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Coming to Grips With Fibromyalgia as a Man Who Loves Adventure

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man's feet on mountain top
Nature and my feet, AKA Beauty and the Beasts

After well over two years of mounting physical problems, I finally bottomed out but emerged with a diagnosis: fibromyalgia. It’s known for including chronic pain, but it’s much more: essentially, your body is stuck in a fight-or-flight response. Yes, this means nerves are hyper-reactive. But it also means there are changes to your chemical and hormonal levels, how certain parts of your brain functions, and this can have an impact on pain, energy, digestion, immune system, and sleep, which in turn can create all kinds of effects. So… crap.

I’ve spent the last two to three years as a bit of a physical train wreck and spent the last few weeks as an emotional one. I have lived physically and loved it. But, in some way, my life will need to change. Maybe much of what I did can be done again, maybe there’s some new passion to replace it with, but after some time to rage and grieve, a few nuggets of clarity emerge.

family hiking
The outdoors have given me some great family moments.

Hiking, mountain biking, skiing, and all my time outdoors is a way of being connected with Sara, my girls, the world around me, and with myself. At its core, those are my goals, and these activities were how I reached those goals. I’ll never stop being someone who loves the outdoors, who craves adventure (hey, I guess I’ve got an excuse for being an adrenaline junkie), who strives to connect deeply with loved ones. But now my challenge becomes figuring out how that will look.

family skiing
Whatever the specifics may be, the goal remains to live vibrantly.

As I begin getting educated on this stuff, I feel a bit of a contradiction: I’m supposed to stop living how I’ve lived, but I’m supposed to work to get back as much of what I lost as I can. I know an expert would say it’s more nuanced than that, but it’s how I understand the therapeutic goals as I flail early on in this process.

When I started blogging about my hikes, my goal was not to delve into the topography or detailed explanation of the trail. For me, it was to chronicle how my life and the lives of those around me were unfolding. My stated goal was to hike the 67 New England high summits. But my real goal was to use that writing as a way to focus myself on what was unfolding for and around me over a longer period of time. I was interested to look back 67 months later to see what storyline would emerge. I got halfway through, on track, before coming to a crashing halt. This diagnosis may suck, but if it’s my reality, then the only remaining question is where I go from here.

man looking at hiking map
What the… ?!?! I thought I knew how to navigate life. But now I’m in uncharted territory…

So, now I see me repurposing this writing: to explore where this new life take me; to find what new adventures await; to see how I continue to bond. I feared I’d need to reinvent myself. But with more reflection, I think I just need to figure out how I can continue to work at being my best self. I’ll undoubtedly have some trial and error, maybe with some epic fails. I’ll presumably continue to find nature to be soul-nurturing. For all the times I push my daughters out of their comfort zones, it’ll be time for me to model the way, which may be good for some memories to wince or laugh at. And I’ll likely look back somewhere down the road and find I’ve taken on some surprising new ways of living that I’d never have expected.

If you indulge me the hiking analogy, I’m standing at the trail head. I can’t see far down the trail and know this will be a challenge. But as with past hikes, I start by putting one foot in front of another (albeit painfully). Eventually, it’s euphoric to stand on the summit and feel triumphant, proud of the effort, proud of the accomplishment, proud of who I am, and of who I’m with.

man hiking beautiful trail
… So it’s time to start a new journey and see where it leads.

One step at a time.

Follow this journey on Rock Hopper Hikes.

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Originally published: December 12, 2016
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