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My Fibromyalgia Has Made Me as Suicidal as My Depression

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

It’s always the same responses: “But you never seem like you’re in pain” or “you always seem so happy” are the two most common ones when I tell people I have fibromyalgia or that I have depression. I understand, I really do — because I put on a great act of “normalcy.” Thing is, I’m not “normal.” I’ve run through countless combinations of medications for refractory (“treatment resistant”) depression, and the number of medications for fibromyalgia is fairly limited so it didn’t take long to have tried them all (in various combinations, with little relief). After 15 years, I can’t honestly tell you which one has made me suicidal more often at this point.

Depression and suicide are very commonly linked, even though the reason someone ends their life is not always because they struggled with depression. The connection is easier to make in most people’s minds though — because fibromyalgia and suicide just aren’t talked about as much. Depression has stolen my ability to feel anything but deep emotional pain for large parts of my life, and I have been hospitalized because of suicidal ideation or attempts several times. What people don’t realize is that not every hospitalization was by default because of my depression.

My fibromyalgia led me to the brink of suicide several times in my life.

It causes me to be in constant pain of varying degrees — a good day might be a 4, and a bad flare is a 10+ emergency room level of pain. At the end of the day though, I’m always in pain. Always. I’m also exhausted in the same way where it has varying degrees ranging from feeling like I didn’t get any rest (even after a full night of sleep) on a good day to being too physically exhausted to make it to the bathroom and feeling as though my body is quite literally shutting down. But I’m always exhausted.

As a result of my fibromyalgia, I have had to give up on dreams and dramatically alter my expectations of life… and of myself. I have had to learn how to live with pain that doesn’t end and energy levels that are unpredictable. It’s frustrating, it’s scary, and it can feel very hopeless. For a long time, I pushed myself to just “get over it.” I worked my body far past the point I should have and ignored every warning sign it gave me. I collapsed and got concussions, developed heart problems and even seizures — and yet, I refused to slow down and accept that fibromyalgia is just not something you can “willpower” your way around.

Having to accept that my life would never be what I always thought was enough to make me not want to live. When I met my partner, he began to see the lengths I was going to in an attempt to live a “normal” life, and he saw the damage it was doing. He (finally, and with much resistance on my part) convinced me that I had to respect what my body was capable of, and he was certain that once I gave it that respect I would find that life was worth living.

It seemed backward to me — to give up on hopes and dreams and then that is when I’ll want to live? What? But he was right… eventually. At first, all I could do was sleep. My body was so beaten down it had a lot of rest and repair to do. But eventually, I could stay awake for a whole movie or make a short trip to the grocery store, without paying the price of more pain and fatigue from having pushed myself too far. I had to learn my limits and respect them, and in turn, my body gave me more energy and less pain. More good days and fewer days where life wasn’t worth living.

In short, when I stopped trying to pretend I didn’t have fibromyalgia and instead learned to live within its limitations, I found that there was in fact a version of life worth living — even with a condition that will always be part of that life.

We don’t talk about how fibromyalgia can make someone suicidal in part because it is an “invisible illness.” It’s not like having a cast on a broken leg — the “broken” part is hidden from sight. In a society that rewards “hard work” and places emphasis on “no pain no gain,” it’s difficult to accept that resting, pacing, and setting limits doesn’t make you less than everyone else. I wanted to be valued for my work ethic and determination (even at the cost of my health), and it almost killed me.

So many people suffer silently in life with fibromyalgia and they’re afraid to reach out when they feel like it’s too much to cope with. If that’s you, you’re not alone — I promise. Know your limits and listen to your body — and never be afraid to ask for help.

Getty image by Olga Strelnikova.

Originally published: May 16, 2022
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