Fibromyalgia, Gauging Pain, and Self Doubt


I was into the office by eight Monday morning (If my memory serves me correctly that is the earliest I have been to work in four months.).  By nine I thought my legs were waging war on my nervous system.  And on my morale.  And on my capabilities.  And on my touch with reality.  But, like many people with fibromyalgia, I ignored the pain.

Knowing the early morning would lead to increased pain, I took Celebrex with my breakfast that morning (as I often do).  I have found significant as-needed relief in Celebrex with one significant side effect.  And that side effect was in full effect Monday…. As I toughed out the pain I was fighting my stomach.  No matter what sort of meal i eat with my Celebrex it always seems to make me violently ill.

So, Monday morning I spent what felt like hours talking with myself.  (I have learned from my mother, who lived with giardia for half a decade, that you can almost always talk yourself out of, what we call, “losing your stomach.”)  I sat in my chair and centered.  I reminded myself to be calm.  I focused on breathing deep.  I gave myself a pep talk.  And it seemed to work… for the first few hours of work.

I had a doctor’s appointment over lunch and by the time I got back to work I was spent.  I gutted out another hour before deciding to work the rest of the day from home.  As I walked to my car I did what I always do when I leave work early… I quizzed myself.  I ranked my pain on a 1-10 scale.  I ranked my fibro fog on the same scale.  And then i second-guessed myself.

Would “normal” people think this pain was as unbearable as I seem to think it is?  Would “normal” people support my decision if I could share my pain with them?  Would normal people even have gone to work today?

I have to ask myself those questions nearly everyday.  I think one of the most challenging aspects of fibromyalgia is self doubt.  And it was introduced to me by doctors, teachers, friends, coaches, and so-called experts.  And it leads me, on tough days, down a mental road of confusion and frustration.  Wondering if I’m just a wuss.  Wondering if I’m positively incapable of being the tough girl I was taught to be during my decade as a gymnast.  Wondering if saying I have fibromyalgia is just a polite way to tell people I am an incapable and inconsistent Gen Y-er with absolutely no tolerance for pain.

Screw you, self doubt.  I am better than you.  I trust myself, and I am learning to trust the part of my brain that tells me, “Enough is enough, K8.  Be wise with your health.”

So, after the round with self doubt I decided to dwell on the positive.  I was able to contribute significantly to month-end reporting and analysis last week.  I was able to complete a project all by my lonesome Monday.  I was able to work around the house over the weekend without working myself to immobility.

I am making progress.  I am making progress at a more deliberate pace than I, and most everyone but my doctor, would prefer.  I am making progress because I listen to my body and allow it to have ups and downs.  As long as the next down is higher than the last I will continue to be upbeat and optimistic.  If ever the next down is lower than the last I will reassess and revamp my coping methods and treatment plan.

9 Responses

  • mariska on July 17, 2008, 20:52:23
  • happydai on July 17, 2008, 21:01:15

    Hello K8!
    Im so glad I found your website. I have been dealing with chronic pain since 1-1-06. It all started with a car accident. A kid pulled out in front of me as I was going 50 mph. I T-boned him. Air bag deployed, but I stiffened befored I hit him. Horrific pain in my neck, back, shoulders, head, etc ever since. Lately the pain is ‘traveling’ I have trigger points all over my body. Legs, arms, hips, etc. Rheumatologist diagnosed me with Fibro. I cant accept it. I am glad this darn pain has a ‘name’ now, but I dont know why this has happened to me? Why? Why did that kid pull out? Why am I suffering like this, and quite possibly for the rest of my life?
    I am sorry, I didnt mean to go on and on, I just feel like nobody understands. I talked with my husband about it tonight that I feel SO isolated and lonely. Do you ever feel like that? I dont know what to do with myself sometimes, when I am overcome with pain and the activities I enjoyed seem so out of reach.
    Anyways, the rheum put me on some new meds so I am hoping that will help.
    Thanks, and I am adding you as a favorite 🙂

    Reply to happydai
  • K8 on July 17, 2008, 21:20:56

    Mariska: Hello! I am glad you found my place and that you said hello.

    HappyDai: That accident sounds like a terrible way for a new year to start. Fibromyalgia is, indeed, frustrating (to say the least). You can look through some of my previous posts to see I sometimes struggle with feeling overwhelmed, misunderstood, isolated, and such. Over the last 10 years my team, family, close friends, and a few good doctors have changed my life. Although we haven’t been able to make the pain all go away, we have been able to create a support structure I can rely on and find stability in. (And I have even seem some unexpected blessings come from my fight with fibro.) Welcome to my team!

    Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help either of you.

    Reply to K8
  • happdai on July 18, 2008, 11:27:45

    Hi, Im sorry, I am actually the person who posted both those messages. HA! I dont know what I did, and I thought it didnt take so I started over and changed my name too. So, its just me!

    Thanks for the reply. I plan on reading thru your previous posts. Just curious, how old are you? From your picture you look so young. Its a shame we suffer from this at such a young age. I am 31, I was 29 when I had my accident. It really makes you think. I skated thru life without a care in the world, and now there is so much stress in my life, everything had come to a head all at once. My husband had spinal fusion surgery in December, and he is still recovering. He hasnt been able to work. We are in debt up to our ears, and we are afraid we are going to lose our house. This doesnt help my pain level, and I would be willing to bet that the last few months has contributed to the onset of fibro.
    Thanks for providing a place for people like me to come and vent and cry and feel like we belong.

    Reply to happdai
  • Valerie Thompson on January 10, 2009, 00:34:11

    I have been dealing with chronic pain, fatigue and a host of other health issues for a while now. I too am glad found this. I am going through the proccess of getting tests and diagnosis to find out what I have – it may be FM or something similar.

    Your article hits home with the point about guilt. I always remember myself as pretty pain tolerant, clumsy but tolerant. But I too struggle with I’m sure others would easily go to work everyday. But really would they? I have to tell myself that sometimes its not the occasional headache that you don’t grunt through and work. It’s the fact you feel horrible 75-90% of your life. It wears you down.

    Reply to Valerie
  • Raven on February 26, 2009, 16:20:52

    Funny, but I’m dealing with that today. Hence, I’m on your website instead of working, lol. Some days I just want to cry uncle.

    Reply to Raven
  • Tricia on August 27, 2009, 10:37:15

    I doubted myself many times throughout the years. Doctor’s didn’t believe me, my family didn’t believe me, neither did friends. I would always come back to deceiding that – no, a normal person does not feel this way and that I didn’t always feel this way.

    Good luck!

    Reply to Tricia

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