I was formally diagnosed with fibromyalgia, oh...about a week and a half ago now.
I don't think I'd ever really understood what is was, you know? Super-ironic considering my mom has suffered from it since I can remember. I kind of thought it was arthritis-related, but it turns out it's far, far more miserable than that: it's like being 25 and trapped inside a healthy-looking 75 year-old body. MAJOR suckage.
See, I'd been having all these random, unrelated symptoms for about the last DECADE, and NO ONE has EVER supposed it might be related to fibromyalgia. What sort of symptoms, you ask? Turns out I'm a veritable checklist, and the only person to suggest fibromyalgia was my mom, who has it: Joint pain. Muscle pain. Back/shoulder/neck pain (and knots the size of Alaska that take 3 or 4 days to go away). Migraines. Chronic Fatigue-type exhaustion issues, sleeping problems, and never, ever feeling rested, even after a good 12 hour night. Irritable bowel syndrome. Phantom urinary tract infections that seem to begin and then never materialize. Yeast infections. Gum disease. Susceptibility to illness. Vitamin deficiency. Moderate to severe depression. (DUH. If you had migraines and hurt all the time and never slept well and always felt like you were on the verge of a UTI, you'd be depressed, too.)
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I live my life. I never had a name for it, never a diagnosis, just a mother who suffered in a way I could never comprehend, appreciate, or for which I offered much sympathy. "Oh, you're uncomfortable...again." (Crappy daughter, I'm afraid to admit.) Sometimes I wondered if her symptoms were psychosomatic, or if she just liked the attention; she's on more medication than most 90 year-olds, and I confess I sometimes wondered if she needed it all.
But now I understand...on a level that someone who does NOT have fibromyalgia never will. I have a name for my symptoms, and it's a comfort to understand that I don't have 27 different random illnesses; I have ONE. It is NOT a comfort to know what I'm in for for the next, well, 'TIL I'M DEAD, but there are some fabulous meds on the market, and I look forward to trying out ALL of them until I find one that mitigates my discomfort. Everything else is manageable when you don't hurt all the time. Migraines require a cup of coffee and a couple Tylenol...DONE. Knots can be worked out with massage. Sleep fluctuates for everyone, IBS loves probiotics (YAY, YOGURT!) and I should be taking vitamins, exercising, and eating right anyway. When the pain is relieved, the depression ebbs, too. Get me on some Cymbalta!
I appreciate that I "get" my mom now. I appreciate that I have a name for my issues. I appreciate that fibromyalgia is relatively common, and they make better and better drugs to treat it all the time.
I worry that I may never be comfortable again. I worry that people - my husband, my kids, my friends - will look at me at some point and roll their eyes. I worry that there will be days my depression gets the best of me, and my family, my household, and my writing may suffer.
Because the bottom line is that fibromyalgia SUCKS. But I'm not alone, and at least I know I'm not nuts.
And, heck, maybe it'll give me a foundation for a book character 10 years from now. Who knows? A book about a girl who suffers from fibromyalgia may someday pay for my Cymbalta! Life is beautiful!