May 25, 2014

purpose in the pain

i don't talk about fibromyalgia very often.
i don't tell everyone that i have it....
interestingly, i'd much rather let a stranger know that i used to have an eating disorder than tell them i have fibromyalgia.

sometimes i forget.
i forget that i'm "different" .....
but that only lasts until i push myself past limits i'd forgotten were there.

i was 19 years old when i was officially diagnosed.
it took a primary care physician, a specialist in back pain, and a chiropractor.
finally i had my answer - but i didn't like it, so i tried to ignore it.

.....i wanted to believe that there was a different answer - one that could be cured.

when i finally went to a chronic pain specialist and we thoroughly combed through every kind of personal/medical/family history possible, she informed me that i most likely developed my fibromyalgia at a very young age - around 6 years old or so.

as i thought back through my life -- the sleep problems, the school tardiness and absences, the pain my mother insisted was made up, my constant fatigue, calling my dad for a ride home from school as i cried just thinking about the two-block walk home because my back hurt so badly, days when even laying down didn't make everything better (but at least it felt less painful than being up-right) -- it all started to make sense.
a like this acrostic :)

granted... having an eating disorder for over a decade didn't make things any easier, and probably aggravated symptoms, but the past is the past.

i have been truly blessed to have a wonderful doctor who specializes in chronic pain. having someone who knows what they're working with is so important. Also, being on the right medication does wonders! i remember the weeks and months i barely got out of bed because of all my symptoms. these days i can actually function! ..... it's never perfect, but it's better than where i've been before.
i live by this motto :)

last weekend my mom and i went to an awareness open house that offered information and hope for people with chronic pain, specifically chronic fatigue syndrome {cfs} and fibromyalgia {fm}. one of the leading specialists spoke about new research being done and the steps being taken to advance this field of study. it's astounding that with the amount of people who actually have fibromyalgia, some doctors still treat it like it's "all in your head."

when people think it's all in your head, it makes you doubt yourself. you start to think "maybe i am a hypochondriac!" you don't give yourself a break, which just ends up causing even worse problems.

at the open house there was a separate "youth room" for teens and young adults diagnosed with these conditions to gather, meet, and support one another.

i am soooooo glad i went.

for the first time in my life i was surrounded by people my age who knew exactly what it was like to have chronic pain in a world that doesn't really get it. the only other people i had known with fm were old ladies. there are differences in life circumstances and situations, even though you're a young person with a body that already feels like an old lady's.
it was exhilarating to realize i'm not alone.
i never was... but i needed that reminder.

and we played a variation of "bingo" ---- one color of starbursts was placed on common negative thoughts/feelings fm or cfs patients feel. another color was placed on the positive things that can happen throughout the suffering.

there's opposition in all things, but we can always find joy if we look for it.
....we have to make sure we're going at our own pace, though.

that's why the turtle is our mascot!

no one wants to feel alone.
no one wants to experience pain.

still, these are simply unavoidable parts of human life.
i have found purpose in my pain by using the empathy it has taught me.
each time i'm able to help someone else {even if just to listen and understand} because of my own experiences, i remember the purpose of my pain.

pain helps us grow.
it strengthens us.
it can give us perspective.

recently i had an epiphany ----
i am grateful for my fibromyalgia because it has forced me to learn self-care.
my body literally does not function properly if i don't get enough sleep and relaxation.

i think about my desires and realize that if i had a healthy body, i probably wouldn't take the needed time to nurture myself.

i'm what kicks its butt every morning!

sure i still have days when i think, "Heavenly Father, why did you give me such a messed-up body???"
{no, i will not be one of those people who, when they die, was said to have never asked "why me?"}

i continue to learn how to master this body and this life.
i have a feeling i'll be on the learning curve for the rest of mortality.

still, it helps so much when friends and family members actually try to understand and support rather than criticize and judge.

i'm so grateful i was able to connect with other fm/cfs sufferers who gave me proof that a fulfilling life is possible. their stories give me hope for what's to come.

there really is purpose in pain.