September is Pain Awareness Month

I was supposed to begin my eight week Stronger journey a few days ago, but my body had other ideas. I suffer from Fibromyalgia, a very misunderstood disease. I used to believe, as many still do, that Fibromyalgia is a catch all diagnosis for people who just can’t handle life. “Fibromyalgia” gives people an excuse to be lazy and complain about how bad their life is while popping narcotics for imagined pain.

I spent over a year having every test imaginable done to find the cause of my symptoms: fatigue, muscle twitches, joint and muscle pain, and feeling things that weren’t there. On any given day I would feel heat on my upper thigh, burning on my arms, electric shocks in my ankles, and water running down my leg. On a beautiful cloudless day I could even feel rain hitting my legs. I was sleeping ten or twelve hours each night, but couldn’t stand up straight during the day because of my fatigue. My head was always foggy and common words escaped me. I used to feel so stupid all the time, and depression really weighed me down.

When I received my diagnosis I was so angry. I wanted the doctor to take it all back and find the real reason I was having these problems. The diagnosis felt as though the doctor had given up and didn’t want to keep looking for the real cause. However, the reality is that in the absence of all other diagnosis, Fibromyalgia is the most likely cause. I knew I didn’t have Lyme Disease, Ehrlichiosis, Epstein Barr, Multiple Sclerosis, vitamin deficiency, hyper- or hypo-thyroidism, pinched nerves, a brain tumor…the list goes on. In fact, I was one of my doctor’s healthiest patients. There was no other explanation for my symptoms. Over the next few weeks I did an extensive amount of research on this fake, catch-all diagnosis and learned that while the symptoms are widely varied, there are some commonalities between all sufferers, namely fatigue, muscle and joint pain, fogginess, memory loss, inability to concentrate, and 18 very specific tender points on the body. Of those 16 tender points I already had six. The more I read, the more I realized that this diagnosis fit. I could finally put a name to the thing that had been plaguing me for over a year. A huge weight was immediately lifted from my shoulders.

Next, it was time to figure out how to live with this thing. I was told to take it easy, rest frequently, don’t push too hard, etc. – all things that have absolutely no meaning to an independent, southern woman. It took a long time to figure out that this really was my new life. I was no longer able to keep pushing past the brink of exhaustion since it would literally put me out of commission for the next couple of days. I couldn’t make plans weeks ahead of time since there was no way to know what kind of day I would be having. Some days it was impossible to even get out of bed.

That was three years ago. Some times I still struggle. This week is one of those times. It is hard enough right now to make it to work. Walking to meetings, or to and from my car, is just manageable right now. Throwing in a 35 minute High Intensity Interval Training right now wouldn’t be taking it easy, and it might be considered pushing too hard. Hopefully next week will be a different story, and I can post my first week of Stronger from a gorgeous beach in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. This vacation can’t get here soon enough.

Pain Awareness Month

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