Today is the fourth anniversary of my daith piercing. That also makes today the fourth anniversary of the last of the debilitating migraines and chronic severe headaches that had plagued me consistently throughout my teens and adult life.
I don’t think I could ever forget the surprise and shock when that migraine— which I had had for five days— was gone within an hour of the piercing being done. I had definitely not expected that to happen!
I also still remember the profound sense of clarity and awareness the following day when I was in the classroom and completely headache-free — an entirely new experience for me.
The niggling fear and suspicion that it couldn’t last and that the next migraine was lurking around some corner, waiting to accost me and steal my new lease on life, was a feeling that took some time to overcome.
That hasn’t happened yet, and while I realise that day might yet come, I no longer actively think about it.
I am so incredibly thankful for the difference in my life that one piercing made. I am also thankful to my professional body piercer for her expertise, and for having taken the time to learn how to use her art for therapy and healing.
Since I began posting about my experiences of Fibromyalgia, a number of friends have asked me to explain what it is. I always start with “I can really only tell you what it’s like for me…”
I was recently introduced to a video by Dr Andrea Furlan, a pain specialist from Toronto, in which she explains the symptoms, possible causes and treatments for Fibromyalgia far better than I ever could. While some GPS are still fairly dismissive of this disease, Dr Furlan explains with empathy and understanding of both the physical and mental effects of Fibromyalgia on those who endure it.
Even though everyone experiences it a bit differently, it felt as though she spent most of the time actually talking about me. This tells me two things: she really knows what she is talking about, and she is a very good communicator.
So, if you want to know more about Fibromyalgia, take the time to watch this video and find out why the people you know with this condition I find it so debilitating.
Until today, I had no idea that there was a day of international observance for ‘Ice Cream For Breakfast’, but it’s one I can totally get behind.
It’s celebrated on the first Saturday of February each year. Who knew? And why didn’t they tell me?
Of course, I found out after breakfast. But hey… it’s Saturday, and one can have breakfast at any time of day… right?
So, I’m thinking of skipping lunch and heading right for breakfast. Of course, it will depend what I’ve got in the freezer, given that I am also observing my own very localised day of ‘No Plans To Leave The House’.
Otherwise, I’d be very tempted to head back to Timboon Ice Creamery for another serve of their maple and cinnamon ice cream, which tastes like Canada and heaven and happiness.
After two ridiculously hot days –40C or 104F–and a busy first week of the school year, my fibromyalgia pain is going nuts.
It’s currently 11.35pm and still warm out, even though a cool change came through a few hours ago and dropped the temperature by ten degrees in as many minutes. It’s also pouring rain – and I’m not going to complain about that!
I am lying in bed listening to the rain, hoping my pain meds will work quickly, and trying to focus on positive things instead of feeling miserable.
So, in no particular order, here is my list of things I am thankful for tonight:
There are people in this world who are able to get into bed, lie down, take a deep breath, and fall asleep right away.
I kid you not. I know this, because my husband is one of them.
I can lie there practising every relaxation and breathing technique I know, and it doesn’t happen. Sometimes I can lie there for hours before I finally drop off. This is what I have come to consider “normal”.
Even if I don’t fall asleep as quickly or easily as I would like, I have found that essential oils can be very helpful with relaxation and restfulness.
This very handy post by Alisson at The Sustainable Mess blog outlines which ones are generally the most useful.
Aromatherapy is a holistic healing treatment that uses natural plant extracts to promote health and well-being. Aromatherapy uses essential oils extracted from plants to improve the health of the body, mind, and spirit. It enhances both physical and emotional health. Essential oils can be used for a variety of purposes, from boosting mood to relieving migraines. In this article, I listed out the best oils that can be used to feel calm, relax and help you sleep.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN Before getting started, there are a few basics to remember when working with essential oils:
When applying oils topically, always use a carrier oil. These are oils used to dilute essential oils, like coconut, argan oil or jojoba oil.
Always do a patch test before applying anything to larger areas of your skin.
Make sure you only ingest essential oils that are meant to be eaten.
The aim of this post is not to complain. My spirit is still quite positive, albeit a little weary after working hard to tick things off my “do or die” list this week. Instead, my purpose is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with Fibromyalgia.
People cannot see my illness. It’s easy to feel sympathy for someone in a cast, a wheelchair or a hospital bed. I notice an immediate difference in people’s responses on the days I need to use my walking stick. Some are kinder, and most are more physically careful around me.
Of course, there are always some who couldn’t care less about someone with a cane, but there is no point losing time or sleep getting upset about them. Their attitude only highlights the good in others’.
My disease is invisible, although some of its effects are not. I may look tired, or upset, at times. My emotions sometimes get a bit messy, although I am a good actor so most people don’t know that.
After a busy and somewhat stressful week, my body is letting me know how unimpressed it is. My pain levels are in the “stupid” range. My legs don’t want to bend anymore. I have zero need to take my pulse because everything is throbbing. Even typing this is slow because my fingers hurt too.
To anyone else, I probably just look like someone in a recliner, covered with a quilt on a cold night, typing on her iPad. The truth is, I want to go to bed but I don’t want to move because I ache so badly.
I have medicated, but it’s not touching the pain. That’s always good.
In a further act of bodily insubordination, my very dodgy spine is giving me spasms— yet another an indication that I have probably (read: definitely) overdone it, yet again.
I don’t want sympathy. I don’t want medals or admiration, or people telling me I’m brave.
What I want is for people to understand that Fibromyalgia and other “invisible illnesses” are not imaginary. They are not something we adopt because they are “trendy”.
Fibromyalgia hurts. And it sucks. And it doesn’t go away.
And if you think I “don’t look sick”? Just remember, you can’t see my superhero cape, either.
I could have spent most of Fibromyalgia Awareness Month writing about my experience of this condition. I could spend a year writing what people don’t know or understand about it.
However, I plan for this to be my only post on that topic during this Fibromyalgia Awareness Month, because I don’t like to complain and I don’t want to sound like I am hiding behind my disease or making excuses.
Fibromyalgia is a diagnosed medical condition— now. It wasn’t always. It has a wide variety of symptoms, although they basically all contribute to chronic pain and overwhelming fatigue.
Because of Fibromyalgia, I have pain all the time. Think about that.
Pain. All. The. Time.
It doesn’t ever completely go away. The best I can hope for is that it will ease off a bit, and that I’ll have more good days than awful ones.
When people present to the Emergency Department or paramedics with pain, the standard procedure is to ask them to rank it between 1 and 10, assuming that 10 is the worst pain they have experienced. I wake up most days to a starting level of about 4 or 5 for me. With medication, I can generally keep it down to about a 3.
That’s why I have structured my working week so that I start a bit later in the mornings. It’s not because I don’t want to get out of bed: it’s because when I do, I am stiff and sore and it’s really hard to get moving. As the day wears on, my pain levels start to increase. My legs feel heavy and hard to lift when I walk. My feet begin to ache, and that often turns into a throbbing pain that starts to work its way up my legs. It can take hours for the aching to subside enough to let me sleep, especially if I have been on my feet a lot. A similar thing happens with my hands and arms if I am using them a lot, and especially if it involves holding or carrying anything with a bit of weight in it. It’s not unusual to end each day feeling like I’ve been either beaten up or body slammed by someone or something a lot larger than me.
Anytime I get stressed or anxious, or when my depression is messing with me, my pain levels flare. Overtiredness also increases my pain. Sometimes, I reach that level of tiredness by lunchtime and still have two classes to teach and a 40 minute drive home before I can rest. Add in a work deadline or two and things can get pretty horrid.
All of this is completely separate from my back pain, which is a different thing and a different type of pain altogether, and which I am able to manage fairly effective for the most part.
The problem with pain is that people can’t see it like they can if you have cuts and bruises or a cast. You can hide a lot behind makeup and a smile.
When they call this an invisible illness, they’re not kidding. If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me “But you don’t look sick,” I could quit work and live very nicely on the interest. It’s such a shame I can’t bill people for their insensitivity or ignorance.
I know it’s not a death sentence like some other diseases are. It is, however, a life sentence. As things stand, there’s no cure in sight. All I can do is keep up my painkillers and anti-inflammatories and hope for the best.
None of this makes me, or anyone else with Fibromyalgia, weak.
It takes strength and courage to get through each day, and sometimes that’s on a moment-by-moment basis. It takes resolve to blink away the tears and keep showing up for work or social or family occasions. It takes guts to say, “Actually, I’m not doing so well” when people ask, or to write a post like this one. In a world that prioritises health and beauty, brokenness is often an unpopular confession.
I have Fibromyalgia. I don’t want sympathy or pity. I don’t want people to tell me I am strong or brave. You bet I am!
What I really want is more awareness, better understanding, and more effective pain relief. And a cape. They can’t see my pain or my superpowers, but they’d be sure to know I have something if I were wearing a cape.
Today I took my sister, my brother-in-law and my 86 year old dad shopping. Between my dodgy spine and Fibromyalgia, I generally walk slowly. Imagine my surprise today, then, when I actually found myself walking faster than someone else in the shopping centre.
Sure, he was 90ish and had a walker, but he was very gracious and let me enjoy my moment.