When You Don't Want Chronic Illness to Be the Answer
I have been complaining about pain for as long as I can remember. When I was in seventh grade, I started seeing a rheumotologist who looked at my family history and my symptoms and started treating me for arthritis. I was put on methotrexate injections and various other pain killers. These worked for a while and I even felt pain-free some days, but eventually, they stopped working and my pain and stiffness started to increase. Sometimes specific fabrics were too much for me. I would have to change halfway through the day because my legs felt like they were on fire from my jeans. I’m not saying I was feeling warm. It felt like the pins and needles sensation you get when your foot falls asleep and is trying to wake back up.
Because we found that my pain wasn’t better anymore, we went to a new doctor in January of this year. That doctor assessed me and diagnosed me with fibromyalgia and hypermobility. “Great,” I thought. “More pain disorders.” I had wished that it would be something they could fix. I didn’t want a chronic illness to be the answer.
Life with fibromyalgia is complicated and painful. One minute, you feel fine. The next minute, you have an intense pain in one part of your body or all over. Sometimes a hand on your shoulder is so painful that you flinch. A blanket over you can feel like being stepped on my an elephant.
Explaining your illness to friends and loved ones can be a complete nightmare. “This hurts me even though it really shouldn’t,” ends up sounding like, “I’m whiny and I want medication,” to them. They don’t understand, because they aren’t dealing with this illness on a daily basis. Trying to tell them that sometimes them touching your arm hurts and sometimes it doesn’t makes it sounds made up to them. I have had this problem in my own life when trying to explain to my boyfriend that yes – his hand on my leg didn’t hurt me a minute ago, but now it feels like needles.
This illness is tough, but I am too. Finding coping mechanisms that work for you is essential. I like to read or listen to music when I’m having a hard day. A hot bath with incense can really help me with my pain, too. Staying in your bath robe for a long time after you get out is perfectly acceptable. Do what makes it easiest for you to cope with the pain. Do more of what makes you happy. It’s OK to have bad days. It’s OK to have days where all you do is sit on the couch watching TV because that’s all you can tolerate through the pain. It’s OK to cancel plans because of your pain. This illness is very real and very painful, but you are strong. You are mighty.
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