Fibromyalgia Action UK (FMA UK) has set this ‘photo challenge’ for Fibromyalgia Awareness Week 2017. I am really bad for seeing a social media challenge and adding my own spin to it. I think deep down I think I’m a rebel! So in this fashion, I have decided to do a blog post instead of photos. What I have decided to do is take each day as a topic. Today, I will cover the points from the 3rd – 6th and on Sunday (my normal posting day) I will cover the points from the 7th – 10th.
I was formally diagnosed after a long time, after a very long time, on 23rd December 2016. I remember this date very well because I was in a bad mood having to go to the hospital so close to Christmas. My cousin, Donald, came with me to the appointment and waited for me in the waiting room. I was so nervous. I hate going to the hospital. I was so worried about what was going to be said, what was going to happen. My GP had said that he thought I had fibromyalgia so was going to refer me to a rheumatologist. So the consultant officially diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. I had very mixed feelings that day about my diagnosis. Truthfully, I continue to have very mixed feelings about my diagnosis. I was relieved that I finally had a ‘label’ for what was going on with me. It felt like I had been going to the GP to no avail for a million years. It took a lot of visits to the GP, a lot of blood tests, a lot of getting told “it was just stress”/ “it’s just anxiety”/ “it’s all in your head” (Disclaimer: No GP told me “it was all in my head”, it just felt that way), a bunch of increasing tablets, some counselling, a lot of tears, a lot of moaning and a change of GP to even feel that I was being taken seriously. I was worried about what this diagnosis meant for me and means for my life. I know there is no cure. I know it’s about “treating the symptoms” but what does that mean for my quality of life? Am I going to have a good working life? Am I going to be able to keep working? Is this going to continue to affect family and friendships? Am I going to have a social life? All important questions! All I really know is, I am on a journey, and I may not find all the answers out, but I just have to keep trying and keep going forward.
What it’s like to have an invisible illness
What’s it like to have an invisible illness? It’s a pain! No pun intended. You have so many changes and feelings, both emotionally and physically, going on within your body and nobody seems to acknowledge it. You get so tired that you can’t even shower without having to have a lie down and you just get labelled lazy. You have so much pain, that sometimes you can’t move. Sometimes you are physically sick with the amount of pain you are in or you burst into tears. Of course this goes on behind closed doors and people think you are being a “drama queen” and exaggerating. Since people can’t look at you and physically see something wrong with you, it is just assumed that you are “fine”.
What you’d like people to be more aware of
I would like people to be more aware of invisible illnesses in general, not just of fibromyalgia. It would be a lot easier if people just kept in mind that they do not know what is going on in a person’s life. That person may be struggling and just need some support, a little bit of kindness shown to them.
Also, I would like people to be aware that fibromyalgia affects everybody differently. It affects me totally different than how it affects ‘Julie’s sister’s boyfriend’s mum’s colleague!’ Seriously! The amount of times I have heard something like that is ridiculous. Asking something like “[insert name here] can do a, b and c…why can’t you?” is soul destroying. That person is only going to replay this question over and over again and beat themselves up over it! However, what can be helpful is saying what works for another person and suggesting it as something to potentially try or consider.
Your support network
I am lucky when it comes to my support network. I have lost friendships as a result of this condition and I may not be as close to some family members as I would like to but those I do have close to me are amazing!
Kaitlyn (my sister) for example, can do everything for me some days. I’m talking making sure I’m washed, dressed and have had my medication and something to eat. Not just saying “Sarah, get dressed”, but actually physically helping me put clothes on. She tries to arrange shifts at her work so that she is available to take me to appointments. She is my organiser, she reminds me of phone calls I need to make, things I have to do, appointments needing made, when to take my pills. Everything really. I am also particularly close to Donald and his fiance Laura. Donald lives around the corner from me and the amount of times I have just appeared at his door in tears is too many to count! He is very good at comforting me, while letting me get it all out. He makes a cup of tea, gives me a hug and listens to my worries, my pains, my feelings and reminds me that I’m going to be ok. Laura, always reminds me that I am not alone and that she is only a call, text, message away. In that respect I am very lucky. My friends, too, are always reminding me that I am not alone and are only a message away. My friends are amazing, they arrange things in such a way that I can participate in it. That might be them taking their car, and insist to pick me up and take me to the event and bring me back home. They stand at the back of gigs or find seats so that I can sit or at least have something to lean on. They have left gigs early with me. In fact, Hazel has left many gigs early with me because I have not been able to cope. Claire has stopped exploring Berlin with me when we were on holiday so that we could search for a pharmacy instead because I needed painkillers. My friends are there for my tears and they listen.
I am very lucky to have such an amazing support network. I really hope that they all know just how much I appreciate them and the things they do for me. I really hope they know that I love them and I am sorry that I share so much details with them, too much details in a lot of cases, but by doing so they have helped settle me in one form or another.