As a Fibromyalgia Sufferer Myself, I’ll tell you how it developed in me, As a story form for an easy understanding
About eight years ago, I went to my OB/GYN as I was experiencing some mild fatigue and joint pain. I had had a 20-year career as a dancer and had been diagnosed with osteoarthritis. I was having some anxiety about work and had been through a recent breakup, but we looked at physiological causes anyway and ruled out lupus, RA, and Lyme disease.
When my anxiety about an impending merger at work became worse, we tried an SSRI, but the side effects were untenable, and talk therapy seemed to work better. We kind of wrote it off to a lot of typical midlife stuff and arthritis, but my NP thought it could be fibromyalgia.
Fast forward to about four years ago. The merger at work resulted in me having been made redundant. I had gone through a financial crisis like many people during the economic downturn–drained my savings, lost my house, etc. I was an empty nester and had become the target of some parental alienation when my ex remarried. I had had to put one of my dogs to sleep, and my BF had broken up with me.
I had moved to Mexico, a traumatic event itself, where the COL is low, and I worked both at my own business and paid jobs from home and in San Diego to support myself. I had a big event in San Diego for my business that necessitated getting up at 3 am, driving a long distance, stressing about the border crossing, and stressing about the event itself.
Everything went fine, but two days later I could hardly walk I was so tired. I kept thinking I was coming down with the flu, but it never happened. After a bit of looking on the Internet, I finally decided I was likely having a fibro flare. It went away in less than a week, and I thought nothing more about it until about six months ago.
I had moved house for the fourth time since moving to Mexico. I had been through the wringer over the previous four years with unbelievable stress. Two banks had at separate times discontinued my ATM card because of general bank fraud here, leaving me stranded without money.
I witnessed the immediate aftereffects of two cartel hits. I found out one landlord was a gangster who had every unit in my building hooked up to my electric meter. He kidnapped one of my dogs (witnessed by neighbors) and dumped him outside of town.
After some similar experiences, as well as my car being hit three times without compensation, I was in another house, a little further south. It was arduous getting there because a freelance writing client (the primary line of work I had settled on to supplement my own business) had left for Europe for six weeks without paying her bill–thousands of dollars I needed to move.
Then I come to find out that at this place, the property manager has been cooking the books on the rent and stealing from the landlady, who in turn, wants to kill me and take all my belongings–apparently a common practice of hers. (If you’re tempted to think I’m making this up, live for a while in Baja.)
I spent two weeks walking around with a knife on my belt, my Rottweiler, who BTW, protected me from an intruder in the middle of the night, always at my side. I had to pay $500 to bribe the guard to open the gate to let me out with my moving truck, my entire house packed overnight, knowing I had to go. I had the night duty officer at the consulate on speed dial.
I get to the new house, the one I’m in now, and I’m working like a dog writing web content remotely to catch up with the $500 bribe money and pay my new rent. The LL is cool, understanding what happened, I’m settling in, walking my dogs on the beach every morning, commending myself for surviving the last half-decade, and finally finding a nice place to live, like there’s some sort of karmic justice in the world.
And wham… I wake up one day, and it’s like I’ve been hit by a truck in my sleep. I can hardly walk, every joint in my body is on fire, and I’m overwhelmed with fatigue. This sort of ebbs after a month or so until I trip over a piece of PVC pipe lying on a restaurant patio and fall on both knees, one of which has had surgery for arthritis. Back with the pain… again…
I have finally only recently recovered from the pain of that fall, but I am left with crushing fatigue. I am grateful every day I can work from home as a writer, but I have put my other biz on hiatus and become a hermit with my social life. I have to believe that my fibromyalgia is primarily stress–induced (I could probably list 20 more things like the ones above), but there are clearly physical triggers as well. I wonder too if my arthritis didn’t predispose me somehow to it, or even the knee surgery I had to treat it.
There was also an aspect of stress/adrenaline keeping my fibro at bay when I basically couldn’t afford to be disabled and then my body kind of relinquishing when I could finally rest. I am menopausal, and I’m sure my thyroid/adrenal system is shot. I probably have some PTSD too from chronic fear over the last few years.
My weight has gone up between everything I have related above. I have tried to get Obamacare, but the system says I don’t exist, after numerous initiations setting up an account. It’s probably because I haven’t used a credit card in years, so my identity can’t be verified. The last time my ATM card failed, it took four tries before a bank could verify my identity to get a new one. It finally became more stressful trying to get health insurance than having the insurance would have been worth it.
I can’t untangle what’s what, so I try to treat the common factors by reducing stress, eating as healthily as I can, reducing alcohol and caffeine, and getting a good night’s sleep. I take a tiny amount of tramadol, which is available OTC here, thank God, as well naproxen and Tylenol for pain. Occasionally I take a small dose of Valium to knock myself out at night when I really need to sleep, which I don’t always do well, in spite of my fatigue.
I have stopped giving a flying flip what anyone thinks of me at this point, including family and friends who just “hmm hmm” me if I try to explain either my fibro or the circumstances that seem to have precipitated it.
If I could be granted a magical genie’s wish, I think I’d go back in time to make a million different choices to erase the physical and mental stresses that led to where I am today. The philosopher in me likes to think sometimes that I’ve been led down this path to make me a better writer or fulfill some other grand plan, but then I remember what it was like to run or have any sort of a normal life, and I don’t know. I don’t know if I would trade a Nobel Prize for this condition.
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