Since my diagnosis in 2012, I have asked the question, “Should I tell my friends and family that I suffer from fibromyalgia?” This naturally leads to other questions such as how much to tell them, how it affects me, and how it may affect the relationship.
This article first appeared in The Fibromyalgia Magazine, July 2016. Get the digital copy of the magazine from Pocketmags.
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What If I Shared About My Condition?
In the beginning, I didn’t feel comfortable about sharing my illness. I was worried about what the other person would be feeling – pity, skepticism, or even judgment. None of those feelings would add any value to the relationship, and would just be a cloud hovering over it.
Silencing the What-ifs of #fibro relationships #FibroLiving Click To Tweet
In Fall 2013, after recently moving into a new community, my family and I had a garage sale. A neighbor a few doors down stopped by, along with her twin boys, to greet us. She and I immediately hit it off. We talked about our kids, chaotic schedules, and other mom topics. Despite the pleasant conversation, the uncomfortable feeling of hesitation possessed me.
I was thinking about how to bring up the subject of me having fibromyalgia. It lingered in the back of my mind because we seemed to be getting along and it could, possibly, lead to a great friendship. But – what if my illness caused a weight that she did not want to share? What if she simply did not want to be burdened with the complexity of it all? In my mind, we had become friends only to be broken up by my illness, and yet, in reality, we had only met five minutes ago.
Why did I think this way? Why couldn’t I just have a friendship with a neighbor I got along with? Why would I doom a friendship before it even had a chance to begin?
More importantly, why did I have all these ‘what ifs’?
After discussing these feelings with other fibromyalgia thrivers, I discovered I was not alone. There are various degrees of these feelings.
Some of the feelings include:
- Pride of not wanting to admit to having an illness
- Being viewed as weak, guilty, or less than
- Being overlooked
- Not being dependable
- Letting others down
- Being an embarrassment
You may feel as though the other person will not believe you are truly sick because of the mantra ‘you don’t look sick’. Even worse, you may feel like the other person thinks you are exaggerating the severity of your sickness in order to seek attention or special treatment.
On the other hand, you may feel as though telling others will cause them to have pity or worry more than necessary. These feelings may lead you to minimize your pain and suffering in order to comfort that person.These are the feelings involved with #fibro relationships #FibroLiving Click To Tweet
Fibromyalgia is an Uncertainty
Fibromyalgia is a complicated disease with varied symptoms that change from hour to hour, day-to-day. One day we will be able to go shopping with a group of friends, and the next day we are confined to our bed because of the previous day’s activities. And that’s just the thing – we don’t know and the uncertainty of it all causes guarded feelings.
Those of us living with fibromyalgia, whether we’ve lived with it for years or months, are confused by its complexity. We begin to doubt our self-worth in terms of maintaining healthy and long-lasting relationships.
Remember the neighbor that I met at the garage sale? The one in which we were the greatest friends and had broken up in the span of five minutes? I did tell her about my illness, and guess what? She didn’t break up our friendship! Today, she is my closest and dearest friend.
If I had let all those hesitations and feelings of doom preside over me, I would have only failed myself. I would have cheated us out of a companionship that has strengthened both of us in more ways than one. She has taught me compassion, and that it is okay to tell others about your illness. It doesn’t have to be either a burden or bring down a relationship.Give yourself a chance for a great relationship! #FibroLiving Click To Tweet
Give others, and yourself, a chance. There will be people that will doubt your illness, believe you are faking it, or seeking attention. But look at this way: better to find out right away rather than investing yourself in a relationship with a toxic person. It’s a way to weed out those that are not worth your time. You deserve better, and you deserve only the best of people in your life.
Once you have made the decision to tell others, the next step would be how. How to do it will be discussed in next month’s issue.