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Why I Reacted Negatively to a Positive Fibromyalgia Post

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I am the quintessential architect of compassion. In fact, if you look up the words “sympathy” and “empathy” in a dictionary, you’ll find a picture of me underneath waving both sympathetically and emphatically. So I’m not quite sure why I reacted so negatively to a positive posting on a fibromyalgia forum. It wasn’t a twee comment, nor a notation of insincerity. It was a genuine heartfelt mention of all the things the person felt gratitude for since being diagnosed a year earlier. But like a pigeon spying a gleaming, newly washed car or a bald man’s head, I pooped all over it.

It wasn’t that I was jealous, just resentful. Yeah, I know, that is an awful thing to admit. But at least I’m owning my pettiness. Still, it was all rather perplexing, because I don’t do jealousy or envy, not even a little bit. But as I read her warm and earnest words, I couldn’t help but begrudge her zeal for life.

She wrote about how thankful she was that she was still able to work, and I thought about the fact that I had to give up my dream job. A job that I had trained for three long years to achieve. She listed how lucky she was to have the love and support of friends and family and I thought back to how, for years after, my friends and family thought I was faking my illness. That on any given day, the only person to see the pain and struggle I go through is my son, and that it is him and him alone. On my worst days, he carries the burden (not that he sees it as such) of having to care for the one person who should be caring for him.

I snorted derisively as she shared how she was still able to do all the things she loved and remembered with a lump in my throat the daily walks my child and I would take. Our “us time” where we talked about everything and anything, or my bed sheets stained with the art we created because we were to lazy to sit at a table because we thought it stifled our creativity.

And as she composed the fact that she would rather adapt to her illness than give up the things she loved, I spitefully noted that that was all well and good. That she was only in the early stages and that things were bound to get much, much worse.

And that’s when I stopped. Because like many chronic illnesses, fibromyalgia is a great deceiver. It lets you believe that all the things you love to do will continue. That the worse days can be overcome and that over time, the pain will lessen. It gives you a sense of well-being and the feeling that all is right in the world one day, and then it takes it away the next. And finally, it can slowly eat away at you, your confidence, your independence, your sense of how you fit into this world and the very essence that makes you who you are.

Why would I wish any of that on anyone?

After a couple of days, I went back and re-read her words. I saw her positivity, her strength, her determination to adapt and not let her condition defeat her, and I was filled with an overwhelming feeling of respect and admiration. That’s when I realized why I had been so damning of this random stranger. It was because I wanted to feel as she did. I wanted her fighting spirit and her will to never give up. I wanted her drive to succeed and to not let anything stand in her way. But most of all, I wanted her sense of self-belief.

So I’m not such a bad person after all. I just got lost in the mire of my own illness and one that was of my own making. And although there will be days where I will undoubtedly slip into the wallow that is my pity party for one, like the person who typed that comment, I need to adapt and be thankful for the things and the people I do have. It will not be an easy journey, but it’s one I’m willing to undertake.

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Thinkstock photo via Poike.

Originally published: March 24, 2017
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