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Fibromyalgia, Gauging Pain, and Self Doubt (revisited and revised, in part)

Before you read this post, I recommend you go here.

I’ve been thinking back to this post from last July…

As you may have noticed I have yet to post my follow-up to last Wednesday’s question, “What brings you strength?”  That trend will continue, as I have something else on my mind.

Over the past two weeks I have had a pain somewhere between my shoulder blades and my mid-back.  For the most part, the pain has been consistent, but last night something changed.  Everytime I moved in my sleep, my sleep ceased.  I’d wake up to stabbing pains that seemed to prevent breathing and movement.  Somehow, I managed to fall back asleep each time.  Much thanks to Amitriptyline, I’m sure. But I’m still not sure falling back to sleep was more convenient than just staying awake.  At least when you’re awake you can consciously decide not to move in a manner that steals your mobility and your breath.

Anyway, upon waking this morning I made the stupid, stubborn, short-sighted, decision to go to work, like it ain’t no thing to have blurry vision each time you breathe in deep.  Like it ain’t no thing to be unable to stand up straight.  Like it ain’t no thing to have what feels like lightning bolts travel through your body every time you go over a bump or turn a corner.  Seriously, I had NO idea turning the steering wheel used so many muscles in your back.

But I wasn’t totally stupid.  I did leave a desperate voice mail for my chiropractor in which I said something about imminent death and begged for her time.  And, lucky for me, her unbelievably sweet office manager (who is, in fact, the sweetest woman I have ever met, after S Gold, of course) called me within the hour with delightful news.  They had a spot for me!  So I busied myself with work, and minimal movement, and the wait zoomed by.

Then came the car ride.  And I almost died.  Not because of a dangerous driver (though I saw plenty) or wild weather.  Nope.  I almost died of wussiness.  Now, I’m not sure that is a real word, but I honestly thought I might not make it the twenty minutes to her office.  I worried a bump in the road might sever my spinal cord.  I was sure another breathe meant certain death.  But I was wrong, as I often am.  Thank you Mom for talking me through the rough ride.

Now, to shorten the rest of the story.  I went to the chiropractor.  My floating ribs appear to be rather confused.  They used electrical stim and it worked like a charm… for half an hour.  I ate lunch at my parents’ home.  I went back to work.  I worked a full day.  I nearly lost my sanity in pain on the drive home from work.  This time Daniel talked with me, and the distraction was just enough to get me home before I totally wussed out.

Since being home I’ve done a lot of nothing.  But I have realized the pain is not simply skeletal or muscular, it’s a healthy mix of both.  It’s not my normal fibro pain.  Nor is it my arthritis pain.  This feels like (even though it likely isn’t) it’s far too near my spine for my comfort (in all seriousness).  I’ve got a massage scheduled for tomorrow at lunch, although the thought sounds like torture.  And, to be honest, if I feel like this in the morning, I’m going to a “real” doctor.  Whatevertheheck that means.  I cannot live with pain like this.

Which brings me to a post I wrote last july: Fibromyalgia, Gauging Pain, and Self-Doubt.


That pretty much sums up what’s been on my mind today.  So, as I sat waiting for my chiropractor today I reread my post.  And I’ve been thinking.  Am I actually a wuss?  What if I really am nuts?  Am I just overly-sensitive?  Why the heck have I been to the doctor SO MANY DANG TIMES this year?!  If it’s not a cold, it’s a busted foot.  If it’s not a busted foot it’s difficulty breathing.  If it’s not difficulty breathing, it’s an ear infection.  If it’s not an ear infection, it’s… ?!  What is this?  If this is simply “back pain” I’ve never had pain in my life.  If this is “normal” I have led the most privileged life… ever.  I kinda feel like I have, but shouldn’t we all?

Now, to tweak the post from last July:

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 from my car I did what I always do when I leave return to work early from a doctor’s appointment… 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 (and any invisible illness) 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 am able to contribute significantly to month-end reporting and analysis last this week.  I am learning a new skill, with the help of a coworker, and I was able to use said skill complete a project all by my lonesome Monday today.  I was able to work around the house over the weekend without working myself to immobility.  I know that sounds absurd, considering the nature of this post, but it’s true.  My back was hurting long before last weekend.

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.

Thanks for sticking with me through this lengthy post.  Pardon any confusing bits.  I fear this evening’s painkillers have done a number on my thought-process… and my typing.

And a special thank you to my Twitter friends who suggested ice as a comfort for extreme back/spine pain.  I am using it, as I type.  I just pray it continues to help me, as I sleep.

Life: Fibromyalgia, Birthdays, Work, and You

Yesterday was my half birthday, among other things.  And when I got to work I kept typing the wrong password.  It wasn’t until I accidently hit tab one too many times and typed my “password” into the username box that I realized I was, in fact, typing “birthday” as my password.  What was I thinking?!  Seriously… this never-ending cold has me doing some silly stuff.  I think this post jinxed me.

Last night during one of my many runny-nosed, insomnia-ridden alert-ish hours I stared blankly at the clock wondering why Aveda’s Shampure line leaves my hair smelling so good for so long.  Honestly.  I looked like a wreck.  Sounded like a smoker.  Felt like a helpless toddler.  But goodness knows, I knew my hair smelled good.

This morning, as I ran out the door to work I just had to grab this super-cute tissue box Daniel bought for me.  I felt like such a winner bringing a tissue box to work.  It was like the first day of any given grade school year… when teachers collect all sorts of goods as an entrance fee.  I know, I know, they need the stuff, but those lists are hilarious.

Today was my annual evaluation at work.  It went well and was a powerful reminder of how blessed I am to work for a company that respects and supports folks like me and you.  I was surprisingly proud of myself when I realized this time last year I was at my lowest point… in the middle of my worst fibromyalgia flare, on FMLA leave, struggling with the hell that is Cymbalta.  But this year… here I am.  Working full-time.  Driving.  Walking.  Even traveling.  What a blessing!  And what a difference a year makes.  Thank you for the significant role you played in pulling me out of said flare.  And thank you for your continued support.  I am humbled by your love and honest feedback.  And I pray your pain may be eased for your kindness to myself and those around you.  I know kind deeds and kind words are eventually returned.  And I know prayers are answered.  And I know those answers typically come through another person.

Tonight has been full of reflection for me.  And there are many more things to be said, but I absolutely MUST sleep before tomorrow.  So, I’m off to cope with my nightly pre-bed panic by showering with my beloved Aveda Shampure. Here’s to calming smells, comfy clothes, and a cuddly husband.

Fibromyalgia and Follow-Ups

I haven’t kept track… but I’m pretty sure I’ve been to the doctor a half-dozen times this year.  As in 2009.  Not the last 12 months. And I swear nearly all of those have been follow-ups.  Is that possible? Over the course of my life I’ve been to the doctor more than your average Joe.  At least I think so.  Unless your average Joe is a smoker or an individual who participates in other high-risk activities.  In that case, I’m below average (and okay with that).  I don’t take many risks when it comes to my body.

Back on point.

I’m not sure any of these visits have been directly related to my fibromyalgia or osteoarthritis.  I, frankly, can’t recall.  I can, however, recall what the last two have been for.  A nasty cold, bug, infection, bout with illness, kiss of cough, or whatever you like to call it.  So, I guess, technically, I don’t know what it’s been for, I just know what the symptoms are.  Sounds kinda like fibromyalgia, doesn’t it?

Last Wednesday I wrote a quick post as I was waiting at the doctor’s office.  By the time I left the office I had a perscription to fill if my condition did not improve by Thursday.  My sweet husband picked the meds up for me last Friday and I’ve been taking them since… with no noticeable improvement.  Actually, I’ve continued to get more congested and have greater difficulty breathing for eight days now.  The days are bearable.  I sound like Michelle Rodriquez with a little helium.  But, the nights are rough.

image from

My work provides a wonderful service for employees to can call a Mayo Clinic nurse to discuss medical issues for free.  Have you heard of this?  I’ve used it a few times and am consistently impressed with their customer service and genuine concern for my issues.  When I can’t decide to go the doctor or not I give them a call.  I am sure they are more thorough than some doctors… they stick to checklists.  And if you’ve read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, you’ve heard just how effective such lists can be when it comes to medical matters.

After nearly 45 minutes of questions, answers, and advice, my kind nurse suggested I visit the doctor within four hours.  I called my doctor’s office and, long story short, they were too busy.  I sure wish they hadn’t been.  Maybe if I’d had meds last night would not have included more breathing and, therefore, more sleeping.  But, oh well.  It totally could have been worse.  Yesterday my husband’s grandfather had his kidney removed due to cancer and I’m here complaining about my annoying… non-virus, silly voice creating, sleep stealing mystery ailment.  I don’t want to sound as though I’m complaining.  I’m telling a story.  And details do not equate to complaints (which is somewhat like the fact that reason is not synonymous with excuse).

I’ve been working from home since Monday to avoid getting my coworkers sick (and spare them my nasty sound effects), but I decided to head into work this afternoon on my way to another follow-up.  I was mildly embarrassed by my silly voice,  but I enjoyed the chance to get out and about.  And the follow-up was productive (moreso than this cough of mine).  I walked out with two prescriptions and the sarcastic promise of an exam room with my name on it by the next time I visit my doctor.  So far, the jury is out on the expensive medications.  I can, however, say that the cough suppressent/decongestent he gave me is stellar.  And that is exciting.

Any advice for kicking a strong bug like this?  I’ve tried gargling salt water.  Sleep.  Hot showers.  A humidifier.  And some other stuff I can’t remember because it’s late.  I’ll take all the advice you’ve got to give.

Thank you for sticking with me through this lengthy and self-indulgent post.  I am under-slept and over-coughed and I am grateful for your support.  I appreciate your involvement and feedback and advice and concern.  I pray this post finds you healthy and at peace, despite all that rages on in this restless and peace-starved world.  When in doubt, get involved and share a smile.


Fibromyalgia and Migraines, Part 1

So, part of new weekly routine has got to go.  It’s a once a week thing.  It was never planned.  And I certainly never invited it.  Each week I renew my resolve to ditch the routine.  And each week I forget to remember to ditch the routine for the days in between.  But that’s over because I’m writing about it.  Isn’t that supposed to help you remember?

I get a killer headache (dare I say, migraine) every Thursday.  What’s the deal?  Is it end of the week stress?  Is it a coincidence?  Is there really any other explanation?

It’s all a bit strange.  Thursdays are my favorite work day.  It’s almost Friday, but it’s more productive.  I suppose that after a long week I’ve accumulated enough stress to cause such a headache, but it’s incredible how quickly it arrives and how quickly it has me seeing double and heading to bed before I’m head-over-toilet, woofing my cookies.  I’m not talking a headache… the kind that hurts and makes loud noises annoying.  I’m talking…

Oh my gosh!  My vision is freaked out.  My head is being crushed by an invisible anvil.  My last four meals are on deck.  I can’t hold up my head.  My hearing is blurry (is that possible?!).  Daniel, get me to bed before I die.  And do so in complete silence.  And don’t turn on the lights…

Thusfar, I’ve survived this dreadful routine, as I will continue to.  But surviving is reactionary, and I’m looking to be preventative.  Something must change.

I didn’t start having migraines until I was at college.  I still remember the first one like I remember my name.  I remember what movie I was watching as I had a conversation with myself that went something like:

This might be the worst headache I’ve ever had.  This must be what Mom and Grandma get.  If this is just a headache, I’ve never had a headache before.  Those concussions have nothing on this… they’re hangnails.  Oh my goodness, I’m going to vomit.  I hate this movie.  I hate light.  Just make a move already! (I was watching the aforementioned movie with my roommate and a boy she liked.) I hate noise.  I want to go home.  I want to cut my head off.  I hate these pants.  Just put your arm around her!  I hate this chair.

Since then, migraines waltz in and out of my life like warm weather does an Arkansas winter.  And I’ve had enough.  My Valentine’s gift to myself was to finally kiss migraines goodbye…  But, as we learn from people, kissing things goodbye (when you intend to distance yourself from said things) is a stupid idea.  It sends mixed signals and confuses the situation…

Come back Tuesday for the rest of the story, as well as my migraine survival tips.

My Life with Fibro is Growing: My Weekly Routine

I was supposed to write about my Tuesday e-mail last week, but I didn’t.  And now, I’ve decided it’s best not to.  I’ll give you one hint… #wellsphere.  Basically, many other bloggers summed up the ordeal with great tact and all seems to have been set right.  Therefore, I’ve decided to let bygones be bygones and finally introduce something else exciting:


I’ve finally established my weekly routine, and will be rolling out the first installment this Sunday (more details coming tomorrow, and this time I mean it).  This new routine will have me writing a post most days of the week… with a special emphasis each day.  I’d like to say it’s purely for your enjoyment, but to be frank, that’s a lie.  The most effective way I manage my fibromyalgia is by managing my routine.  Why should my blogging be any different?

In other news, thank you for being such a wonderful reader!  I appreciate your input and your consistency.  You motivate me to learn, to open up, and to rededicate myself to improving my health and my quality of life.  Please let me know if there is a topic that interests you.  I am currently working on two posts inspired by readers like you and I’d love to get some more recommendations!