At the end of last month’s article, I said I would be debunking myths of the Paleo Diet in this month’s issue. For those looking forward to the Paleo article, my sincerest apologies. In place of debunking myths is a more serious issue. One that is felt by an overwhelming number of people and shakes us to the core with the reality of what has become our day-to-day lives. This issue is usually overlooked, minimized, or outright ignored by many – fibro thrivers included. To put it simply, it’s the darker side of fibromyalgia.
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This article first appeared in The Fibromyalgia Magazine, October 2017. Get the digital copy of the magazine from Pocketmags.
Fibromyalgia and Mental Anguish
This side exists mentally and is just as real as physical pain. The battle between wanting to fuel the flame of life and fighting the urge to extinguish it. The side permeated with negativity and soaked with hatred, rendering us exhausted, confused, and disconnected from others. Whether a person acknowledges its existence or not, the darkness overtakes its victim and eats away at the light within.
The mental anguish leaves us more battered and bruised than the physical pain. This veil of evil always lurks in the corners of the mind waiting for the slightest opportunity to appear. It binds and paralyzes us without a single warning, dragging us from a stable state of being and throwing us, against our will, into a cell in which escape seems impossible. Despite the severity of this side of fibromyalgia, we remain silent about its existence for fear of appearing crazy, dramatic, or, most importantly, in a worse state of health.
Is there a solution?
Are you still reading in hopes of me offering a solution to stave off the darkness? I’m sorry to disappoint you, dear reader. Sadly, I haven’t found a way to avoid it. Even my most valiant efforts are rendered useless when the darkness wants to appear. How much it devours can be controlled to some extent, but it devours nonetheless.
My intention of this article is to ask a favor of you. Will you join me in exposing this dark side of fibromyalgia? Here’s how you can help. Write about the darkness enveloping you as it’s happening. Write your feelings on the cell walls. Do not wait until after it’s gone and the light is shining on you again. Because it can be scary, our minds – thankfully – will often lessen its severity in a vain attempt to recover to what the brain believes to be the norm.
You do not have to share this experience publicly, or even with your loved ones. Keep it to yourself. I keep many of my darker moments to myself and I am a writer of the fibromyalgia community. Writing about the mental anguish acknowledges it, and that in itself is confronting the topic.
In some small chance you do want to share it but are hesitant to expose that side of you, send it to me. I’ll read it with no discussion required. Maybe knowing someone else has peeked at your inner darkness will be healing for you. And if you do want to share it for everyone else to read, whether at that time or in the future, I can provide that platform (anonymously, if you wish).
How will it help others?
At this point you may be asking, how will writing down my feelings and sharing them help anyone else? Let me tell you about my recent experience.
Not too long ago I was having a bad day. Not quite as dark as other days, but dark. Baffled by the drastic turn of events occurring mentally, I wrote what I was feeling as I was experiencing it. I struck each key of the keyboard with a type of ferocity I haven’t felt before and cried while doing it. When I was done, some of the weight I’d been feeling had eased a bit. I saved the document onto my computer and set it aside.
Some of my readers are aware of my journal entries published at My Fibro Journal. I find it therapeutic to write about my feelings. Sharing those entries with others is a way to give others a glimpse into a life of fibromyalgia, and be a comfort to those living with it. But as I said earlier, some of those darker moments I keep to myself. The thought of disclosing those moments makes me feel vulnerable and slightly terrified. My intent was to keep this latest entry private as well, but there was this pull to share it. As the morning progressed, the pull grew stronger. What was I to do with this? I was too scared to show the world.
You see, I – the writer, advocate, and vocal person that I am – feared what others may think of the entry. My closest friends and family read my blog. If I published it for the world to read, I would be inviting them behind my closed doors. That would result in a lot of exposure and vulnerability I didn’t want. It would be criticized, scrutinized, minimized, and more. If I’m perfectly honest, that’s frightening for me. But living with the darkness inside is also frightening. More so, at times. So, what was I going to do about it?
As a baby step, I shared it with one person. A test of some sort to help me decide if I really wanted to publish it. The person I shared it with is a fibro thriver, and we met a few months ago through my blog’s Facebook page and Fibro Parenting group. I knew she would give me an honest opinion of it. Afterwards, she encouraged me to share it. Her acceptance encouraged me to give it to my husband to read. He seconded her opinion.
The next step was to ask others if they felt they could benefit from this type of sharing of the mental struggles. The collective response was yes. Some said they don’t feel as alone or crazy when they read about others’ experiences. One person said it gives her a fresh perspective on the subject, and the opportunity to encourage others. Another woman said, for her, it’s a way to connect with those sharing the same feelings, and – in a way – helps her to learn more about her own illness.
The decision was clear. This needed to be published to help others. The only question was: how? How do I share this piece of my life with others to comfort and connect with them? I decided the best method was this magazine.
The Darkness Inside
So, here it is for the world to see. A piece of writing in its purest form coming from the dark corners. Open your mind and let it in without judgement or guarded feelings. Thank you for being the person that is willing to give it a chance.
The beautiful rays of the sun warming God’s land and His people is usually so moving to me. Soaking in the vastness and possibilities of life is an overwhelming pleasure. On a good day, standing in awe of nature, the movement of life, and the simple state of living is a treat for my whole being. My eyes struggle to fully absorb all that there is to see, in every detail, in a vain effort to quench my hunger for life. It is not unusual for my family to find me staring out the front windows of our home, smiling at what has become our happiness.
But today is different. Today I seek the shadows. The vastness and possibilities of life are too open and wide leaving me too exposed to others. My eyes eagerly search for the dark to shield me from all that beauty I once found so appealing. To keep me from the constant reminder that I am not like others.
The dark protects me, comforts me like an old friend. It reaches out to me, gently pulling me down into its protective walls of enclosure. It’s safe down here. Down here I am alone with no one to question my tears or ask the endless string of whys or how come. I can be myself in this space of one. I don’t have to think or make up false excuses. I can just be. Not exactly a great state of being, I know. But down here there is no judgment or muffled whispers or assumptions to make me feel less than.
The darkness may not be all that desirable and, usually, on a good day, I can see why. But today I seek the solace of the dark. Today it is my friend and companion. I am not fighting it or pushing it away because the quiet is comforting. Even the sound of my own voice cannot be tolerated or trusted. Sound gives the illusion of normalcy and today is everything but normal. Normal is not what I want. Or do I?
Why do I hide my suffering? Do others not cry? Do they not know suffering, too? Cannot one of them relate to the thick cloud of darkness clinging to my skin, slowly suffocating the light of life within me? I hide it because others’ suffering means nothing in the world of normal. Utterly meaningless to those that stride through their lives oblivious to the ones fighting their demons and the will to see the happiness of life.
Right now, I’m hanging on to each minute – each second – stretching between this time and the time I must crawl out of this well. The time in which I must swallow my battle to live and to stuff it way down deep inside to fight again another day. Dreading the time in which I must open the front door of my protective fortress of solitude and step out into the blinding light of the living. Stepping into the world of others to join the ranks of life and all the living that comes with it.
Today, if you see me on my way to pick up my kids from the school bus, do not say hello forcing me to return a greeting in return. You will not see it, but I’m fighting each step and trying my hardest to look normal. This effort leaves me exhausted and defeated. And, please, do not think you are seeing all of me. The rest of me is waiting down deep inside to show its alluring face of darkness pulling me back into that well of loneliness at the next available opportunity.