For the better part of 15 years now, I’ve been living with Fibromyalgia, a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain along with several other related issues. I was diagnosed when I was in high school.
I had been experiencing muscular and joint pain, a long with sleep related issues for quite some time, but time and time again, every doctor we went to simply assumed I was depressed and dismissed me as such. Or worse, they accused me of being hormonal or dramatic.
I was not depressed, I was in pain.
Finally, my family found a doctor who gave a name and a diagnoses to what I was experiencing: Fibromyalgia. From that point on, I was able to work with an amazing pediatric rheumatologist who not only helped me tackle the physical obstacles I was facing, he also inspired me to start running.
Dr. Singston was the first physician who ever really heard me out. He believed me when I said I was in pain, and he helped me find solutions to ease that pain without medicating me. But more than that, he was the first person to show me that I could really do more than I thought myself capable.
Under his guidance and inspiration, and that of some running magazines I had borrowed from a friend, I decided to take up running for the first time in my life. My start was slow, to say the least. And progress was even slower. On top of that, I discovered that one symptom of Fibromyalgia was my hyper-sensitivity to sore muscles. But, I persevered and by they time my Junior year of high school rolled around, I had joined the cross country team.
My season running cross country was one of the most freeing experiences of my life. For the first time I discovered the joy and the freedom of running out in the wide open spaces of our country roads, and I began running longer and quicker than I ever imagined possible. I was having fun, building confidence, and overcoming physical and mental obstacles one right after another.
My season ended with a knee injure. A serious, knee injury. The first orthopedic surgeon I went to told me point blank that he doubted I’d ever run again. I hated him instantly. I don’t mean to be harsh, but who tells a high schooler to their face, on their first visit, that they will never run again? I knew he couldn’t be right.
Like before, a doctor was telling me one thing, but my body was telling me another. Just like I knew I wasn’t depressed before and simply needed to find the right doctor to help me understand what was truly going on, I needed to not listen to this physician who thought my time as a runner was over.
Fortunately, my family found another surgeon for me to see, and although his solution was still for me to have major reconstruction surgery, he never once put any limits on what I could do once I was rehabilitated.
That surgery was years ago, but I still bear the physical scar of the operation, as well as the reality of living with a knee that will never be quite perfect. But like Fibromyalgia, I’ve learned how to balance respecting my body’s limits, while continuing to push myself to be physically active, fit and strong.
It was also while in high school that I started to do yoga. It was the one thing that no matter how I might be feeling, it always left me feeling refreshed while significantly reducing my pain. Now, 15 years later, yoga is not just something I do, it’s something I do for me. Yoga is what I do to take care of me, to strengthen me while also honoring the limits that my muscles have due to Fibromyalgia. Yoga is something I can pursue and continue to set goals, knowing that no matter what, I’ll always be able to do it. There may come a day where I can’t even do the occasional run, but yoga will always be accessible to me.
This blog post has been a little difficult for me to write, and I almost didn’t write it at all. I don’t talk about having Fibromyalgia. Period. With anyone. But then I realized, that was part of the problem.
For years, I’ve kept quiet about living with Fibromyalgia because I didn’t want people to think I was weak, or sickly, or to simply have a diagnoses for a label. But not talking about it didn’t make it any less real, it just stole my freedom to be open an honest about something that, honestly, consumes a lot of who I am.
I don’t mean I sit and wallow or even think about my life in terms of what a diagnoses does or does not mean for me. It does mean, however, that I spend a good majority of my days in moderate to severe pain. My muscles ache. My skin is hyper-sensative to touch. And when I get sick, I get it double – both the virus and then the physical pain that Fibromyalgia brings.
There is another side to all this though, too. It means that when I work out, go for a run, or master a new yoga pose, I did it despite my physical obstacles. It means that when I live my life focused on others that I did that instead of focusing on how I might feel. It means that when I try new things, I do it knowing that I’m not going to let anything stand in my way.
It also means that who I am, and who I was made to be, is not in any way, shape or form, based off someone else’s opinion, perception, or diagnoses of me. It means that I’m tuned in to me, to who I know I am. While I am open to guidance and wisdom from others, it is always kept in check with the truth of who I know God made me to be.
You see, the thing that really is amazing about all this, is that I could have let past pains, diagnoses or struggles limit me. I could have let those things fence me in, and define me. But those things aren’t Truth. They are experiences I’ve had and as such, help shape my story, but they aren’t me.
I know God made me to live a life a freedom. Of physical adventure. Of chasing down dreams. Of setting big goals and accomplishing them. I also know that my reality includes Fibromyalgia and one really bum knee, so my life will inevitable include an element of physical pain and difficulties. But those difficulties are not me.
I, am me.