If you haven’t been following along, I like to set my readers in a good place to start the story. I was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia after a two year battle with daily pain and I have taken it upon myself to document my story of chronic illnesses here. When I think about it, when I really focus, I can remember a life-long relationship with pain.
In elementary school, I sat out of a lot of P.E. activities. Mostly if they involved running. I have never been very sporty and grew to hate gym class but I don’t think avoidance was my issue. I distinctly recall that my ankles bothered me when I ran. I remember it as a sharp, jarring pain that was worse in one ankle than the other (which one I can’t be too sure of at the moment). I saw a doctor several times. I had X-rays done. I might have even worn a brace? But the most vivid memory I have of this time period is that a doctor eventually decided I had hurt my ankle and was now causing micro-fractures every time I ran on it. He put me in a cast (bright pink, waterproof) in the hopes that I would heal. It was very weird explaining to people that I had not broken anything really. I don’t remember what happened after that. I don’t know how long it took for my ankle problems to dissipate but they did. I don’t currently have problems with them and I haven’t had problems with them in a decade or more. It’s entirely possible that I grew out of whatever issue my ankle bones had with running.
In middle school, I graduated to back pain. I don’t remember if it took awhile for people to take me seriously or not. I do remember describing what I went through sometimes, as the muscles in my back gripping tight and refusing to let go (spasms). I remember I got pretty good care. I went through dozens of tests including five million scoliosis exams, XRays, an MRI, and a bone scan. A couple of those were damn near terrifying considering my phobia of needles and enclosed spaces. The most frustrating part was that they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I was diagnosed with chronic back problems. They thought maybe I had injured myself from carrying around a 25 pound french horn and a backpack that weighed even more as well as carrying my emotions in my back muscles. I went to a gifted and talented school and was pushed to be a high achiever. I was under too much stress for a thirteen year old. They sent me to stress management counseling where I learned how to meditate (a skill that has been very useful to me over the years). In the end, my mom sought out chiropractic care and massage therapy. Both were considered way more alternative than they are now. But I actually found answers and relief. Although my situation would remain chronic.
Over the years I was able to achieve lower levels of pain and many, many pain-free days. I was able to remain moderately active. I didn’t need any prescriptions. I was never bed-bound. It became routine. Familiar. I was actually proud of my tolerance, considering it fairly high because I dealt with pain so often. It didn’t have a scientific name and I never wrote “back problems” down under medical issues. Life carried on.
At twenty nine I was pregnant. Along with many other issues including but not limited to debilitating fatigue, oily hair, burning acne on my chest, horrible depression and suicidal ideation, my old friend Severe Pain returned. It was most prominent in my tail bone, butt bones, and pubic bone and it started early. They liked to tell me that my body was preparing for labor and I would just stare at them like ,”Guys, I’m only two months in.” Exercising? Out of the question. Walking became ridiculous too. Rolling over in bed? Agony. It has come to my attention that I was probably suffering from Symphysis pubis dysfunction but even if I had gotten them to diagnose this, they still would have waved it off.
It set the precedent for the next two years: being in pain and being ignored.