Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Thoughts on Having My 3-Year 'Fibro'versary

~My Faithful Fibro Companion, Arwen~

Today is the three year anniversary of when I first got sick with Fibromyalgia. I didn't know it at the time, however. I went to bed the night before a little more tired than usual, thinking I might be coming down with a cold, but happy that the next day I was off work and would be able to sleep in, work out, tidy the house, and work on my photography. That fateful morning I woke up and felt like I had run face-first into a brick wall: my entire body hurt - bones, joints, skin, hair, nails, everything. My head felt foggy, like lead in a bucket of water, I just couldn't think or make sense of anything. I was definitely coming down with something, probably the flu. I rested and went back to work the day after, thinking I felt pretty horrible, but I needed the money.
I collapsed at work, began shaking uncontrollably and ended up in the emergency room with doctors scratching their heads not knowing what was wrong. After almost 2 years of going through test after test after test, not knowing if I had cancer, ectopic pregnancies, endometriosis, cysts, fibroids, allergies (YES I do), asthma (I always have, but not bad), and many more terrifying things, (including mental illness and wondering if I was, in fact, going crazy...I wasn't) I finally had an answer: Fibromyalgia. I hurt all the time, I'm exhausted all the time, I feel weak, get dizzy, get grumpy (who wouldn't when you don't sleep and hurt??), and many more not-so-fun (!) things, and there is no cure. I've tried over $1500 of medications in the last year alone that have done nothing but make me very, very ill. I've lost friends, jobs, had to stop going to school for accounting, which I loved, and had to give up many other very enjoyable pastimes.
Why do I bring up all of this yuckiness, you ask? I'll tell you.
I have learned so much in these last three years, grown so much, that I have to share.
1. I have learned that being sick is very frustrating and annoying, but not the end of the world. I don't have cancer, AIDS, Ebola, or many much worse diseases that kill. I will not die, despite saying on occasion that I would like to after the pain gets really, really bad. I will not die. That is important.
2. I have learned that real friends are the ones who keep calling and understand when you don't always call them back. They don't just call when they need something. They understand that you are sick but still care about them. That is wonderful.
3. I have learned that not everyone believes in fibromyalgia, many people think that because I look 'normal' (minus the huge bags under my eyes from lack of sleep and my hobbling around in pain), I must be fine and am therefore faking it. I am not faking it. I am very, very sick, but if they don't want to understand after my educating them politely, I am not going to take it personally, or try to make them understand. Life is too short and important to waste it on people who don't/won't bother to understand. You can't see diabetes....are they 'faking' it?
4. A good husband, family and good friends are so vital, even if you don't always see eye-to-eye or meet face-to-face every day. Support is so crucial. A kind word, email, or very gentle hug can make all the difference between bottomless depression and feeling like there is hope
5. Everyone has problems, and we need to LISTEN. If you see someone and ask "How are you?" Mean it. Listen to their answer. If they just say "Fine," they are not 'fine', and something has to be going on. In this day and age of electronic impersonality we lose contact with important human connections. Reconnect. Care. You'll be surprised how much it means to you and the other person.
6. A happy dog's wagging tail, or a cat on your lap can melt away almost every bad thing for a while. Animals are instant stress relievers and the more stressed you are, the more attention you need to pay to your dog, cat, fish, rat, etc. They really do help. Plus, they like the attention - wouldn't you?
7. Distractions are great. Hobbies are essential no matter how healthy or busy you are. Teach yourself to knit, crochet, paint, make tables, anything you like to do. It is also a great stress reliever, and you never know, you might find something you are really passionate about.
8. Talking or blogging is so great. You can vent, cry, laugh, say almost anything and you'll feel better. And you meet really cool people, often sharing your experiences.
Thank you for joining me on this reflective day. I hope it makes an impression on you - it certainly has on me.
My love and positive thoughts to you all, I wish you a healthy, happy and prosperous future :)

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