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The Secret Fibromyalgia Taught Me About Overcoming Challenges of Chronic Illness

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I’ve never been an overly confident person.

I certainly had reason to be. I was valedictorian of my high school, had numerous academic, athletic and musical achievements. I used to perform in front of thousands of people without a second thought. I won awards, received scholarships… but I always focused on the fact that there were always going to be people out there who were “better” than me. I may be the best big fish in my little pond, but I would never be the best little fish in the big pond.

Somewhere along the way, my lack of confidence kicked into high gear. Fear set in and I let my negative self talk turn thoughts into beliefs. I knew I was a good person, but I constantly told myself I wasn’t good enough. I didn’t matter enough. I wasn’t worth enough.

Then I found out I had fibromyalgia.

I went even further into my shell. I couldn’t physically do many of the things I used to, things that others my age could do. We moved to a new state and I didn’t bother trying to make many new friends. I didn’t have much energy left after being a mom all day, and besides, what did I have to offer in a friendship? I wasn’t exciting, I didn’t have a great job to talk about, I couldn’t go out and do a lot of fun active things. I was looking through the window and watching life go by.

But then I figured out a little secret. Chronic illnesses can take away a lot of our control and give us challenges that are difficult to overcome. But we can still control our thoughts.

Let me say that again.

We. Can. Control. Our. Thoughts.

It’s just that simple. We can choose to think negative thoughts or positive thoughts. We can choose to react in a good way or a bad way. We can choose to work with our limitations (because we all have them) and forge a new path forward. And we are the only ones who have that control.

I now realize developing fibromyalgia may have been one of the best things that ever happened to me.

It has taught me that I am strong. That I am resilient. That I have an amazing heart and I can inspire others. I can swim right along with those other fish, and I can be the best at something. I can be the best at being me.

Which I think is a pretty great thing.

We each have a completely unique set of gifts to give the world. If you don’t believe in yourself and close yourself off, then the world doesn’t get to see your gifts. And that would be sad.

One of my greatest gifts is my ability to help and inspire people. It is a gift I am so grateful for, because I can actually change lives. But it’s a gift I had to grow into. I had to find my rock bottom, and claw my way back into the light. I had to take back control of my thoughts and find that superpower within. I had to believe.

blue coffee mug with believe in yourself written in white
Ashley’s coffee mug.

And I’m so happy now, because I finally know my purpose. I know what to do with my unique set of gifts, and I am showing them to the world.

So thank you, fibromyalgia, for teaching me to believe.

Oh, and one more thing. I love this coffee mug. It reminds me every morning to believe in myself. And if you look closely, you can see the tiny chip it has in the rim — right there front and center. And why do I love this so much? Because in spite of the little “flaws” we see in ourselves, we are still useful and wonderful and perfect. We all still have a purpose.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Share with us the moment, if you’ve had it, where you knew everything was going to be OK. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: April 7, 2016
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