When did you realize that your symptoms were all due to Fibromyalgia?

In addition to chronic pain throughout my body, I am always tired. Sometimes I am so tired that my husband has to help me up the stairs and into bed.

Then, every day around 3:00 – give or take a half an hour – I have to try to live with fibro fog. It’s actually what it sounds like. In the late afternoons, it feels like someone has pulled a gauze bag over my head. I can still see out and I can hear voices, but everything is muted and fuzzy.

I can pay attention to what someone is saying, but don’t quite understand it. And within minutes I’d forgotten what we talked about. I feel confused and “out of it.”

One of the worst changes I have gone through with fibromyalgia is becoming less intelligent. No one seems to talk about this but it’s true. I used to be really smart. I was the major caregiver of our two children ages 5 and 2 with one of them already exhibiting signs of mental illness.

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I started a business with no college degree or money and grew it until it was quite successful. I volunteered in our community acting as an election official in various elections. I was the executive director of a community-wide outdoor celebration that attracted about 20,000 people each year.

Today, I would not be able to keep track of all the details, and I would not have the energy to juggle all the people, business needs, and community expectations that surrounded me.

As far as recognizing I had FM – I didn’t. I got sick in 1989 and although I saw numerous doctors – some of whom were specialists – no one could find anything specifically wrong.

Remember, even though FM had been written about in the medical literature for centuries, it was a new medical disorder in 1980. And for that decade, and even longer, it was not accepted as a “true” disorder. Because 98% of FM sufferers are women, many patients were referred to mental health professionals.

Finally, in 1996, I went to see a new rheumatologist. He spent a long time examining me and asking questions. When he finished he said, “You have fibromyalgia.” I had never heard of it. He gave me a brochure and said,

“The good news is, it won’t kill you.”

Wait, what?

No, it won’t kill you; it’s a life sentence with no chance of parole.

I’ve had 30 years to make my peace with fibromyalgia, and I don’t let the various symptoms upset me or cause depression. I don’t talk about it very much anymore. I’ve come to the conclusion that this pain and fatigue aren’t a symptom of something wrong with me that needs to be fixed. The pain and fatigue have shaped the person I am. They are as much a part of me as my heart and lungs are.

The short-term memory loss, insomnia, lack of appetite, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and whatever else I can’t think of at this minute (it’s 3:03 pm and soon the fibro fog will come) define me as much as the color of my eyes and my smile.

I don’t complain about FM symptoms anymore. My husband is doing his best to take care of me and he doesn’t need to put up with a bunch of complaining and whining. If I need to cry about a missed opportunity, I do it when I’m alone.

Fibromyalgia is not only affecting me. My husband, family, and friends are experiencing it second hand through how I act and what I say. Fibromyalgia is miserable. The people around me have their own problems; they don’t need to take on any of mine.

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