Being a survivor of fibromyalgia is not enough for me. Surviving implies barely making it; fighting to be here; a lack of fulfillment; feeling powerless. The meaning is endless for me, but it’s all the same – negative and not what I want. I
want will change. It means being more than merely surviving. To thrive, for me, means to be making it and then some leftover; no longer fighting; being fulfilled; feeling powerFUL. Bottom line: I want to thrive in my family life and I want to have fibromyalgia; I don’t want fibromyalgia to have me. I want to be a fibromyalgia thriver.
My Fibromyalgia Story
In the summer of 2005 I started experiencing pain all over my body. It was an achy pain like I would get after exercising except I didn’t have to be exercising to get the pain. I particularly felt it in my lower back. In addition, I was constantly tired, but figured it was from the lack of sleep at night.
At the time, my physician attributed it to my pregnancy and said that I should expect to feel tired and a little pain, and that I would be back to ‘normal’ shortly after the birth of my baby. Since this was first pregnancy, I took her word for it.
After not reaching ‘normal’ several months after my son’s birth in early 2006, I went back to the doctor with the same complaints. At first she said it was due to taking care of a newborn which was partly true. I wasn’t getting any sleep, and my husband was overseas a lot, so I had a lot of stress. This was all understandable given my situation. Then she – rather we – discovered I was pregnant with my second child. “Problem solved!” she triumphantly exclaimed, brushing my complaints eagerly aside stating that “there was nothing wrong, but just another bun in the oven!”
Once again I accepted the explanation; however, once again one year later, I was still having the same symptoms only a little more aggressive. On top of the body aches and lack of sleep, I was experiencing:
- little bit of anxiety
- slight depression
- drastic mood swings
- frequent headaches
- foot pains
- severe shoulder pains
Since I was done serving in the military and was being discharged, I didn’t have a physician to see, but rather a physician to review all doctor visits I had during the time I served in order to continue care once I was discharged.
How a doctor’s dismissal was damaging
In one sentence this complete stranger managed to minimize dismiss my pain by suggesting it was mere motherhood that caused these problems. I was so embarrassed. I was embarrassed that I couldn’t ‘hack it’ as a mom, and was complaining to a doctor about it in hopes that he could help me.
What was wrong with me? Could I not do this mom thing?
That was the exact moment I believed that what I was experiencing was just a product of weakness. That all moms experienced these feelings and pain and that I was just too weak to ‘buck up’ and move onward.
When is enough enough?
By the winter of 2012 I was out of control. I had had two more children and my pain was unmanageable. When I say ‘out of control’ I don’t mean I was merely experiencing more physical pain. The physical pain was just a minute part of living with back/hip problems.
When I say out of control, I mean in particular that I experienced:
- frequent episodes of depression
- heightened anxiety
- feelings of utter hopelessness
- dramatic mood swings
- social isolation
- feelings of failure as a wife, mother, daughter, and sister
- frequent muscles aches/spasms
- severe and constant back pain to the severity of locking up when bending over
- sharp pains in both feet
- tingling in my feet and hands
- frequent tension headaches
- severe menstrual cycles
- sleepless nights
- Spiritual depletion.
It was complete madness living with all these symptoms; and the physical pain just intensified those feelings. The worst part was that it wasn’t just felt by me, it was felt by all members of my immediate family (husband and four kids) as well as my family 500 miles away (my parents, grandmother, and sister).
No one knew what I was going to do/say next or how I was going to react to what was said/done. To be completely honest, I didn’t know what I was going to do/say/feel from one moment to the next. My families said they walked on egg shells around me during that time. I’m sure that was an understatement.
In the winter of 2012, after I reached what I thought was my breaking point, I contacted my health insurance provider and scheduled an appointment with a new primary care provider. During the first fifteen minutes of my appointment, after a brief summary of symptoms and a quick examination, my physician immediately new what I had – fibromyalgia and chronic pain. This diagnosis cemented me in my new reality of daily pain, and I wasn’t going anywhere any time soon.
I cried. I was seeing my reality for the first time and it saddened me. I would be living with these conditions for the rest of my life and all I could do was ‘manage’ it. Wow. That’s a lot to swallow. It also triggered a downward spiral and caused a depression that lasted for several months.
I’m a Fibromyalgia Thriver!
You know how some say that once you reach rock bottom the only way to go is up? Well, that was my rock bottom. I was knocked down by my pain and I was done living with it. I was supposed to be managing the pain, but instead the pain was managing me. I had learned how to survive moment to moment, and that was great, but I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t fully embracing my life as it was and I certainly wasn’t okay with where I was.
I didn’t want to merely ‘survive’ and go through the motions of life. I wanted to feel life; feel fulfilled; happy to get out of bed each day with the excited anticipation of the endless possibilities of life. I had too much to live for, and the bare minimum wasn’t cutting it for me. That is the day I switched my mindset from surviving to thriving. Thriving meant flourishing, growing, and, most importantly, not just surviving. THAT is where I wanted to be. And it was all up to me. How was I going to do that?
I know I am not the only mom living with chronic conditions, and this is how “Being Fibro Mom” came about. My mission is to let all parents living with chronic pain to not be ashamed of their condition as I once was, and to show them that they don’t have to just survive their everyday life, but to thrive it! My hope is that all of my posts are informative and filled with resources about fibromyalgia and chronic pain, but even more so to show how you can switch from surviving to thriving. And if there is an area where I’m lacking to show that, please let me know and I’ll share more.
My mom also lives with fibromyalgia, and her condition is worse than mine. Read her story here.
Updated May 2019:
Here it is some time later, and while I still live with fibromyalgia and chronic pain, I AM thriving in my family life. I still have my bad days, but the good days far outnumber the bad ones. Every aspect of my life involves my conditions and there isn’t one day that goes by that I’m not reminded of it. But that’s okay – I embrace them because they are a part of me and I love me – the good and not so good.