May 12th is National Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. To spread awareness, I going to tell you about my experiences with this illness. First, let me explain what it is. Fibromyalgia (Fibro) affects the way the brain processes pain. When a pain signal is sent to the brain, it releases serotonin. However, those with Fibro do not produce enough serotonin so the brain gets overwhelmed creating an amplified sense of pain, hyperaglesia. Even a light touch can feel very painful.
What does Fibromyalgia feel like? Well, let me tell you about a day in my life. Morning comes and there are times that I cannot get out of bed. I actually have to roll on my side to get up. Even though I slept all night, I am still tired. I start to walk and it feels like I have lead in the bottom of my feet because my body is so stiff. After doing some stretching I can start moving. Usually taking a shower helps one wake up but in my case I have to rest after getting out of the shower, it is exhausting.
As my day continues I am faced with different annoyances each day. Some days my hands and feet itch like crazy. It is an itch that I cannot reach no matter how much I scratch. Sometimes it feels like needles pricking my skin causing sharp pain. Then there are times when the top of my skin hurts, this is called Allodynia. If my knees or ankles barley brush against each other I feel intense pain. It stings like clothes rubbing against the skin while one has a sunburn. Ouch! I want to jump through the roof!
Fibromyalgia amplifies everything including sounds and lights. While talking on the phone at work I have to turn down the volume because the voice on the other end sounds like a person talking through a megaphone. In addition I am quite disturbed by the noise my co-workers make while they are either eating snacks, humming to themselves or whistling. Driving home from work is a challenge due to the reflection of the sun on the dashboard blinding me.
Once I am home after a day of work, I have to choose which activities I can accomplish that evening. Sometimes I can cook a full meal from scratch, sometimes I am lucky if I can take a few things out of freezer and put something together. I am thankful I have a husband who helps with cleaning the kitchen afterwards. If I have errands to run after work, I normally don’t cook, I just pick up something while I am out. The person with Fibro often has to pace activities. If I know I am going to have a big weekend, I will try to limit events during the week so I can save energy for the weekend. Fatigue is always a concern with Fibro because one’s body is always fighting the effects of the illness. Finally at the end of the day, I usually have the need to elevate my feet and ice them because they are swollen.
One or more of these symptoms occur on a daily basis. The symptoms can be very mild or in some cases very painful. On my worst days I experience muscle pain over my entire body, migraine headaches, nausea, and digestive issues. Extreme fatigue always comes on my more difficult days and no matter how much I sleep I don’t feel rested. It has been reported that people with Fibro do not have the same sleep patterns as a person without it and never fall into a deep sleep.
So, that is a day in the life of a Fibro girl. I have learned to manage the symptoms by pacing my activities and limiting stress. (Stress is another factor which aggravates the illness). I have been fortunate that most of the time the symptoms are mild. On the bad days, I am grateful for having a loving husband who helps me get through it.