I haven’t had any alcohol at all in weeks. I didn’t eat the bread or the fries that came with last night’s burger. I’m hydrated.
This is just my fibromyalgia being a complete jerk.
By the time I get to work, I will have drawn on every acting skill I have— and that’s quite a few— to present as ‘normal’. I will do my job with absolute professionalism: my students will never know how dreadful My body feels.
After work, I will complete the errands on my to-do list. Those things don’t go away because I feel rotten.
Only when I come home again can I give in to the pain, the sluggishness, and the desire to just go to bed and moan a bit.
But they’re right. I don’t “look sick”. That’s because I am 100% accomplished at making it look like I’m not.
I, too, suffer from chronic, invisible illnesses.
I have fibromyalgia. I have a permanent back injury. I have depression and anxiety, and I work hard to keep those under control. I strive to take good care of myself, and to manage my conditions. I avoid aggravating them. I also make every possible effort to stay positive and to do the things in life that I enjoy doing.
The fact is, though, no matter what good care I take care of myself or how positive and proactive I am, I cannot heal or cast off my invisible disabilities.
The debilitation is real.
The exhaustion is real.
The misconceptions are real.
And the judgement? Many people would not be willing to believe how real, and how consistent, and how very, very toxic that is.
The critics are only right about one thing: I don’t look sick.
That’s because I’ve been faking being well for years.
It’s been a rough week, both emotionally and physically. Sleep has been patchy, which isn’t unusual for me, and my back pain has been relentless.
Naturally, my fibromyalgia decided to join the pain party with some extra bass beats and neon flares of its own.
Yesterday I chose to work through it. I’m a teacher working from home and my students are depending on me. It’s not that easy for substitute teachers to step into a remote learning classroom and make things happen the way I want them to. And, you know, I didn’t have to drive to school, which helps when you wake up in crushing pain. My classes were great, and spending ninety minutes with Genghis Khan in my Year 8 History class was a good distraction.
When my classes finished, I had to go to town to pick up my much needed new glasses, I’ve been struggling with eye fatigue while doing so much remote teaching, and it’s fair to say that the curriculum planning and lesson preparation don’t stop just because we’re working off campus. It was a 45 minute drive, but I just went there, got my glasses, and came home. I am not interested in shopping or spending any more time around people than I need to right now.
When I got home, I rested. Dinner was easy – the soup was already made, and just waiting for us to enjoy it with a spinach and feta bread twist.
I really hoped the evening of rest would be enough to make the pain flare back off.
So, by necessity, this weekend has to be a quiet one.
My new glasses are great, but I’m not going to be spending much time on screen. I’d love to read a book, but my hands hurt too much to hold one for long.
So, I will do what needs doing, and that’s it. I have a couple of new podcasts to road test, and then I’m going to indulge in an audiobook. I’ve got my recliner, my quilt, my cat, and the sound of rain falling outside.
Choosing my content is important for my mental and emotional wellbeing. I’m taking care to exclude anything negative, so I’m avoiding the news and social media. Throughout the whole Covid-19 pandemic and working from home experience, I have found that to be a good strategy for keeping my mental and physical spaces positive and healthy.
I’ve also got my pain medications handy in the drawer just beside me, because those things are my friends. It’s all well and good to be idealistic about managing pain and not relying on drugs, but on flare-up days, there is absolutely zero chance of that happening. A girl has to do what a girl has to do.
Since I began posting about my experiences of Fibromyalgia, a number of friends have asked me to explain what it is. I always start with “I can really only tell you what it’s like for me…”
I was recently introduced to a video by Dr Andrea Furlan, a pain specialist from Toronto, in which she explains the symptoms, possible causes and treatments for Fibromyalgia far better than I ever could. While some GPS are still fairly dismissive of this disease, Dr Furlan explains with empathy and understanding of both the physical and mental effects of Fibromyalgia on those who endure it.
Even though everyone experiences it a bit differently, it felt as though she spent most of the time actually talking about me. This tells me two things: she really knows what she is talking about, and she is a very good communicator.
So, if you want to know more about Fibromyalgia, take the time to watch this video and find out why the people you know with this condition I find it so debilitating.