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When I Had to Change My Career Because of Fibromyalgia

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When I was in school, I was being seen by many different doctors to treat my autoimmune disorder. I received unhappy news that I was developing arthritis as a kid. During this time, I was participating in band and struggling with my mental health.

When I left high school, I continued seeing doctors and ended up receiving the very welcome news that my arthritis was caught early enough that they were able to prevent it for the time being. I will still develop it in the future, but for right now, it’s not there anymore. With that came the news that I have fibromyalgia, or amplified musculoskeletal pain syndrome (AMPS).

I’m telling you all of this because my fibromyalgia has steadily been getting harder to manage and cope with over the past six months. I have been struggling to continue doing the things I love like writing, working out and playing with my animals. I’ve also been struggling to perform basic tasks like getting up in the morning or unscrewing a lid. I haven’t been able to feel like myself for a long time.

In the past, my fibro flares have only lasted a couple weeks to a month at most, so this is completely uncharted territory for me. I wasn’t and I’m still not sure what to expect. I have a heated blanket in almost every room of my house (it helps relieve some pain/discomfort in my joints and muscles) and have moved one of my office chairs into the bathroom to get ready on. I can’t stand for too long without getting nauseous and it’s hard for me to focus on anything for long. Everything feels overwhelming and impossible.

For a while now, I have been wanting to go to dog grooming school. I’ve been working with dogs for almost three years with my fibromyalgia and have been able to get through some pretty bad flares, so I originally thought this was going to be a good thing and I would be able to manage my pain the same way. I didn’t plan for the unexpected and when it happened, I couldn’t seem to find any solutions to my complex problem.

I ended up leaving my job after being a groomer for just a few months. I couldn’t deal with the amount of pain I was always in. I have to be able to take care of myself, my husband and my animals. When I finally realized I needed to leave my job, it felt like I had failed. I felt like there was nothing I could do right and it was devastating knowing I had to give up something I was passionate about because of my fibromyalgia.

I was angry. Angry with myself and angry at my body. I continuously thought about how other people are able to do my job without these problems and even got a little jealous. I would have gladly traded my all-over acute pain and chronic fatigue for some foot and back aches. I wasn’t thinking clearly.

Everything happened so fast. One minute I was miserable at my job as a groomer (something I love doing), the next minute I was at a really nice office training to be a receptionist. I never would have planned to make a move so drastic if it hadn’t been for my fibro, but I am so glad I did. Of course I still miss grooming and I miss my coworkers and friends, but I don’t miss crying on my lunch break because I didn’t know how I was going to get through my afternoon appointments, clean and be back there the next day early in the morning. I don’t miss pushing my body way too hard and getting myself deeper and deeper into a flare.

It was very easy for me to look at my situation and think my fibromyalgia was taking everything away from me. It was easy to be angry at my body for not functioning properly or even just a little better than it does. I blamed it for everything that was happening instead of listening to its desperate cries for help. I went without being medicated for a long time. I was so stubborn.

Instead of looking at everything my fibromyalgia was taking away from me that I would miss, I needed to take a step back and look at the entire situation. My job made me miserable no matter how much I enjoyed it. I was unhappy and exhausted every day when I got home from work. I was irritable and distant with my husband at night. I couldn’t bring myself to clean or take care of my family. All I could think about was how much I hated everything. I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

My fibromyalgia took all that away from me, but it also took me to a better job and new friends. I am a happier person to be around and I love coming home and spending time with my family. I clean my house and organize our things. I play with my dog and bunny. I actually play games with my husband without getting annoyed with him. I am just all around happier. I still see my friends from my last job and I don’t plan on that stopping any time soon. I’ve already made new friends at my current job that I know will last a long time.

I’m not completely out of my flare yet. I still use a chair to get ready in the morning and I have to take breaks from cleaning at work because I get nauseous or dizzy. I don’t have a perfectly clean home like I would like to have. But I have already seen so much improvement in my pain. When I get home from work, I can still walk around and hang out with friends. I want to go out with people. I don’t come home and immediately want to just collapse on the floor and never move again. I get excited to see my animals instead of dreading trying to play on the floor with them. Like I said earlier, I’m just happier. It took a pretty serious fibro flare to get me here, but looking back at it, I’m kind of grateful for it.

I’ll never really want my fibro to flare up. I’ll probably still get upset and angry at my body when it does flare up, and I probably won’t always be able to look back and see the bigger picture, but I know this isn’t always a bad thing to be dealing with. It’s so easy to look at everything negative that comes from having chronic illness. It’s so much harder to look at all the good that could come from it.

I hope one day people will be more aware of chronic illness and be more open to helping their neighbor/employee/friend/family member/etc. when they are in a flare up and realize they aren’t a bad person just because they have an illness you can’t see.

My illness is invisible and it has taken a lot away from me, but it hasn’t and will never take everything. My life is mine alone and I refuse to let my fibromyalgia define me.

Getty image by Norton rsx.

Originally published: August 29, 2019
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