Many people who live with chronic pain are also dealing with Fibromyalgia, or their pain is the result of it. Fibromyalgia is a nasty invisible illness. Many people who live with chronic pain are diagnosed with “fibro” when repeated attempts to find the cause of their pain prove unsuccessful. In my case, I was diagnosed after my back surgery because the pain was not improving.
The worst part about fibromyalgia is the flares. It is generally not a constant condition, but rather one that flares up, especially in times of stress or illness. Currently, having been through a car accident, a hospital stay and now a major life stress, I am in a major flare. The funny thing about pain (if you want to think of pain as any way humorous) is that you don’t realize the pain had improved until it gets worse. I was thinking my pain had been bad, until I began a flare. Now I think the past few months without a flare had been a cake walk. Funny how we need things to get worse to realize they weren’t so bad before (you can apply this philosophy to most things in life).
Symptoms of a flare include:
- Pain all over (my body is actually humming)
- Sleep difficulties (think one night insomnia, next night coma lol)
- Brain fog (what was I saying?)
- Morning stiffness (stiff doesn’t begin to explain that…more like frozen)
- Muscle knots, cramping, weakness
- Digestive disorders (Oh Mylanta!)
- Balance problems (that’s not fibro, that’s just me…I’m a klutz)
- Itchy/burning skin
- Mood disturbances (Hi, My Name is Sybil)
- Hormone imbalances
- Oh so much more…everyone experiences a flare differently
Looks like I hit the jackpot once again because I have every darn one of these symptoms. For the past few weeks I have been dealing with insomnia, not sleeping more than 45 minutes to an hour at a time, then suddenly, last week, I began sleeping 16 hours a night, napping during the day and going to bed exhausted for another marathon sleep session. I also have more pain than usual, not just in my back from the surgery, but everywhere, from my head to my toes.
I read an interesting article which stated that “a flare is one way that your body has to get your attention. A flare makes you slow down. A flare makes you care for yourself and get some rest. A flare is your body’s way of saying, “Are you listening to me?” (http://www.rebuildingwellness.com/top-nine-reasons-for-a-fibro-flare/). Well, body, message received, back the F*&k off!
The concept of illness as a way of telling you to slow down is frustrating, as I have always lived life in the proverbial fast lane. Since my first surgery, my life has basically come to a screeching halt. Any living I do is now in the slow lane, sometimes I never even make it off the shoulder. I think one of the most difficult aspects of pain, especially during a flare, is the comorbid (I have to use my expensive Master’s Degree vocabulary sometimes) depression and mood swings. With a current situation that leaves me very upset and feeling as if I have few people to talk to or who will understand me, I feel a bit like Sybil these days. I go from coping and feeling strong to hysterically crying, to angry, screaming and yelling and back to calm, sometimes all within an hour.
It’s hard for me to deal with the slow down. I mean, generally, this is something that comes with age and is a natural part of life, but when it happens at 34, how the heck do you reconcile that? Before “all this” I felt so strong. I felt like I could take on the world. I used to be busy every day, all day and the craziness of my schedule was like a high. Now, I have maybe a quarter of that activity, some days, I have none. The worst part about slowing down is that the pain slows down my body, and the less I do, the less I want to do. This lack of desire to do anything leads to increased depression and a sense of hopelessness.
Sadly the only way to really combat a flare is to wait it out. And as for stressors and upsets in life, it’s the same prescription- time. There are pills for physical pain, but sadly, there are really no magic pills to make emotional pain go away. So alas, I wait, for the pain to subside, for the upset and stress to lessen and to get on with my life…
How do you cope with flares?