This is an article that I wrote in response to the most frequently asked question I get. If you are still having problems coping with the anger and frustration from a FMS diagnosis, then maybe this will help. So here it is…..
Today I’m going to go off course for this article and talk about a question that I’m asked over and over. The glaring question I face almost daily is, “As someone with Fibromyalgia, how do you do everything you do”. That’s a very tricky question for me. It’s a question I have to answer cautiously. Why you ask, because to explain it means baring my deepest fears, my insecurities. Yet, I will address it for you.
So you can better understand why that question is so prominent for me, I’ll tell you a little bit about me. My family includes, my husband, my son, who’s a college student, and 2 young daughters. My husband travels during the week so it’s just me and the girls. This means I’m totally responsible for the house and taking care of the girls on my own in addition to continuing my career. That in itself is a job as both of my daughters are extremely active.
In addition to being a writer for Fog magazine, and political advocate, I’m also a copywriter and author. My novel was published at the end of October 2008. I’m currently working on 3 more simultaneously. Up until my family moved this past June, I also coached a competitive cheerleading squad.
I realized after the anger at my diagnosis that the only way to reclaim my life was to face it head on. Luckily I had an open minded doctor who was willing to allow me to try different combinations of medications, etc. I finally found the right treatment plan for me, one that included medications, vitamins and exercise. This allowed me to focus on the most important medical decision I made throughout this painful and frustrating process.
The decision I made had absolutely nothing to do with medications, doctors or any other treatment. I had to change the way I thought.
I had to change the way I looked at life. That has been what made a difference in my life. I had to bring myself to the point where I allowed myself to be “sick”. What do I mean by that?
Crazy as it seems I spent a lot of time lying to myself. I kept ignoring all the flare warning signs. I just kept going until I crashed. I knew everyone who knew me knew I was sick and I felt like they looked at me differently. I was going to prove to them that I could still be me, that I could still do everything. Boy was I wrong. That frame of mind and attitude kept me sick and flaring constantly. I would do really well for a week and cram a month’s worth of chores, errands, etc into that week. Then I would pay for it for the next several weeks.
I didn’t think I would ever get out of that routine. The problem was I wasn’t the only one suffering. My family was suffering as well. They are the ones who had to watch me in pain unable to do even the slightest thing. Then one day my husband said to me, “This has got to stop”. Being the one who took everything personally since I got sick, I assume he meant he was tired of dealing with my medical problems. Again, it was from looking at the negative in everything. Fibromyalgia, meant I carried the stigmatism that I was less than my normal self. I couldn’t live with that. What I didn’t understand was that I was the only one looking at it from that perspective.
What my husband meant was he was tired of watching me make myself worse by trying to do everything the same way I had before. He wanted me to find the peace inside myself to cope with the changes to my life. He wanted me to find myself again. Funny thing was, I didn’t know I was missing.
I wish I could say I found myself quickly. Saying that however would be a lie. It still took the better part of a year for me to get to that place. The place where I actually liked myself again. To get there though meant facing all of the fears I’d kept deep down where no one else would look. I was afraid of so many things.
I was afraid of letting my family down. I was afraid of giving in to the Fibromyalgia and losing who the real me was. What I didn’t understand was that I was doing exactly that by trying to pretend I wasn’t sick. I always thought I had to be perfect. Make sure my house was spotless, that my daughter’s clothes were ironed with that crisp look to them. I had to be the mom that was at all the parties and spent the night before baking and decorating all the cupcakes. Basically I thought I had to be supermom and wife, and then adding in friend, daughter, sister and aunt to everyone else. I was the mom who never missed a practice or game or open house, anything that my kids were even remotely involved in.
It took realizing with my husband’s help of course, that my life was spinning out of control for me to understand the damage I was doing. I heard the words Fibromyalgia and pretty much lost my mind. Yes it’s ok to laugh at that. I look back now and laugh a lot at how stupid I was. I wasn’t helping anyone, especially myself with the way I was acting.
So I told a long hard look at my life. I thought about what was most important to me and my family. It wasn’t until I did that that I understood that things around the house don’t have to be perfect for my family to be happy. It took them having a happy mom. How did this crazy, perfectionist who was sick constantly get to be the well rounded, happy and fairly flare free person that I am today?
The main thing I did was give up the notion that having Fibromyalgia meant I was less than I was before. I woke up and finally accepted that I can be me and still have Fibromyalgia. I can take a day when the aches become worse and lie around resting to try and stave off a flare without feeling guilty. The main thing I did was give up the guilt. Guilt drove me. Guilt defined my life. The guilt of being sick, the guilt of not always being able to say yes, the guilt of feeling like my husband was no longer getting the wife he’d married. Guilt can be a powerful emotion. One that needs constant supervision or it will destroy any chance you have at being happy.
You have to accept the having an illness doesn’t define you. You are you, the illness just is. It’s nothing more, nothing less. Once I understood that it was my mind set holding me back, making me sick I could focus on getting better. Not cured, but better. I’ve learned to watch for the warning signs. I’ve learned to see a flare coming and allow it to be without fighting it. If I’ve learned anything from having Fibromyalgia, it’s that fighting a flare will only make it worse. You have to accept that, deal with it and move on. You have to get to the place where you can say, “This too shall pass”.
It’s been this life lesson that has done more good for me than any prescription out there. There is already too much that is misunderstood about Fibromyalgia. Don’t perpetuate the myth! Live your life your way. Not the way you think others think you should.
When your body says rest, do it. Learn to listen to your body. It does talk to you. Once you do that you will find that you will be able to build your energy, and build on your happiness.