The Mighty Logo

How Fibromyalgia Is Helping Me Strive for Happiness

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Today I want to talk about a positive side of living with a chronic condition. I know, positive and chronic are not usually found in the same sentence but, bear with me, I will explain.

In the beginning, when I was first diagnosed, all of my plans, my goals and my future just disappeared in front of my eyes. These changes felt like they happened in an instant. It is interesting how quickly things can change, and how something you think is important one minute can be the bottom of your list in the next.

Like many people, I began to worry about what an earth I was going to do next. The friends I had made through work disappeared, I spent more time organizing my medication than making plans to go out, my weight dramatically increased and the person staring back at me in the mirror looked like a complete stranger. I didn’t recognize this women anymore. She looked defeated and tired. The spark had gone from her eyes and she seemed so lost. It felt like a part of me had died and that I was in mourning for the me that once was.

I know this may sound very dramatic but, this is genuinely how it felt as a 22-year-old woman who thought that life had only just begun. I went through many months of doubting myself, my future and my worth, as I didn’t feel like I was accomplishing anything that I could shout about and be proud of. Depression reared its ugly head, dripping with venomous words of dread that would cloud my mind at every given opportunity. How would I ever be able to accept my fate – a life full of pain, anxiety and stress?

Fast forward three years and I am now able to look at things from a different perspective. Over time the negativity within my troubled my mind finally began to disperse, leaving a more positive outlook in its wake. Before my diagnosis, my main priority was work. I rated my success on how much my career was progressing. The number of hours I had worked, the amount of money I was making and the acceptance and praise I received from my work colleagues. When I was at home, I was thinking about my next shift. How can I be better? How can I be more productive? How can I progress? My mind never switched off.

At the time, I thought that this was the best way to prosperity. However, constantly being in work mode is unhealthy and does not lead to happiness. I was always tired and stressed yet consistently looking for more. This is the problem when we start working. Once we know the ins and outs of our position, we eventually get bored and become desperate for more. We want the challenge. More money. More power. But, if we are always striving for more, then we will ever be happy? When will this need for more end? We lose sight of what is important. Time spent with our family and friends. Time used to just be in the moment, so that we can appreciate what we have rather than feeling frustrated about what we don’t.

It has taken me some time to realize that being employed does not gauge your success or worth. Just because I am not progressing with my career, spending my time clocking up hours and receiving a regular paycheck, it does not mean that I am not capable of success. Don’t get me wrong, I have missed work. It gave me the opportunity to meet new people, learn new skills, feel part of a team and the ability to be independent. However, in order to acquire these things, I had to sacrifice an abundance of my time and energy which gradually chipped away at me and left me feeling exhausted, underwhelmed and unhappy. I wasn’t enjoying my job and my health was declining. I was working so hard for all of the wrong reason. My priorities were in the wrong place and I was working in order to make other people happy rather than myself.

I have been unemployed now for almost four years. It does worry me that the skills I had worked so hard to acquire are becoming useless as things have progressed and evolved so much since I was working full-time. However, I know that if I had continued living the way I was, I would have run myself into the ground and my health could be even worse.

I now try to find things to do that are worth my time and energy. Having fibromyalgia does make you realize what is important as you learn to prioritize things. I signed up to BorrowMyDoggy and have been walking a lovely Cockapoo puppy named Archie. It gets me up early a few days a week and it has been nice to start my morning with a walk around the park. I have also been scrapbooking in the last few months as I find it enjoyable and relaxing. It has also been the perfect way to display both old and new photos. These little things make such a difference mentally. There is no pressure to be better. You do not feel forced to chase an unattainable dream but, are allowed to freely pick and choose what makes you happy.

It saddens me when I see people who are both in good health or bad, spending all of their time pressurizing themselves to be better and do better. Always wanting more and never feeling happy and content with what they already have. I have found that since I have been spending less time worrying about being employed, having a career and judging myself against others, I feel better. Yes, I still have down days, but that is normal. Everyone does. At the end of the day, you can’t fully appreciate the good things if you have never had to endure the bad.

Your energy is precious so use it wisely. Do things that make you happy rather than following the crowd and getting into a mundane, pressurized routine. Fibro works hard to steal happiness away from you so, take some time to think about what is important to you and take some of that control back. I know that you need money in order to live and this can not be avoided. However, if you do something that you enjoy rather than something you think is expected of you and unfulfilling, you can live a fulfilling life rather than a stressful one.

Thank you, fibro, for teaching me some key lessons about myself. You have made me realize what is important and without you I may have still been working myself too hard and prioritizing the things that do not matter. You thought that you could take away all of my happiness, but instead you have helped me embrace the true meaning of happiness and success. I am in a better place right now.

I have my family, my partner and a small circle of friends and that is all I need. I am sure there will be many more challenges ahead however, I feel that I am in a better frame of mind to ride the storm.

Originally published: June 26, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home