I am the proud owner of a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia.
Well, not really proud; I’m not even the slightest bit happy nor am I amused by it. However, I refuse to be held prisoner by the “invisible disease” that affects so many people, rendering them useless and agonizing in pain. Technically, Fibro isn’t even considered a disease, seeing as it is not degenerative and there is not a specific test that says “Hey, YOU! You’ve got Fibro!” Instead, it’s years and years of testing for ailments and real diseases that don’t actually reside in your body; it’s having heaps of people tell you that your problems are all in your head and it’s unneeded stress of thinking that something serious is wrong, and you’re nearing death. After you’ve Googled your demise nightly for a few years, FINALLY you find a doctor that believes in Fibro (some do, some don’t), and wallah!… you get a Xanax prescription, Vicodin and other pills that really just make you feel shittier than you already did. It’s countless trips to the ER when you think you’ve had a stroke, a heart attack or your vision just magically disappears for a solid 15 minutes. It’s not knowing WHEN to go to a doctor, since Fibro mimics a million other serious issues; I am sick and tired of going to the doctor, only to hear nothing is wrong. Most importantly, I will NOT be the person that complains about feeling like crap, nor do I want to even bring up the fact that my Fibro has flared-up and that something hurts.
If I do complain or even mention my Fibro, then you should be aware that it’s gotten to the point that I’m beyond miserable and I have been for quite some time.
Every time I travel, I am in the middle of a flare-up. It never fails. I have never been able to hop on a plane without worrying if my trip will be painful or if I will be able to get through it. Luckily (if I can say luckily?!), Fibro is hugely affected from stress; when I travel, within days of me leaving my work-life behind, my stress is gone, and so is 90% of my symptoms. Additionally, as soon as I return, it’s patiently waiting for me with a giant hug, as if it missed me dearly.
The worst issue I have seemed to have while traveling was Costochondritis; an extremely painful inflammation of the cartilage between my ribs and breastbone, usually brought on from some sort of trauma, but also from Fibro. The pain and symptoms mimic a major heart attack, so you can imagine how fun it is (it is actually bothering me again as I type this. At least I know now that I’m not dying!). I was told that the inflammation was going to take three to twelve months to heal, which was diagnosed exactly three months to the date that I was to be leaving for a two month trek of Europe. Miraculously everything appeared to be golden upon departure, however the fear of re-injuring caused me to miss out on partaking in water sports while visiting Corfu with my friends. I was completely bummed out about sitting back and watching my friends from the beach having fun on jet skis and water tubes, but it was something I just wasn’t going to risk. It was also the only time I have let my Fibro hold me back from doing something I wanted to do, mainly because I was so far from home should it become bad again.
I’ve heard and read so many stories of people suffering from Fibro who are basically contained to their beds, sleeping their days away in pain and misery, but I REFUSE to be like they are. I threw out my medications (not the Xanax! I need those babies!), try to avoid certain things that trigger my flare-ups and I don’t talk about it. While some people think it’s not good for me to keep it in and not mention it, I really don’t feel the need to constantly say “I’m hurting.”
The only reason I am even writing about my issue is to hopefully inspire someone, anyone, even if it’s just one person who is in pain to get up, get out and travel the world.
Even if a flare-up is bothersome while traveling, it’s far better to be experiencing new cultures, food and people than hanging around the house in your pajamas all day. After all, when your mind is so occupied with new sights and cities, you actually forget about being in pain. When you forget about the pain, you automatically stop stressing over being miserable, and the flare-up burns off quickly; it’s amazing what happiness can do to Fibro, and I truly believe it’s the real cure to the symptoms. Know your limits, get rest when you need it but DON’T let this “invisible disease” dictate your life.