I’m typically so careful what I say about living with Fibromyalgia, for more than one reason, but most recently I’m trying to wrap my head around why I judge myself more than anyone else. I’ve started accepting networking opportunities where I can connect with people who understand exactly what I experience on a daily basis, and most times first hand. It has made me take a long hard look at myself. Why is reaching out so difficult? What do I expect from myself? From others? How and why did this even happen to me?
I decided to look at when it all seemed to blow up. What the time frame was and what was happening in my world at the time. There was a lot! I’d already spent years raising my son solo and with some assistance from my dad financially. I moved us here from Cali in ’98 and even at that age he was so full of anger. I blame myself. Even after all I know about who he really is today, I blame myself. I was always striving for something better for us. A house we could call home, a yard for him to play in and neighbor kids for him to grow up with. I have awesome memories of hiking with my bro and sometimes his friends too when I was a kid. *wintertime, trying to break the ice shelves at the creek that ran through the park* *summertime, playing at the park that had the spaceship* *running through the woods and climbing trees just before dusk* I wanted that for my boy. He wanted to be angry. A type of anger where you could see him disappear behind his eyes. He would go to another place and his anger would be all that was left. He was strong, like superhero strong, and he would kick me and throw things at me. Furniture, toys, tools, books…furniture. I was afraid. Every day, I was afraid. I feared that he would seriously hurt me, himself or someone else. There were police visits to the first grade school he attended, he was suspended 8 times between kindergarten and first grade. He was arrested at 12 for hitting the neighbors friend in the kneecap with a golf club. He was angry and I was alone. Alone with the anger that I just couldn’t reach. When he would go into his anger I would miss him. He has a charisma that is contagious. He is hilariously sarcastic and articulate. When he is happy, he is poetry. But he was mostly angry and I searched for answers. For years and years, I searched for answers. Was there therapy that could help him control the rage inside? Was there medication that could ease his anxiety? I hurt for him then as I hurt for him now. How terrifying it must be for him. To go away and not know where you went, a trip with no memorable documentation, good or bad. As I blend the past and present with my pen, I realize that it happens effortlessly because the journey never really changed. Fight and fight and fight for answers that would help him and me.
After years of doctors and day treatment and psychiatric testing, finally in ’07, he went into inpatient treatment. He needed help that I couldn’t give him. He was there for about 10 months. It was all so exhausting. Mentally, emotionally and physically. There was family therapy, onsite and at home. There was therapy for me and meetings to attend with his team. And the County to deal with. To fight to get him help. I started working my second job somewhere in there. I just didn’t make enough to cover it all. He came home from inpatient care and it was about six months before he was back with a vengeance. And so very clear about how much he didn’t care, about anything. I was done. I was completely in over my head and I caved. I sent him to live with his dad in Cali, he was 14. I needed a break. I needed to breathe. I needed to take care of myself for a minute.
It was then that I realized how painfully I had been living. I chalked my daily aches and pains up to the daily battles because it made sense. But, I still hurt, all over and all the time. I will never forget the day I realized how much it hurt for my cat to walk across the side of my leg, from my knee to my hip. I had always pushed her off me, never thinking why. And so in ’08 I began the search for answers for myself. Why do I hurt so much all the time? Why am I so exhausted? Why would I get migraines so regularly? Why does a day of housework cause me to miss a day at my job? The diagnosis for Fibromyalgia came in ’09 and I met it with mixed feelings. I think I still do. I like that there is an explanation for so many things that I deal with, but I still can’t put it in a place of complete acceptance for myself. I fight it and I think that is why I don’t expect much understanding from those around me. I stigmatize myself and because of that, I never give others a chance to participate in my life in general. I feel guilty for the way I live, the things I do so that I CAN live. I love being creative and hanging out with friends. I love conversation and laughter. In order to have all those things, I just have to go through life a little differently. In essence, the things I love exhaust all of my energy, but I will always strive to do them, because that’s what I want.
Part of growing up and growing as a person is trying to see the picture how it really is, not just the place we create in our minds. By reaching out to others that live with chronic pain and sharing our successes and struggles, I no longer feel alone in this fight. I have learned in a short time that there is strength in numbers. There is strength in vulnerability because it forces you to be honest. And as painful as the truth can be sometimes, it is liberating to live where the feelings are real. I can be happy in spite of my struggles and when I struggle with happiness, I have a support system that will allow me to be wherever I need to be at that very moment. And it is important for us to always feel the feels…all of them.
My son came home in 2010, when he was almost 16. One positive outcome was that he never threw a fist at me again. Other things did not improve and I counted the months until he turned 18. He lives in another state now and he is living his life. I wish so much happiness for him even though I cannot assist him with it. The bottom line is that he is living, making art and music and surviving on his own and for that I am happy. As for me, I will continue putting one foot in front of the other, day after day, step after sometimes-painful step and I will be thankful! Thankful for the person I am in my heart and thankful for the time I have left here to make a difference. I will find happy wherever I am, because it really is everywhere.