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When I Finally Admitted I Needed Help Coping With Fibromyalgia

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In March of 2017 I reached a turning point.

Either I admitted to myself that I really needed assistance, or fall apart – it was just that black and white.

I’ve dealt with stress – work, family, fibromyalgia – over the years and consider myself a “high-functioning fibromite.” However, this time I was struggling, really struggling.

I was letting work get to me, the office environment didn’t help, I was sitting next to a window, it was either too hot or too cold, there was an open plan and it was loud. On top of that I was in the midst of a stronger than regular flare.

During a “normal” day my brain can deal with most things, around 50 percent dealing with fibro and associated issues, 50 percent rest of the world. This time, 15 percent was dealing with the world, while the majority was struggling with fibro and keeping it together.

Not the best place to be.

This came to a head one Wednesday afternoon, making sure my colleagues had taken their lunches, emails were answered and clients dealt with. I call it a clean desk policy. I needed to talk to my manager.

It was difficult to explain that I had to leave early as I was “struggling” and thankfully he read between the lines as I was barely holding it together. The following day the doctor’s appointment wasn’t great, a locum, and I was prescribed pills (I don’t normally take medication for the fibro) and asked to come back in a week, as we have to self-certificate for the first seven days.

A week later, same doctor and I was signed off for an additional seven days.

During the time away from work, I discussed my problems with my partner and we decided this job wasn’t good for me. I have had many differing roles, from a swimming teacher, to courier via manually unloading trucks, to retail and call center – after all I was on my own and needed to pay the bills.

This time I allowed myself to rely on another.

Also, my regular doctor insisted I be put forward for the Pain Management Clinic at my local hospital. Now, I had attended a Pain Management course eight years prior, one-on-one sessions, and felt like I was left hanging at the end. Instead of being hesitant I jumped… make that stumbled, at the chance.

Getting a place on the course, this time a group session, is difficult. Limited resources, limited time and an overwhelming need for help from people living with persistent pain means you could have a wait of several months.

To see if you are viable, you have a morning of one-to-one interviews, questionnaires and honest conversations with a dedicated team of professionals.

There wasn’t the standard stiff upper lip during this morning, more a case of holding back the tears and the stark realization that I wasn’t coping and I didn’t know what to do with myself. I have rarely felt hopeless – this time I was.

Within a month I was on the course and the only male in a group of 12.

The first week or two seemed a little awkward, more for my group members than I; however, we all had a similar problem. We all were dealing with pain.

It’s now a few months on since the last session, and I was asked if I wouldn’t mind attending the first session for a new group. Of course! If I can help, impart my experiences, answer any questions and reassure others I’m there.

This time I was one of three men in the room.

I am bored of the old misconceptions that men have to bottle it up, keep it to themselves, etc., and to see a couple of chaps, and to discuss my condition with them and the group as a whole, was cathartic for me and an eye-opener for them.

Discussing, talking and listening to help people come to realize that their condition is not unique to them, and others have it, while helping them understand that their experience of that condition is unique to them and that they have the confidence in speaking out when they are not having a good day, or if they are having a better than “normal” day can help them be more in control.

So, what am I doing now…

I’m currently unemployed, investigating if there are roles out there for me with my experience to assist others and not another sales job.

Any questions? I’m happy to answer them.

Gentle hugs.

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Thinkstock photo via KatarzynaBialasiewicz.

Originally published: October 23, 2017
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