Its 3 am and I am awakened by sharp pains shooting through my joints. My neck and my calves are throbbing and I am experiencing a migraine that could only be described as “feeling like I’m being stabbed in the skull”. I wish I could say that nights like this are rare, but that would be a lie. When doctors ask me to rate the pain on a scale of 1-10, I often say 6 or 7 just to avoid seeming dramatic. But in all honesty I experience this level of extreme pain on a daily basis. This is what comes with the territory when it comes to dealing with chronic pain disorders, or in my case Fibromyalgia.
I was officially diagnosed with Fibromyalgia during my freshman year of college. It was a frustrating experience, as being diagnosed with any type of painful condition is. Despite my symptoms, blood tests would show nothing wrong, except for the occasional low blood sugar. Your first year of college is scary enough without having to worry about the extreme pain you are constantly in, or the anxiety of waiting for test results. I tried many different medications, ranging from anti-neuropathy to antidepressants, but nothing seemed to make me feel better. After months without any answers, the doctor at the health center suggested that I may have a pain disorder and referred me to a rheumatologist. Once I met with my rheumatologist she confirmed that I had Fibromyalgia. Like many people I didn’t know what it was. All I knew about it was from infomercials by pharmaceutical companies advertising new experimental medication.
In many ways my diagnosis caused even more frustration. Most medication prescribed for Fibromyalgia patients are very expensive and my insurance would not cover the cost for me to attend physical therapy. My day to day symptoms range from extreme fatigue, chronic pain, swollen joints, muscle spasms, heart palpitations, severe migraines, tremors and nausea. Many people don’t know this, but Fibromyalgia also causes cognitive issues as well, which have been the most difficult to cope with. Recently I have noticed my memory getting worse and having a harder time gathering my thoughts. I have also dealt with anxiety and extreme bouts of depression which also may be linked to the disorder.
Although a select few of my friends know that I have it, they do not know the extent of what I go through. Friends often complain when I don’t want to go out and party and I don’t want to have to explain that I’m in extreme pain and simply taking a Tylenol will not help. I also hesitate to talk about it because growing up I was always taught not to complain because there are people out there who have it worse than me. While that is true, I should not have to be silent about something that has such a drastic impact on my life, I should be able to use my voice and educate people. Pain is not a competition and everyone struggles in different ways. The purpose of this article is to raise awareness and to let other people suffering know that they are not alone. You know your body, and if something doesn’t feel right seek help, and continue to seek help until you find answers. Although some days are worse than others, I am allowing myself to appreciate every moment and live a healthy life.