Finding Solace And Peace In Chronic Illness
I used to look at “those people” as needy, wanting, weak, and just lacking in life skills. Yeah, that was me in my 20’s and 30’s. I was a budding manager who took advantage of some of my life skills to lead people, yet singled out those who did not meet the same energy level from where I was working. I worked out at the gym daily, managed three kids by myself, and worked 60 hours per week.
However, I learned a lot from my limited beliefs about those who suffered from chronic illness. Especially when those beliefs reminded me from my old friend, Karma. Dear Karma, she has a way of bringing us to our knees, at times, when we need to learn something that will change the rest of our life. Yeah, that was me.
When I turned 40, I was still playing volleyball, working out at the gym, managing three kids (one of which had a life-threatening illness, Cystic Fibrosis- another story, my friends), and rising through the ranks of my career.
One week, attending my daily gym routine, I soon noticed that I was just not feeling “right.” I felt like I had the onset of a flu-bug. I went home early, rested, and soon became incapacitated by an overall unusual deep pain. I spent nearly three days in bed with fevers, listlessness, and a feeling that my body and mind just felt “done.”
After numerous visits to different doctors, the answer was all the same. “All of your tests are perfect, and we find nothing wrong.” One doctor alluded that I was in need of psychiatric care. These visits went on for weeks, turned into months, then years.
One day in April of 2003, I visited a rheumatologist, who was known for his treatment of pain disorders. After my exam, he hesitated and said, “I don’t give this diagnosis freely because there is much criticism attached to it, but I am going to use it because you need assistance in multiple areas and it would not serve you to continue in this way without naming your condition something.”
And then, the doctor said something that hit me like a ton of bricks. “Your multiple symptoms with clean labs point me in the direction of a condition called fibromyalgia.” This word rang through my mind like clanging church bells that blared without mercy. This was the diagnosis that “those people” usually received. Those people who never got off the couch, or read a book, or volunteered for anything, or were just, well, lazy. I could not bear to hear this word, fibromyalgia!
Surely, there was a mistake, I told my doctor. He smirked and gave the other possible diagnosis, psychosomatic pain. What? I’m crazy?! That was an even worse “condition.” The next thing the doctor did was give me a script that would help my inflammation and pain and set me up for a total body MRI to rule out any further unusual possibilities, and yes, more tests.
The next five years were living hell. I won’t lie, but suicide was in my mental vocabulary. My newlywed husband did not understand, my children were leaving home (they were going to college, etc.), and my body and mind were not working to their full potential of what I had experienced in the past.
I had enough of this life! So, I voted out the idea of suicide, medication, painful treatments, and decided I had too much to live for. I was never a quitter, so the only other option was to research for more resources.
Fortunately, technology had advanced into the “instantaneous information era,” with online search engines. I searched for medical information through doctor websites, medical advise columns, research, and anything I could get my hands on.
This is what I found:
1. Fibromyalgia is different for everyone who has been diagnosed with it.
2. There are NO magic cures (or cancer and other chronic illnesses would also be cured)
3. You learn as you go and share it with the same community of conditions
4. Find ways to cope and live without limiting the things you love in life – use your resource list!
I am now pushing 60 years old, and have lived with fibromyalgia most of my life. There is still no magical cure and certainly no magic in how to live the way I used to.
What I have learned is that connecting with other people has been key in maximizing on living my days in happiness and becoming resilient even on my toughest days of pain. When I am able to help others, my mental, emotional, spiritual levels of mind are elevated and in alignment. My body just seems to follow and this gives me a great sense of contentment and purpose.
While the pain may be running a program in the background of my mind and body, I place my attention on the intention to help others, even from a desktop or a circle of people who want more from life.
To deepen this alignment, I give power to the fact that there is something far greater than me at work. It is not for me to question, but to answer and respond and use my weakest moments to inspire others to do the same.
I choose to help and elevate “those people,” I choose happiness, and I choose to be vulnerable enough to touch people who seek more in life. I have found my solace and my peace.
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