My life is far from perfect, but I genuinely like the person I am becoming – and I have fibromyalgia to thank for that.

Follow this journey on Chronically Charis

This story originally appeared on Chronically Charis