Fibromyalgia Awareness Day is this Friday, May 12, and part of spreading awareness is educating people about the condition. Now I know anyone can search Google or WebMD, but a list of symptoms doesn’t give the whole picture. I feel that fibromyalgia is better explained by those who live with it. With that said, as a fibro fighter, I’ll do my best to provide information and descriptions that will help people better understand this illness.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic illness that causes widespread pain. It is diagnosed in women and men, and contrary to what many believe, people of any age can have fibro. In addition to pain, the main symptoms of fibromyalgia are fatigue, cognitive difficulties (referred to as “fibro fog”), sensitivity to light and sound, irritable bowel syndrome, sleep disturbances, and migraines. There is no cure and the cause is not yet known.
Fibromyalgia pain is difficult to explain. The pain is mainly in our muscles and joints, but it can literally radiate from the top of our heads to the tips of our toes. (Oh, how I wish I were exaggerating). We feel throbbing pain, shooting pain, and sharp pain; severe pain, moderate pain, and dull pain. Let’s say you fell down a flight of stairs. You didn’t break any bones, but you have a couple sprains are severely bruised all over your body. You can’t bend down and can barely lift anything. It hurts so much to walk that you need a cane. You stay in bed but you can’t get comfortable because the pain is literally everywhere. Imagine if those sprains and bruises didn’t heal and you had to live with that pain and discomfort every day. Many of us with fibromyalgia feel like that. We use phrases such as “I feel like I got hit by a truck” or “I feel like I got beat up” because the pain is often intense and all over our body.
When people hear “fatigue”, they think “tired”, which is not completely accurate. To feel fatigued, a person doesn’t need to have a busy day or a sleepless night. Performing simple tasks like brushing your teeth or getting dressed are difficult and draining. And taking a shower? That’s like running a damn marathon. Some people with fibro say fatigue is similar to how run-down you feel when you have the flu. Think about the last time you were real sick with a high fever. It was tough to get out of bed and move around, right? Now think about having that feeling nearly every day, on top of the falling-down-a-flight-of-stairs pain.
There are many different treatment methods that are used for fibromyalgia. Prescription medication, supplements, medical marijuana, acupuncture, physical therapy, and so on. What I’m about to tell you is probably the most important piece of information to remember: Everyone’s body is different. What works for one person may not help someone else. There are medications that people can’t take due to bad side effects or because it interacts with something else they’re taking. And like other illnesses, there are different severities of fibromyalgia. So please keep in mind, the treatment that worked for your brother’s neighbor’s second cousin won’t work for everyone.
Support from our family and friends is incredibly important to us. I understand that it can be frustrating and/or disappointing when we can’t make it to a social function, especially if we have to cancel last minute. Please know that we don’t want to cancel. We absolutely hate having to miss out on important events. The guilt we feel is often overwhelming. It’s our illness that’s unreliable. The best thing you can do as our loved ones is to believe us and just be there for us. We need your love and support to keep us going, and for those of you who have already been doing that, we appreciate it more than words can say.
What I’d like everyone to know is we do the best we can. We have good days and bad days, and unfortunately we have no way of knowing what tomorrow will be. We have to listen to our bodies and know our limits. If we do too much, we’ll be in bed for days. Most of us were healthy, active, and social before we were diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Having a chronic illness like this is life-changing. But we keep going because we are strong. We will continue to fight fibromyalgia every day and hope that down the road, there will be better treatments available.
If you didn’t know anything about fibromyalgia, I hope you learned something! Please support your loved ones with fibro and spread awareness!