It was about a year and a half ago now when I first heard from my physician about the correlation between bipolar disorder and fibromyalgia. I was experiencing some minor back pain that was causing numbness in my legs and arms in certain positions. I’m not a doctor, but it was obvious to me that something was pinched in my back. Not being happy with this somewhat flippant mention of fibromyalgia, I went to see a chiropractor for the first time. After the first few sessions, I seemed to feel a slight improvement but then things got much worse. I saw a physiotherapist who used Intramuscular Stimulation, among other treatments, to help me get back on my feet. Thankfully after about four weeks with this amazing physiotherapist I was pain free, up until a few weeks ago.
I honestly can’t tell you what it is that I did or did not do to hurt my back. There was no trauma or accident that I could easily blame: “That’s the reason it hurts. I was rear-ended by a truck.” I swear that’s what it felt like. One moment I was fine and the next I was brought to my knees by pain with no suitable explantion as to why. I think that’s what bothers me the most. This time the pain has been excruciating. To put it into perspective, all I can say is that for a brief moment my quality of life did go down — significantly.
With the increase in pain and the decrease in my ability to do everything I take for granted, depression came swiftly. I refused pain medication other than ibuprofen. I alternated heat and ice, thinking I could just take a few days to let whatever this was heal on its own. I bought a new bed (and the new furniture for our living room is being delivered today) convinced that this was the solution to all of my problems. Each day the pain got worse and I was lucky to sleep an hour at a time. For someone who has turned into a proactive patient, I was afraid to call my doctor because I was afraid to hear the word fibromyalgia again. If I could just hold onto the hope that this would pass and I would never have to feel this type of pain again, I was going to be okay, because in all honesty, I couldn’t imagine living with chronic pain for the rest of my life.
After about a week of this I decided I was going to call the physiotherapist again to set up appointments to get started on IM treatments, and do you know what happened? I went to bed that night and slept through the night and woke up feeling not too bad. I went for a walk and took it nice and easy, but I was moving again. Slowly the pain reached a bearable level and I was able to do more and more. The entire time I was acutely aware of exactly how I moved my body and when to stop moving, there was no over extending myself at this point.
It’s been about a week now since I’ve felt any pain whatsoever. I’m back to walking at least 5km a day and feeling great physically. Now is the time I can call my doctor and revisit the chance to talk about this fibromyalgia thing or at the very least get some imaging done. Ignorance is not bliss, and it’s time to figure out what exactly is going on.
To all of you who live with chronic pain, I just want you to know that I think you’re warriors. I’ve taken this time to speak to a few friends of mine who do live with this horrid companion every single day and I bow to each and every single one of you. I don’t think you get enough recognition for carrying this beast with you, because while I only had a few weeks of it, I can’t imagine living with pain for a lifetime. You are champions and I think you’re doing an amazing job.
The Effects of Chronic Pain
Accordingto Web MD, more than 32 million Americans reported having pain that lasted longer than one year and over half of those patients reported being depressed. Sixty-five percent of people reporting depression also report chronic pain symptoms, but people with chronic pain who also have symptoms of depression often go untreated, and that is staggering to me.
When we get hurt our fight or flight instinct may kick in, or we might experience some anxiety or agitation, which is all perfectly normal and will ease as the pain as the shock subsides. When we are in chronic pain our body can stay in that state of stress for a really long time, which can cause depression, a weakened immune system, and become a catalyst for addiction when people suffering with chronic pain overuse prescribed pain medications or turn to other substances to self-medicate.
Treating chronic pain and depression can go hand in hand, with an emphasis on antidepressant medications, talk therapy and even CBT. I would like to know how you or your loved ones treat chronic pain and depression, so please leave a comment below.
I have a friend who is spending some time at a pain clinic and she’s learning some skills there that I have yet to hear about. I know someone who walks every day, sometimes for five minutes, other days an hour, she does what she can but she keeps moving or else she falls into a pit of hopelessness (her words, not mine). I know a person that says, “we live with it because there is no other option. Some days are good, some aren’t, and you deal with it.” And I have a friend who is so amazingly inspiring, who has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. This woman has been through the ringer in her life with diagnosis after diagnosis, but she just doesn’t give up, ever, and she gives me hope that if I ever wake up one day with pain that just doesn’t ever go away again, I will find a way to live the healthiest and happiest way possible.