Tag: Fibromyalgia

Feb 17

Can’t Stop on a Hill

“Can’t stop on a hill!” I can’t tell you how many times those words have been spoken in my household–always in a Southern accent, mind you–because this is how they were originally stated.

The quote’s origin? Several years ago, my family (immediate and extended) took a trip to North Carolina’s Outer Banks. There, my sister’s family and my mangy lot visited Corolla Beach to see the wild horses, a herd of free-roaming Colonial Spanish Mustangs. We were lucky enough to find a small family group–complete with foal–leaving the seaside at dusk to head back to their home behind the dunes. We followed on foot up a gradual incline–keeping our distance, as recommended (for their safety and ours).

The horses had just rounded the dunes and we’d turned back to allow them their privacy, when a car came racing toward us, curving widely enough around the dunes that we had to snatch up my young daughter to keep her from being run over. The car’s windows were down and as the couple’s car passed just beside us, churning up the sand, I snapped out of my shock long enough to tell them to slow down. The wife (baby perched on her lap in the front seat, no less) called out, “Can’t stop on a hill!” and off they went.

Yeah, we were kinda pissed. My husband, sister, and I took turns leveling insults at the now-absent couple–not only for nearly running over our kids so their car wouldn’t get stuck in the sand, but also for being stupid enough to drive with a baby in the front seat–yet all the while, we were sharing how grateful we were that no one was physically harmed.

One of us repeated the woman’s words, accent and all, and our family’s quote was born.

Though we most definitely started out mocking the woman for what she’d said, because…duh, woman, over the years, her words have become something of a mantra. When things get tough, someone comes out with, “Can’t stop on a hill.” Everyone chuckles and remembers the evening in Corolla, but then we take the words to heart.

It’s no mystery that everyone–every single one of us–goes through times when it feels like we’re climbing a hill. Sometimes, that hill is a welcome challenge, something to be celebrated; others, the hill seems so steep, we might as well be belly down, clawing at roots and rocks, searching for holds for our hands and feet. That’s okay, right? Progress is progress, even if it’s a slow, wobbly crawl. It’s when you freeze up, panic, that your feet start to slip.

Recently, and for whatever reason, I stopped my slow crawl. I guess I got nervous and looked down at the metaphorical ground far below. I took a tumble.

Image via pixabay/heliofil

It was kind of a chicken-and-egg scenario–a downward spiral of stress, insomnia, Fibro flare (complete with widespread pain and–worse–intense fatigue, brain fog, dizziness), and yes, some depression. It’s hard to know which issues began the cycle, but they all seemed to feed each other. Not fun, but also not the point of my post.

Image via pixabay/pexels

The point is, although I rolled and bumped my way down this steep slope until I hit the bottom, bruised and dazed, there’s only one thing I could do: start climbing again. Sure, it’s hard to get going again, but staying stuck at the bottom isn’t really an option–at least not for long.

I don’t know if there is an actual top to the hill, but it’s the climb that we should be proud of, anyway–the trying, the stumbling, the trying again. Eventually, the slope will lessen and a plateau will be reached–somewhere that will provide a beautiful view, a place where we can look back on our journey and be satisfied with our perseverance. There will be other climbs, but hopefully we will be stronger when we face them.

Image via Unsplash/Jonathan Bean

It seems natural that the words spoken by that woman have become one of my family’s mantras. Granted, you weren’t there, dodging cars in the sand with us, but I’m sure you can appreciate the meaning she never intended.

Yes, life is full of struggles–they’re part of the climb. Even so, you can’t stop on a hill.

Image via pixabay/tpsdave

Jul 24

Hello, Before I Fade Again

Okay, maybe that title is a tad bit dramatic, but Hyperbole is my middle name, so…. Besides, it’s not that far from how I feel right now.

Actually, at the moment, I’m feeling a little like Wonder Woman. No invisible jet or unbreakable bracelets, but I’ve been enjoying more energy, fewer aches and pains, and a clearer, brighter head than I’ve had in … a while. Longer than I care to recall.

Erika Wittlieb

Image via pixabay/Erika Wittlieb

Wish I could remember where I parked my jet…

I have Fibromyalgia, although I haven’t yet become comfortable saying so. (I’m practicing, though–so thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak. I really, truly appreciate it.) Two doctors have diagnosed me with this condition based on my symptoms, after multiple specialist visits and tests have helped rule out other possibilities–Chronic Lyme Disease, Thyroid Disease, various types of arthritis, Lupus, etc., etc. There is no definitive test for Fibro as of yet and it has only recently been recognized as “real” by the medical community (and the all-powerful insurance companies).

Fibromyalgia is often described as an increased sensitivity to pain–also known as a lowered pain threshold–but I have to be honest, I sort of detest this description. Accurate thought it may be, as a Fibromyalgia sufferer,  it makes me feel like I could be fine if I’d only toughen up a little–like other people feel the same pain I do and they just deal with it instead of letting it get them down.

Yet, I’ve known pain. I’ve given birth, for instance. In fact, I opted to deliver two of my children naturally, in part due to a morbid sort of curiosity: I wanted to see if I could do it. (For the third, I decided to see how the other half lives. Only kidding; there’s often pain involved with epidurals, too.) My point is not that I’m tougher than the average person, but that I’m not weaker, either. I’m not a wimp when it comes to pain; there’s something wrong with my body and it hurts. A lot. Almost every day.

tpsdave

Image via pixabay/tpsdave

Eh, suck it up

Please understand, I’m not oblivious to the fact that there are far worse things from which to suffer. Fibromyalgia may be a pain in the … lots of things, but it’s not overly dangerous. It is chronic and has the potential to last a lifetime, but it apparently doesn’t damage the areas in which it causes all this pain.

Anyway, we were talking about my sudden upswing in health, weren’t we? So, why the improvement? Shortest answer: weeding. Longer answer: after decades of gardening and forest-exploring, I finally caught poison something (sumac, possibly?) and had to be put on steroids to recover. Apparently, steroids can also help alleviate some of the symptoms of Fibromyalgia. So, next time I’m feeling especially Fibro-ish, I’ll go out and roll in some weeds. No, not really. Well, maybe … uh, no, probably shouldn’t.

A Fox

Image via Unsplash/A Fox

Weeds, glorious weeds!

So, these steroids I’ve been prescribed? Wow. If I felt like this every day, it might be a worthy trade off, even if I ended up looking like 1980’s-era Arnold Schwarzenegger. My brain works, my body works, my energy works. I feel the way I used to feel when I was well and, yes, that could become addictive. But of course I can’t stay on steroids. I have exactly two days of medication left (out of nine) and then? Hmmm.

To be honest, knowing this relief is temporary makes me feel like I’m about to disappear. It makes me feel like calling, emailing, and visiting everyone I can, before time runs out. I know what kind of person I am, under the cloak of Fibromyalgia–at my worst, I can barely summon the energy to talk and, at my best, I still seem a little Eeyore-ish, a little sluggish, a little lost and maybe more than a little bleh. I know this, but I don’t know what I can do about it. Steroids are only a temporary help and and the long-term medications my doctors have prescribed tend to be so strong they’re zombifying, or so mild that they only blunt the edges of my symptoms. So, for now, I’ll enjoy the relief while it lasts. I’ll write and talk and clean–do whatever I can, while I can.

selfie-1209886_1920

Image via pixabay/Unsplash

Selfie: The Face of Fibro

Regardless of how soon it ends, this brief interlude from Fibromyalgia has taught me a valuable lesson: I have been sick. My body does hurt every day–my joints, my head, my muscles–and, no, that’s not the norm for the average, healthy person. My fatigue is so overwhelming at times, I feel like I could slip into a coma at the drop of a hat. I try to plan activities–writing and chores, even driving and socializing–around this flu-like exhaustion, but it’s difficult, because Fibromyalgia is unpredictable by nature. My brain, too, drifts with a thick fog (known as “Fibro Fog”) almost constantly. It takes an effort to locate thoughts and pull them forward into the light. Then, it takes an additional effort to keep them there. And the forgetfulness…. Um, what was I saying? Oh, I know: symptoms. There are plenty of others, some I won’t go into, but as a few examples, I get regular doses of hives, including from exposure to the cold, I suffer from restless legs syndrome and insomnia, and then there are the mental aspects that spill over into the physical–such as anxiety and depression.

Yes, this Fibro reprieve has been a blessing. It has shown me, clearer than I’ve seen before, how real Fibro is and how much of my life it impacts. I’ve confirmed that Fibromyalgia doesn’t live in my imagination. It may not yet be testable and many people–even medical people–may still not recognize that it exists, but my body knows it is real and now the rest of me believes, too.

So many people–including several among my friends and family–suffer with invisible illnesses or other conditions, such as chronic pain. If you do, have you learned to cope better over time? Does it help if there’s a definitive test for your illness, or shouldn’t this matter? My hat is off to all of you. I know how hard it can be to keep a smile on your face, when you’re struggling on the inside.

Alex Blăjan

Image via Unsplash/Alex Blăjan

For all those who live with illness–invisible or otherwise