Saturday, July 31, 2010
The Beginning: How I was diagnosed
When I was young, I was full of energy. I exercised regularly, danced three days a week, taught gymnastics and aerobics. I was the energizer bunny. When I started college and stress and deadlines took over, I stopped exercising to be a college student and worked part-time as a waitress. Over the course of my college years, I gradually became more and more tired and started developing stomach issues. I felt like I had the flu all the time. My doctor diagnosed me with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and gave me medication which helped some. I still got frequent headaches, stomach-aches, flu-like symptoms and continued to feel sick the majority of the time. I knew that something wasn’t quite right, but just shrugged it off and blamed it on working too hard in school and stress.
Seven years later and ten pounds lighter I was just as tired and weak as ever. I had been to every kind of doctor I could think of for answers. I was tested for Lupus, Lyme disease, Lymphoma, Cancer, Celiac Disease, Leukemia every other condition known to man and even tested psychologically (as if I really wanted to make up all these symptoms). Only after the removal of my gallbladder, losing a job due to illness and two years on unemployment, I decided I had had enough. I broke down in the doctor’s office and told them something was wrong, that I couldn’t go on like this anymore. This is when I was diagnosed with a chronic pain condition called Fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is characterized by chronic, wide-spread pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons. Everything hurts. Your back hurts, muscles tender to the touch and you have trouble doing many tasks that healthy people can do with no problems like walking, running, exercising, sitting for long periods of time and even sleeping. At the end of every day, I feel as if I just finished running a marathon.
A lot of women go years living with this pain before they get diagnosed with the condition because Fibromyalgia can mimic many other conditions like insomnia, the flu, stress, etc, so many women just dealt with the pain for years just thinking it was all in their head. Women who have Fibromyalgia also suffer from IBS, numbness in hands and feet, palpitations, sleep disturbances, and migraine headaches. The pain can increase with activity, cold or damp weather, anxiety, and stress. I was 31 when I was first diagnosed with the condition. I had spent 1/3 of my life with issues that many doctors just called stress.
I listened to my inner voice and got help.
After my diagnosis, I decided to not lie down and die, but continue to live life to the best of my ability. I even started this support blog chronicling my life living with both IBS and Fibromyalgia, because I want other women to know that they are not alone and that we can find ways to deal with the pain, and live as normal a life as possible whether we have IBS, Fibromyalgia or any other chronic condition.
I try to be kind to my body and de-stress as much as possible. I read more books, take lots of bubble baths and try to relax as much as possible. I have learned through this whole ordeal that I have to take care of me first. I used to spread myself to thin and always said yes to event or activity, but I have learned that it’s ok to say no. I get massages regularly, I get plenty of rest and I take it easy when I’m having a flare-up. Although I know that I’ll have to plan my life out more than a healthy person, I may not be able to do the same energetic things I once did and I may sleep more hours a night that the average person, but I know this is ok. I can still function and be positive. I am a person with a full agenda and I won’t let my pain get in the way.