Teresa Cooper

@teresa-cooper | contributor
Teresa Cooper

Things I'm Thankful for as I Parent My Son With Autism

I have a lot to be thankful for as an autism mom. 1. I have a child who loves hugs. Well, actually, I have two children who love hugs, but my autistic son is a hugger and a kisser. I’m grateful for his affection and his hugs are as strong as my love for him. 2. He works hard. My son works really hard to do well in school and show me he can handle daycare. I don’t doubt there are days when this is really hard for him because he gets overstimulated easily, but he wants to be successful. In my opinion, he already is, but I know he works hard to show the world what I already know about him. 3. He shows he’s thankful for the little things. It doesn’t take much to make him feel thankful. I envy how easily he finds pleasure in the little things and would love to be more like him in this regard. 4. My children play well together… most of the time. Right now, they’re playing with a box. A box! And they’re sharing toys and having a good time together. The television is off and I’m sitting back watching them play while I drink my Diet Coke. 5. He’s got a fantastic memory. Sometimes this can be unnerving, but most of the time it’s impressive and awesome. Ask him what any car is driving down the road, and he can tell you just by looking at it. He knows how to give directions to get to places we’ve been and I’m horrible at directions, so he doesn’t get that from me. And he knows his math facts and can do most of his math in his head. It’s just plain amazing. 6. He knows how to show love. It goes beyond the hugs and kisses. He tells me he loves me often and even tells me I’m pretty and that I’m the best mom ever. He loves deep. He does not lack empathy or feelings; he shows me daily that he feels things more than most people. I love how much he loves his family and those he considers friends. I love my son to the moon and back. And that’s not an exaggeration. In a world where children are steadily losing the ability to show the many things my son shows easily, I consider myself “lucky” and I’m thankful for him. I’m thankful for both of my children. They are my world and I’d do anything for them. A version of this post first appeared on embracingthespectrum.com. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Teresa Cooper

To the People Who Don't Understand Why I Self-Harm

Editor’s note: If you struggle with self-harm, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here . Depression is a wicked thing. It can deprive you of energy, happiness and a social life. You might often wonder: Is what I’m going to say be something that puts someone else off? I struggle with depression, and when things get really tough, I cut. I cut just below the tattoo that reminds me my life has not ended yet. The semi-colon. Do I fully understand why I cut? No, not really. In a sense, I can understand that I do it to relieve some of the pain I feel elsewhere. I do it because sometimes I feel numb inside and I need to feel something. I’m sorry that I do it. It hurts the people around me who love me and know I do it. I wish I could stop. I just don’t know how. Here are some things I wish people would stop saying to me: 1. ”If you set your mind to it, you can stop.” Well, no, that’s not really true. You’re just making me feel ashamed and more like doing it again. 2. “You just need a replacement behavior.” Rubber bands just aren’t the same. 3. Just stop for a few days and you can stop the pattern. Great advice if I knew how to stop in the first place. What can you do to help? 1. Make me feel more valued as a person. I think part of the reason I cut is because I feel like a crappy person. 2. Don’t force your ideas on me. Maybe suggest therapy, but don’t try to stop me on your own unless you know what I’m going through. It feels demeaning to get ideas from people who have never been there before. 3. Love me anyway. That should go without saying. Just offer your support and caring love. I need it right now. In short, you can’t fix me, but you can be there for me. Just listen and offer support. Don’t try to fix me. Love me. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741 . For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via Ogri

Teresa Cooper

Problems Only People with Fibromyalgia Understand

When you don’t live with fibromyalgia, it is difficult to understand the impact it has on a person’s life. Fibro warriors everywhere know all too well what it’s like to live with this all-encompassing disorder. Unless you’ve gone through it yourself, you probably don’t get it, but if you do, you know these problems have a huge impact on the way we fibro warriors live. These are 10 problems only people with fibromyalgia understand. 1. Chronic pain that seems to emanate from everywhere. When the doctor asks, “Where does it hurt?” you don’t know where to start. It hurts all over. Which pain is worse? Who knows? We just wish we could make it stop. 2. Exhaustion for no discernible reason. Why am I so tired? I just woke up! The chronic fatigue that comes with fibromyalgia makes it hard to even get out of bed sometimes. 3. Explaining that you’re not lazy to people who don’t get it. No, I’m not lazy. My body hurts and I’m tired. Don’t you think I’d get up and do X-Y-Z if I could? Everything can seem insurmountable when you have fibromyalgia. 4. The paradox of exercise and its benefits vs. the tiredness. The doctor says exercise will help with fibromyalgia, but the fibro makes it hard for me to even move sometimes. How do I get to a place where I can exercise comfortably without pain? Testing to see if it works can bring on more pain, which makes it seem like exercise is the devil. 5. Did you just punch me? Oh. No. You just tapped my shoulder. Sensitivity to touch is a common symptom of fibromyalgia and sometimes even the lightest touch feels like an assault. You want to put a sign on your back that says “please don’t touch me,” but that seems offensive. Where’s my t-shirt that warns people that when they touch me it feels like I’m being punched? 6. Could you turn that down, please? People with fibromyalgia can have heightened senses – hearing being one of them. What seems like a normal volume to you sounds like a megaphone to me. 7. I am not a lucky stiff. My joints and muscles feel stiff almost constantly and from the moment I wake up, and movement does not make it better. In fact, by the end of the day, I want to crawl back into bed to relieve some of my misery. 8. Leg cramps! Foot cramps! Oh, the muscle spasms! You get tired of the spasms after a while, really. No one else seems to get as many leg cramps as I do, and I eat plenty of bananas. 9. Trouble concentrating is bothersome. The fibro fog that takes over my body makes it hard to concentrate and can have an impact on my short-term memory. I’m sorry I asked you to repeat what you just said, but I simply cannot seem to focus on the words sometimes. Sticky notes and lists take over my life so I can deal with this. Planners have become my best friend – I just have to remember to look at them daily. 10. Chronic depression. It’s hard not to be depressed when you’re tired and in pain all the time. I’m sorry I’m always such a downer. I just have a hard time coping with this disorder and all that comes with it. If you have fibromyalgia, I’m sure you can relate. If not, I hope reading this gives you some insight into what it’s like to live in our world. If you know someone with fibromyalgia, give them a hug today – just be gentle. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here. Thinkstock photo via Archv.

Teresa Cooper

The Courage I See Every Day in My Son on the Autism Spectrum

I see my son with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) struggle with something new, whether it’s surprise thunderstorms, dreaded fire drills or broccoli, every day. What might seem minor to someone else can become a big deal for him. It can take courage to confront the unknown or the uncomfortable. It can take courage to power through it like a boss. What is courage? The dictionary defines courage as “the ability to do something that frightens one” or “strength in the face of pain or grief.” My son demonstrates this character trait daily. He comes home and tells me, “Mom, we had a fire drill, and I dealt with it!” You have no idea how much courage that takes him. Fire drills used to be more challenging for him. Vegetables are another matter entirely. Texturally, they bug him and they don’t taste so great to him. But when he eats a bit of broccoli, he’s demonstrated courage. He encountered something that causes him grief, and he showed strength by overcoming it. Courage doesn’t come easily or all the time, but it’s important to celebrate it when it happens. Does courage mean my son can always power through? Of course not. He’s human! I find it genuinely frightening to go up to a group of people I don’t know and introduce myself. Sometimes I’m able to do it and sometimes I’m not. My point? We need to cut our children some slack when it comes to pushing them outside of their comfort zones. Push too hard, and you’ve caused a setback. Don’t push hard enough, and you maintain status quo. But you do what you and your child feel comfortable with. Do what you can to make it easy to obtain mastery of goals. Headphones can help with noise issues. Weighted lap pads, stuffed animals or blankets can help with security issues. Don’t expect powering through to happen all the time, but rather wait and enjoy the successes. Because the successes are oh so sweet! Follow this journey on Embracing the Spectrum. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock image by Nadezhda1906

Teresa Cooper

10 Things I Love About My Autistic Child

If you scour the internet for searches about children with autism, you will likely see a whole bunch of negative things about autistic children. Maybe they have trouble sleeping or have meltdowns. Maybe they don’t communicate well. When I think about my autistic child, I can see those things in him, but there is also so much positive about him that should get recognized. So here are the things I love about my autistic child. What can I say? I love my son. Here’s why. 1. He’s taught me so much about life. My son has made me a better person because of all he’s taught me about life. 2. He wants to have friends, just like anyone else. Contrary to autism stereotypes, my son would do anything to make people happy because he wants so much to find friends. 3. He shows me unconditional love. No matter what, my son will always love me and tell me I’m the best mom ever. I could have the worst day, and he’d still be there, rallying for me. 4. He prays for me. That’s my son’s new thing now that we’ve been going to church for a while. If he sees me struggling or sick, he just looks at me and says, “I’ll pray for you, Mom.” It touches my heart that my autistic son has found God and holds that close to his heart. 5. He’s always good for a hug and a kiss. It’s part of our routine every day now that he must get a kiss before he goes to school. He kisses my cheek in return and blows me kisses at the carpool as he’s heading off to school. It makes my day. 6. He recognizes when I’m sad and actively tries to help. I have depression, so, unfortunately, no matter how I try to hide it, my children know all about what sadness looks like. He’ll hug me and tell me it’s OK. Sometimes I tear up when he does it because it seems to come from nowhere. He just senses when things aren’t right. 7. He loves to help people. He’s a people-pleaser, through and through. He’ll do anything to help. He’ll bring me a soda when I’m thirsty, help take out the recycling, and much more. All he seeks in return is love. 8. He’s such a good kid. We’ve had our struggles, but if you’re going through you own, know it truly does get better. My autistic son has come so far over the years, but through it all, his heart has been in the right place. He just knows more know about how to show it. 9. This kid is smart as a whip. Though he doesn’t always show how smart he has become, my son has so much wit about him and his memory reaches far beyond my own. I don’t know anyone aside from a mechanic who can tell me so much about cars. He knows how to get from our house to just about anywhere. He’s memorized my phone number, which is more than I can say for many kids I know who older than him. He’s just a little smart-pants, and I love it. 10. He has become more considerate over the years. I cannot tell you how it makes my heart swell when I see my autistic son giving something up to make his brother happy. It happens more and more these days, and I can attribute that both to our parenting style and his raw desire to make everyone, including his brother, happy. Don’t feel sorry for us. I’m telling you, having an autistic child does not come without challenges but neither does raising a neurotypical child. He’s fantastic, and I love him so much. I don’t feel sorry for myself for having him, and you shouldn’t feel bad about it either. My autistic child is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. I cannot deny how awesome he is. What do you love about your child? Share in the comments! We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Teresa Cooper

Living With Depression: When It's Easier to Hide

When you hear people talk about how to feel better when you have clinical depression and anxiety, the suggestions are enumerable: Go take a walk. Go do something fun. Call a friend. Distract yourself. Exercise. The idea is that perhaps if you get your mind off of your worries for a little while, you won’t feel depressed anymore. For me, it’s much easier to hide in the shadows than face the light of day where others might see me for who I am. I don’t want to go outside. I don’t want to talk to people. I don’t want to even exist most of the time. All that said, I often find myself forcing myself out “for my own good,” and because of my continuous struggle to become the happy person everyone needs me to be, the following is a run-down of thoughts I have when I do force myself out into the light. When I go out in public, I just wind up ducking my head down and avoiding eye contact. I’m terrified that people will see my pain and try to talk to me. Or worse, that they’ll try to talk to me and not even notice what I’m hiding on the inside. Small talk feels fraudulent, but I’m terrified of saying what I’m really thinking. I can make it in the outside world, but I just don’t feel right when I do. Smiling feels unnatural. I worry that as I get older, I’ll be one of those people with permanent frown lines etched into their faces. It’s the old adage that “if you keep making that face, it’ll get stuck like that” that I think about all the time. But a smile just doesn’t feel right. I see pictures of myself smiling and still can’t identify with the person in the photo. Who is she? I don’t know that smiling person. It feels unreal. It feels wrong. But I do wish I could be the happy person I see in the photos. Going for a walk sometimes does help some. During the walk, if I have someone to talk to who will really listen, the openness feels liberating. Often, though, I spend the time doing more stewing instead of feeling the endorphin release I’m supposed to feel from the exercise. My body doesn’t feel like moving, and I feel like a sloth. I trudge along, but I don’t feel strong. When someone wants to spend time with me, I have to weigh out the decision. Honestly, in the moment, when I’m doing something else, I feel a bit better. But in the back of my mind, I’m thinking about how the fun won’t really last and I’ll have to go back to my own misery later. I would like to say that going out and having fun gets rid of the depression, but it doesn’t. I guess the momentary reprieve is somewhat worthwhile. I mean, any break from the doom and gloom is better than feeling it all the time. I just wish it could last forever.Inside, it’s like I’m actively fighting against happiness most of the time. I don’t want to do it, but I can’t seem to help myself. I wonder about what people must think when I’m out having fun and smiling. Those who know what I’m going through might think that I’m all better because I had some fun. I just wish they knew that I need more than just a day outside of the house to fix what feels broken inside. All in all, I just don’t feel up to life, which feels even more awful when I think about how my mood disorder must make my kids feel. I can only hope that they know I’m not said because of them, and I try my hardest to show them my love for them. I know that if I could just pretend a little while longer that I’m happy and I don’t worry all the time, I could be a “better person.” And that’s the real tragedy of depression and anxiety. You’re too tired to move and too anxious to reach out to people. Hiding in the shadows keeps me away from being hurt in the long run, because, you know, what if people hate the person I really am? I can avoid rejection and disappointment if I never expect anything. So here I hide, only reaching out to the online community, hoping to get better, but not really counting on it happening. While none of this inspires hope in others, it is, for once, real and maybe that’s OK. So if you’re feeling hopeless and helpless like me, maybe we can at least commiserate with one another. I don’t promise happiness, but at least bringing out what I’m feeling might make someone else feel validated, and, to be really honest, a validation of my feelings is all I really wanted all along. It might not stop the private hell I’m feeling inside, but it at least makes me feel less alone. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Image via Thinkstock

Teresa Cooper

Why Fibromyalgia Makes Me Feel Guilty as a Mom and Wife

There are days where I wake up exhausted from a full night of sleep and my back is already hurting and it hurts to put my feet on the floor, but I force myself up and out to face the world. I have a job to do on top of being a wife and mom and I don’t want anyone to recognize that I’m feeling deficient, but the simple truth is that sometimes I just can’t even. As a teacher, I must exude energy and excitement about what I teach. While I find my job rewarding, the endless jumping through hoops that I do throughout the day to get kids excited about math drains me most days. I’m faking it all day long. I don’t feel energetic, so I overcompensate to get the kids into what we do. I drink lots of coffee, and I teach like my hair is on fire. I keep the momentum going before anyone can grab the fire extinguisher and put out the flame. On the drive home with my children, after hearing the loudness that comes with teaching all day, the car ride is a long one. Not just long because of distance, but because children are loud. My children. They are loud. Not only that, but I fight back against my eyelids as they drag farther down, trying to lull me to sleep. I am fatigued from not only not getting enough sleep most days, but because I’ve been on fire for math all day long. At home, dinner must get cooked, homework must get done, and I am tired. I’m tired, and sore, and just want to go to bed. This is not an option that makes anyone happy at my house. The kids want me and my husband wants me, but my body rebels against the responsibilities. On the bad fibro days, I feel incredibly guilty. I get migraines, my body aches, and I’m tired. I rest, but not without the dreaded consequence of feeling like I’m ignoring a family that needs me. To my husband, I want to say that I appreciate him for being my rock. Not everyone has that. To my children, I want to say that I’m sorry for what that this illness has stolen from you. I feel robbed, too, of happiness, time with my family, and of comfort. For these reasons, I try really hard to fight the urge to lie down. I battle through. I try to win the will to power on through pain, fatigue, and memory fogs. I feel grateful for the days that aren’t so bad. I use them to make up for time that I lost. I color with my youngest, snuggle with my oldest, and help my husband out in the kitchen. Please know that I am not lazy. I am not making excuses to get out of working. Sometimes I just can’t move because there’s a 2-ton elephant sitting on my body and guilt just lends itself to depression, which I don’t want to have to fight against, but often do. In April, I have an appointment with The Mayo Clinic to try to moderate these afflictions better. I pray that I find the answers I need there. To all those fibro warriors out there, I know that you’re fighting the good fight and that sometimes we lose, but your body has limitations. Know that I understand and that you have nothing to feel sorry for. It’s not your fault that the elephant chose you as a seating option. Maybe tomorrow you’ll find a way to pry it off and move freely, but if you’re weighed down today, that’s OK. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Lead photo by Thinkstock Images

Teresa Cooper

What It's Like to Be Stuck in 'Depression Fog'

In the past few weeks, as we get well into winter, my depression has taken over my body and mind. I feel like I’m in in some kind of “Body Snatchers” episode or something as I watch myself go through the motions during the day. Everything feels like more effort, and I find myself snapping at the smallest infractions. Then, there’s the deep fog of depression that overwhelms my senses. The fog of depression feels like a real fog. It feels unreal. It feels like I’m detached from my family, the outside world and myself. I’m floating through a deep, deep fog, and I can’t seem to find my way out of it. The more I try to fight it and think positive thoughts, the deeper into the fog I get, which actually makes it more like quicksand. As I struggle to get out, I’m drug further down. I want out, but I can’t find my escape. Sometimes, I wish I knew the right branch to grab on to pull myself up out of my depression quicksand, but the truth is I cannot reach it on my own. Inevitably, each branch I grab to pull myself out of this sinking feeling breaks off, as if the weight of my depression is too heavy to bear. I find myself sitting outside in the cold, shivering and alone, just to try to wake myself up. The feeling of the cold air whipping at my body jars me, but it does little to lift the fog. I’ve tried smoking to relieve some of my anxiety, but I feel the fogginess closing in on me no matter what I do. The medications, though changed and some increased, cannot seem to combat what’s sucking me down into a hole that I don’t know how to escape on my own. It’s times like these that the people in my life, the few I’ve allowed into this world, are most important. Everything said or done can either lift some of the fog or increase its thickness. Telling me I need to stop thinking negative thoughts only makes me feel worse. I begin to berate myself for being so negative, which I recognize as more negativity, and I sink down further. When reminded of all the blessings in my life, I can recognize all I have, but then, I feel horrible I can’t seem to appreciate it. Compassion, kindness, hugs and empathy seem to help the most. What I want more than anything is for those who care about me most to know my depression is not their fault. What I need to recognize for myself is that it’s not my fault either. I happened to step into the deep, thick, muddiness of depression, and now, I need to find my way out before I’m in over my head and suffocate from it. I need to feel something other than sadness, hopelessness and despair again. When the fog overwhelms me, I just need to find a place where I can breathe again, where I can feel alive and not just be alive. If you, like me, are stuck in the depression fog, then know that so many people out there feel just as you do. Sometimes, all we need to get by until the fog lifts again is the support of someone who knows. At some point, we’ll need to stop struggling and reach for a branch that can lift us up out of the quicksand. Find the person in your life who can hold that branch for you, whether it’s a therapist, a psychiatrist or a trusted friend. This battle is not one meant to be fought alone, no matter what our brains tell us. If you’re going to fight anything, then let it be the isolation. You, like me, can fight this thing, even when it feels impossible. Even when you see a permanent way out, I know eventually the fog will lift again, and I will see the sunshine. As I stand here in the quicksand, waiting for the right way to escape, I vow not to allow myself to get pulled under. Will you take that pledge with me? We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here. Image via Thinkstock.

Teresa Cooper

What New Years Eve Is Like With Depression

Last night, I saw joyful posts from people celebrating New Year’s Eve, sharing photos with their families and friends, as well as optimistic statements about the coming year. For me, no matter how hard I tried, I could not pull myself out of my slump. The thoughts kept cycling in and out, but I could not stop them. As much as I wanted to make it a truly “Happy New Year,” I could only think of what I did not have around me. Right now, I can easily think of reasons I should have been happy. My children were in a good mood and generally getting along with one another. My husband did everything he could to make it pleasant. I had family with me. I had someone to kiss when the ball dropped. And, for goodness sake, I really do have so much going for me. I finished my master’s in education program before Christmas. I won several grants so I could get Chromebooks for my classroom. I’ve been recognized at the school board. Truly, I am blessed, but the fact that I’m not happy despite all of that actually makes me feel worse. What’s wrong with me? I kept thinking. Beating myself up about not feeling gratitude. I hurt my husband’s feelings, because being with him was not enough for me. I wanted to be surrounded by friends and family, celebrating in the way I imagine “most” people do, which led me to thinking about how few friends I have and how many I’ve lost over the years. By the way, Facebook’s memories can be horrible to look at when you feel like you’ve lost so much. Or gained so much, if we’re talking about weight. What has happened to my life? I wondered. And then, more thoughts came. Like, Who am I, really? Where did I go? About four years ago, I literally lost my mind. When I did that, I lost a majority of my friends, who did not understand the person they were speaking to was speaking from a place of hurt. I guess I can’t blame them. Who wants to be around a person who overreacts to everything and always sees the downside of things? I don’t even want to be around me. Why would anyone else? As everyone makes their New Year’s resolutions, I could only think that I just want to be happy. I want to be more positive. I want to fix what’s broken inside of me. Even after I took my evening cocktail of medications designed to keep the depression, fibromyalgia and everything else at bay, I could not sleep. I lied awake in bed thinking about how horrible I made this day for my husband. Thinking about how hurt I felt when he got real with me about it. Wondering if I could make it through another year. In the end, I went to bed feeling sad and alone. This whole depression thing is a monster. It storms through my life, ruining everything it touches. While this self-defeating attitude is not helpful and I can recognize this fact, the battle that goes on inside my head — the struggle to find something positive to say — often winds up being  a losing one. This monster feels bigger than I am. It’s a real bully. I’m not totally sure how to defeat the monster, because I don’t feel as if I have the right weapons to defeat it. This year, I want more than anything to be as happy as I look in the pictures or, even better, as happy as people around me appear to be. I don’t really put much effort into hiding the cloak of darkness that surrounds me, but I hate it when I enshroud other people in it without meaning to. To my husband and my children, I am sorry for what I become when it takes hold of me. To everyone else, I wish I knew how to puke rainbows when it feels more like I’m dying inside. Some people say you can decide to be happy. I say that I wish I fought more successfully against the negativity. If you could only hear the battle that rages on in my head, you might feel just as confused and exhausted as I do. Each day I am alive is a small victory. I know this may not be the happiest New Year’s post out there, but it’s what I have got. Please bear with me while I fight for my happiness, my marriage, and for a lesser impact on my children. I thank God for everyone who chooses to still speak to me even when I may fail to recognize the bright moments in my everyday life. And honestly, I could use a support system if anyone’s willing to be there. 2017. The year of my pursuit of happiness? I guess we’ll find out. Image via Thinkstock. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Teresa Cooper

Things I’m Thankful for This Year as a Person With Fibromyalgia

There are days when I can’t seem to do much more than crawl out of bed. Fibromyalgia causes widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, memory issues and, in general, is a pain in the butt. When I run out of or don’t take my medication, it feels like a deep fog has settled over me and it’s difficult to find my way out. Despite all of this, there are some things I can be thankful for this year as someone with fibromyalgia. 1. I have become more empathetic toward others. People often make assumptions about “lazy” people who can’t seem to get their life together, but I wonder how many people silently experience challenges from fibromyalgia and just need someone to say, “I get it. I get you.” 2. My medication works pretty well. I know it works because when I don’t take it, the pain and fatigue become almost unbearable. I’m thankful — although there is no cure for fibromyalgia — that there are options for helping relieve the symptoms. 3. I learned that I’m not alone. I used to think no one understood what I am going through, but as I open up and talk more about it, I’ve found several people around me who also have fibromyalgia. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to find your tribe. As the song goes, “We all need somebody to lean on …” 4. My doctor really listens to me. It took me almost two years to find a good doctor, but once I started talking to people around me about it, I learned about a doctor in my area who really knows how to treat fibromyalgia. A good bedside manner and knowledge of how to help patients are the two most important qualities in a good doctor. Mine has both. 5. I’ve got a supportive husband. So sometimes he gets tired of me being tired, but most of the time, he does what I can’t do and doesn’t complain about it. He doesn’t fully understand what I’m going through because he’s never felt what I feel, but he tries. Without a good support system, fibromyalgia can really create some problems. Thank goodness I’ve got support. Yes, fibromyalgia is painful, exhausting and challenging to cope with, but if I’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that it’s important to open up to people about it. Not everyone will understand and there will be people who still think it’s fake even though it’s a valid medical diagnosis, but you’ll find more people are willing to listen than you think, and you just might find other people who also have fibromyalgia. And, if nothing else, you can come here for support. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images