A few weeks ago, I posted about some struggles I was having with my health–keeping information very general, as I did not truly have answers.
But now I do. And I think I am ready to reach out.
Moving to Colorado was the best thing that happened to me. Every specialist I visited took the time to listen to my concerns, they validated me as a patient, and in the end, they found several diagnoses.
In all honesty, I was not surprised. I already have several conditions, so I was partially pleased to add some new things to the list. This meant I wasn’t crazy–that I wasn’t making up symptoms in my head. At one point, I did start to wonder.
Yet, when the reality of the illness hit me, I wasn’t pleased at all. Perhaps, even, it would have been better if I were “making it all up.”
You see, I have fibromyalgia. I strongly believe this is a condition that no one really understands. I had hardly even heard of it. And heck, when I told one of my friends, her response was, “like from the commercials!?” Yes, that made me giggle. I hope it made you giggle too.
All I really know is that it is “a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues” (thank you, Mayo Clinic). Some “invisible symptoms” include: muscle pain, tender joints, achy bones, cramps, stiffness, numbness, tingling, chronic fatigue, weakness, insomnia, nausea, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, irritability, and much more.
Being someone who typically does not admit when she is not feeling well, this “invisible” diagnosis can take a toll. It may appear as though I am my “normal” self–full of energy and feeling great. However, in reality, I may feel like I ran two marathons the day before, somehow managed to get a concussion, and haven’t slept in a week.
People have asked me what it is like, or how they can best support me. I suppose the answer would be what I am telling myself: learn more. I still don’t understand the changes my body is dealing with, and it would be much easier if others attempted to understand as well. To say I am having a “rough day” is probably an under-exaggeration, and being aware of what fibromyalgia can do to one’s body is the best way to know that.
I will be honest, it stinks. I never imagined myself being the 22-year-old who occasionally wakes up feeling like she is 90. I have missed out on some of the things I love to do because my body just won’t let me. And it can be hard watching other people continue to move forward when some days I feel like I have just regressed.
However, I am learning. I am on the path to accepting. I want to share my new perspective with you.
- I now know how much of a gift a good day can be. Before I felt the symptoms and got diagnosed, I took my life for granted. I didn’t realize how lucky I was to wake up and go for a run. I was able to push my body beyond its limits without worrying what the following week would feel like. Lately, there have been limited “I feel awesome” days, and when I wake up without pain, I am so thankful for that special feeling. I have learned to appreciate all of the past years, and I now understand how blessed I am when a “good” day arrives.
- I take my life day-by-day. Anyone who knows me, knows I am a planner. I plan weeks and months in advance. Sometimes I get anxious when plans are not perfectly set, and this causes more worry than needed. Now, however, it is nearly impossible to plan. If I plan something a week in advance, it is hard to know if I will be able to store up the energy to carry the plan through. Instead, I wake up, determine how I feel, and then base my plans on that. Day-by-day.
- I am learning to surrender. Last week, I watched a sermon on surrendering to God. I think I have had a fear of surrendering this diagnosis to Him. What if God’s plans for my life don’t align with my own? I would ask. What if surrendering means I lose all control? Well, news flash: surrendering is giving up all control. And honestly, if I cannot control my ability to sleep throughout the night or the way my body feels, how on earth would I expect myself to have the ability to control my future? …I can’t. Trying to control my body and its symptoms is not working. No matter what I do, no matter what medication I try, my body still has a power over me now. Why keep fighting when God can do the fighting for me? When I fight, I will lose, but when God fights for me, we win. I have not fully surrendered, but I am working on it.
Who would have thought that one word–fibromyalgia–could change my life in so many ways? I look back and sometimes wish I had done more while I still could. I guess that’s my encouragement for you. Follow your dreams now because you never know what may interfere in the future. I suppose that is also the encouragement I have for myself. I am still chasing my dreams: I am just a little more thankful…and a little more understanding and patient with myself.
My body may stop me, but God will keep me going. My friends and family have the potential to keep me going. I will keep myself going.
I will cling tight to the truth, and I will accept the new plans God may have in store for me.
I wonder if this post was in the end a call for understanding. I want to share what I have learned with others, but perhaps I also want others to know my current reality. Isn’t that what we all want? I ask that you support me on this journey. After all, I know the power of encouragement, and I firmly believe God has given us all the support we need. Sometimes we just need to ask.