mamagotcha: (bonk!)
[personal profile] mamagotcha
Today, after dealing with years of worsening chronic pain, I received an Official Diagnosis of fibromyalgia. I am surprisingly happy and relieved to finally have my experience validated by a professional, but more than a little frightened and sad because this thing does not get better. You manage it, and you learn to carefully dole out your resources (aka the spoon theory), and you be gentle with yourself for not being able to do what you were able to do easily ten years ago.

Part of me wants to blame something... vaccinations! formula feeding! genetics! stress! hormones! ... but even if there WAS some kind of trigger, there's nothing I can do about it now. Figuring out the cause is important, so we don't do it to our kids, but other than that I don't want to dwell.

I've suspected it ever since I read about the tender points method of diagnosis. I had a very strong reaction to pressure by a chiropractor in the early 80s, and dozens of other times since then. I hate massages and am baffled by those who say they love them, because no matter how much I try to relax, there will be a time that the masseuse merrily trips over a point that shoots out white-hot shards of pain and makes me cry out and jump, and all the nice effects are erased (and the tension of waiting for that moment makes the whole thing stressful even if they manage not to hit a point for a while). One massage therapist friend laughed when it happened, and called me "goosy."

There's a constellation of issues that go hand-in-hand with fibro's tender points and overall exhaustion and muscle aches, and they are a checklist of my medical history: sleep disturbances, depression, brain fog, sensory overload, and weight issues.

It turns out that I was already doing a lot of the things that people do to manage fibro before my official diagnosis, so there really isn't a whole lot I can add. I got started with a CPAP machine to control the apnea in 2005, and my sleep issues have diminished significantly (though I do still have a little stash of my precious Provigil for the bad days). I was on antidepressants in 1998 and 2002, and have used writing (the 3-good-things journal every night, a long-term variation on that gratitude meme so popular now), meditation, and Constructive Living (an effective mix of Japanese Naikan and Morita psychotherapies) to keep the darkness at bay. I stopped eating gluten a few years ago, which has made a huge difference in my stiffness and pain... they are down to about a 3 or 4 after being up to 8 regularly (on a scale of 10). Going gluten-free has also lifted maybe 80% of my brain fog. I now find that if I do eat glutened foods, I pay for it the next day (with stiffness, pain, fog, and diminished spoons). As for sensory overload, I am very careful about being around crowds and loud noisy places, and map myself an escape route for if/when I get overwhelmed by noise, people, scents, etc. I do much better with smaller groups, and generally it's not a problem.

I am not at all happy with the weight I'm at right now (about 300), but every shred of research I've done validates my experience, which is that if you lose more than 10 or 20 lbs below your body's set point (the natural weight your body moves towards when you are eating good food when hungry, staying hydrated, sleeping well, and moving pleasurably), your metabolism shifts into famine mode and your body will do EVERYTHING it can to get you not only back to that initial set point weight, but shift that point up a few more pounds so you are ready for the next period of famine. This is EXACTLY what happened when I lost 60 lbs. after my divorce... I gained it all back, and with Linc's pregnancy (even though I puked my brains out nearly the entire nine months), I settled at around 300 lbs and have bounced up and down around that point for the last ten years. So until Science figures out a way to shift that set point down again in a safe and sane manner, I am doing my best to enjoy and appreciate my body the way it is, even though society takes every opportunity to let me know how disgusting and inconvenient it is. (To that end, I'm heading back to the wonderful Abundia retreat this fall, woohoo! There's still space if you want to join us.)

We generally eat really well, I think, so I'm not looking to make big changes there... mostly homemade, fresh food, fruit, veggies, lean meat, eggs, etc. (since Clay didn't like fish and he's headed to France, we can have it more often now). I've also added a number of supplements to help manage pain and lower the inflammation (which worsens fibro symptoms as well as aggravating the psoriasis): vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, malic acid, fish oil, turmeric, and French maritime pine bark (pycnogenol).

Other potential supplements that could help: 5HTP, samE, glucosamine/chondroitin, ribose, brown seaweed. I'd love to hear from anyone who uses these.

The thing that finally tipped me over into actively seeking medical advice about the fibro was the fact that, in the last year, I've been unable to get through an entire Nia class or even just a gentle walk for more than ten minutes without having major joint and back pain. I was actually hopeful about exercise when I found that biking was remarkably comfortable, but since my bike got stolen and we have no safe place to keep one, that's out for now, dammit. I've been doing some water Zumba and just playing in water (and, of course, enjoying the blessed heat of the hot tub) at the Evanston Athletic Club, but I have to watch out for recurring ear infections. I've also read that the Feldenkrais Method is a good thing for fibro, and went to one class at EAC... does anyone have feedback on that?

The rheumatologist gave me an order for physical therapy to help with the back and knee pain, which I'm intrigued about. It would be awesome if I could get back to a place where I could start doing Nia again. Also, Illinois has recently legalized medical marijuana for treatment of fibromyalgia. In the past, I've used it when I could not sleep, or was in a lot of pain, and had very good results. But I'm a little old to be trying to score weed, and it would be really nice to have a way to get it that doesn't make me feel slimy, or put others at risk.

One thing that has me a little anxious about sharing the fibro diagnosis is the fact that, in the past, I've sometimes found people with fibromyalgia or similar invisible chronic conditions to be a little bit... annoying (by the way, if you are reading this, you are NOT one of those people!). These folks loudly announce their diagnosis immediately upon introduction, demand special treatment, and make sure that nobody forgets their condition during any subsequent conversations... it's their only topic of interest, their entire identity. They embrace it as a point of pride and entitlement. I read stuff like this and cringe. I totally understand the type of person this writer is talking about, and I truly worry whether I've moved into that category... this is probably the root of why I've waited so very long to seek medical help. I really don't wanna be That Gal. I'm extremely hesitant to say anything about fibro on Facebook, but I also want to find other people who are struggling with it and learn from them... without boring my healthier friends to tears, or in any way appearing to seek attention or pity. My compromise is to put it over here on LJ and stick a little pointer on my FB page. Anyone who has slogged through all the above is probably a sympathetic friend who either has been wrestling with a health issue themselves or someone who loves me enough to forgive me for indulging in all this navel-gazing behavior. Either way, I sincerely thank you for sticking with me.

OK, time to go be a mom for a while!
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