Chronic pain—typically classified as any pain that last for twelve weeks or longer—is estimated to affect the lives of one hundred million Americans. The presence of this chronic, relentless pain, along with chronic fatigue, is one of the most obvious symptoms of Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a disorder that is difficult to diagnose and even harder to treat, due to the high variation of potential symptoms. Sufferers of the disorder are usually diagnosed following a myriad of tests—most of which come back normal.
For 28 years, this has been the story of my life.
My symptoms started in 1989, taking the horrendous form of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Nobody could explain where or why it had suddenly developed. The IBS was quickly followed by a debilitating fatigue, which was difficult to deal with as, by this time, I had just given birth to a baby boy.
In 2000, after endless tests all showing nothing wrong, I was finally diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. The relief at finally realizing that I had been right all along—that there had been something wrong with me— completely overwhelmed me. I broke down, overjoyed to have a name to put to the host of weird (and occasionally incapacitating) symptoms I’d been suffering from for so long. I felt vindicated, and free to look forward to the subsequent treatment, cure and general getting-my-life-back-ness that would surely follow the diagnosis.
Sadly, this joy was short-lived. The doctor announced that the condition was incurable, naming the only treatment option as a cocktail of strong painkillers and anti-depressants. My response? An emphatic “Err, no, thank you.”. My reasoning was that, while I didn’t know if the condition would get worse, I did know I could cope with it all for now. I had been coping, after all, with the condition for so long already. There would be time enough later on to go down the route of medication.
Thankfully, to date, I am still dealing with it medication-free.
One look around any Fibromyalgia support group will highlight the tendency for the majority of sufferers to be prescribed a horrendous amount of medication as a first response to the diagnosis. My general practitioner once said to me that, if I had gone down the painkiller route as originally prescribed, I would not be able to hold down the full-time job I currently have—and certainly would not be living the life I do now.
Anyone in those Fibromyalgia support groups will certainly attest to relentless pain—as well as insomnia, high levels of brain fog, sickness, debilitating fatigue. And while these are all standard symptoms of Fibromyalgia, I believe the level of debilitation can be attributed to the amount of medication being consumed. Studies show that, ultimately, pain medications will stop working, and will actually go on to make chronic pain worse in the long run.
At age 50, feeling like I could kick Fibromyalgia into touch, I decided to make some big life changes. I adopted a healthy fibromyalgia diet. I began a regular, gentle exercise regime, such as yoga and rebounding. I adopted the practice of meditation and massage into my every day. And? I am thriving, not just surviving. I am in a good place now, and I want to help other sufferers with this most frustrating of conditions by sharing my experience. I undertook further studies to qualify as a Health & Wellness Coach in 2015, before continuing to focus on Raw Food Nutrition and Meditation.
I am proof that there is hope after diagnosis, that it is possible to function like a normal human being, to hold down a job, to look after a family and to have a decent quality of life—without the reliance on strong medication.
If I could give one piece of advice to a doctor and their patient who is suffering from Fibromyalgia (or any other chronic pain condition), it would be to look for alternatives before heading down the medication route. Look to lifestyle changes and holistic solutions before resorting to a cocktail of tablets that ultimately may prove addictive and hard to move away from. I know that there are many people like me who have made these positive life changes and reaped the rewards; I just wish this was the norm. And so, I am committed to using my voice to get this message out there.
I credit the following resources with helping me handle my Fibromyalgia symptoms on a day-to-day basis. Each one contributed to the wellness foundation I have found in my healthy eating, meditation and gentle yoga, and, for that, I will be forever grateful.
- Meditation is very important for me: I use the Calm App to help facilitate my daily practice. I also use the bedtimes stories option if I cannot sleep.
- 12-Days to Sexy is a whole food cleanse program that completely changed my relationship with food and dieting. What you learn over the twelve days is how to eat whole, real, nourishing foods that will flood your body with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients so you can slowly transform your habits.
- Dale Pinnock’s book, The Medicinal Chef: Eat Your Way to Better Health, sit on my kitchen counter; it is my go-to for healthy eating recipes, all of which have a key as to what health needs the meal is addressing.
- In the early days of my yoga practice, I didn’t have the confidence to attend an actual yoga class, so I turned to YouTube and found Yogamazing. Each video is just twenty minutes long, with workouts that address various health conditions and ailments, including Fibromyalgia.
Like us on Facebook!