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When I See My Mom and Grandma in My Fibromyalgia Symptoms

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Growing up and even as a young adult into my 30s I remember feeling as if my mother was struggling with something she couldn’t quite figure out. My father recognized a strange difference to her, too. I remember him saying to me one day, “Your mother is barely breathing. She’s having some hard times with something.” This, of course, was attributed to depression, but now that I have the symptoms and the blood tests that modern day medicine can diagnose from, I believe my mother may have had fibromyalgia. Her doctors likely just didn’t know what that was at the time. There’s strong evidence that her mother had this condition as well. Another memory of Grandma and me walking to church (which was only a block away) and with every couple of steps forward, she had to stop and rest for a few seconds before continuing. Not that she was in so much pain, but the fatigue she was trying to fight through took a mighty strain on her otherwise righteous and steadfast countenance.

I recall that my mother hated to drive. The only reason she applied for a driver’s license was for identification. And the only time she ever drove the car was when my father was in the hospital to have his gall bladder removed. Now that I am in my 60s, I don’t drive unless I absolutely have to. I can’t trust my reflexes, my vision or my emotions. There are just too many control factors with driving that I can’t get a firm grip on anymore. In my 30s I started having panic attacks while driving, particularly in heavy traffic or stormy weather. Those attacks would happen even if I was the passenger and not the driver. I still have them to this day if the travel time is more than 30 minutes. This keeps me pretty much homebound. Grocery shopping is an event. Doctor’s appointments were frequently cancelled without notice if my own symptoms were just too severe for me to venture out of the house.

My mother would call me first before she would make an appointment with any doctor. I have some experience working within several clinics including many doctors and specialists and also helped a couple of friends with their nursing class studies. She trusted my judgement but always would say, “I don’t want to bother anybody.” She felt calm and secure at home, doing housework. Her home was immaculate. It was her hobby and her sense of pride. I am the same. Home gives me a place to rest if needed, jobs to do and a feeling of accomplishment. It is a good place to be. I grew up in my grandmother’s home. Every day my mother and her mother would tackle the cleaning, washing, cooking, vacuuming and hair curling. Laundry was hung outside to dry so ironing was a must. They were a team, just as my husband and I are.

Our home is kept clean and tidy inside and out but the older we get, the less we can do on a daily basis. So chores and projects are spanned out over a week’s time and a day’s resting periods. We understand each other’s illnesses and handicaps and trials. Sometimes it seems as if we work harder now than we ever did while we were actually employed. Maintenance is the key word. Maintain order, cleanliness and calm. It’s what my mother always did. And it works for me, too.

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Originally published: October 31, 2016
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