It was my birthday last week. My birthday gave me an occasion to think back on the last year, which seems to have flown by. The year has blurred together thanks to all the pain I suffer, but at the same time I realized that where I was for my last birthday and where I am today is like night and day.
This time last year, I was headed into the worst period of my fibromyalgia, the worst I’ve ever felt for an extended period of time. I spent the winter and the first couple of months this year on a sea of pain. I was blind to anything else but the pain. My life was just surviving. There was nothing beyond the pain. I went to work and pushed my body every day to get through the work day. I was locked in fight or flight mode. Adrenaline constantly surged through me. It’s what kept me going each day. I went to work, came home and then crashed. I was lucky to feed myself and my pets before crashing into bed. I’d watch TV then go to bed. I wasn’t sleeping. I would be asleep but it wasn’t restful, restorative sleep. It was constant tossing and turning, constantly waking up from the pain, lots of weird dreams that seemed to keep me from resting. I don’t k now how long I went without a full night of good, quality sleep. Months at least. I would “sleep” and then get up and do it all over again. My weekends were spent resting and trying to prepare myself for the next work week. I wasn’t exercising. My body was getting weaker and weaker. I couldn’t even go grocery shopping. I had no energy for anything like that. My husband had to take over everything. He kept the house clean, the refrigerator stocked, he made most of our meals. He had to take on so much because I couldn’t do anything but lay in bed in pain. I felt worthless because I couldn’t do anything. It took all I had to go to work each day and drive myself home. It was a brutal winter for me.
I took a medical leave of absence from work in April and everything began to change. I had the time to rest and let my body start to heal. I worked intensively with my therapist to work on some of the emotional traumas I’ve experienced in my life that were still causing me stress and pain in the present. We worked on lots of coping mechanisms for me to deal with the pain and things that trigger my pain, like stress. I feel like I examined every part of myself, threw out the parts of me that were now causing me pain, and worked hard to rebuild myself from the ground up. I now have lots of weapons against my pain and ways to control my pain where I had none before. I felt like the pain had knocked me down to nothing and I had to rebuild myself. It was very hard work, but I’m glad I did it. Slowly during my leave, my energy level increased, I was able to exercise every day, my health was better, and best of all, the pain lessened. I’m not sure if the pain actually decreased in severity or if I just learned how to manage it better. I think the biggest change that happened during my leave was that I accepted that fibromyalgia is a part of me now. I accepted that this is my life for now and decided to find different ways to live and have fun despite the pain. Before, I didn’t know you could be in so much pain but still have fun, still enjoy something, still have good days. Now I know that. Now I work hard to have more good days than bad.
Spring turned to summer and I felt so much stronger, mentally and physically. I was back to being a positive person. Despite the pain, I chose to be happy. Some days it’s hard to be positive and happy, but I keep working at it and it gets easier with time. I’ve learned so much in the last year. Pain has changed me, in some ways for the better. I appreciate the little things now. I treasure simple, happy moments with my husband. I never did this before. It was always “go, go, go.” I never stopped to smell the roses, to savor a happy moment, to make a memory. Now I do. And those happy times and memories help get me through my bad days. They remind me that things can be better when I’m miserable from the pain. They anchor me to myself and my life. They keep me from getting lost on a sea of pain again, like I was before.
Now I’m headed into winter again, but for me it still feels like summer. I feel strong and healthy. Things seem vibrant and alive to me in a way they never have before. I feel like a stronger, happy version of myself, despite the fibromyalgia. There is a balance in my life that was never there before. I’ve also learned how lucky I am not to be fighting my fibromyalgia alone. My husband, family and friends all support me in my fight. I couldn’t have come so far without them, especially my husband who has been by my side through all of this and has seen me at my absolute worst. Now I know how lucky I am to have them in my life, to have their support. When you’re in so much pain, it’s easy to feel alone and isolated. But I’m not. I am surrounded by amazing, supportive people who help me deal with my fibromyalgia every day.
Pain is a harsh teacher but it has taught me good things. I have more learning to do, but I’m on a good path now and that’s what matters.
Life is never been easy. Otherwise, you will never treasure for what you have.
*All photos taken by the author of this site.