Getting dumped into the fibromyalgia category is a quite a journey. For me, it started when I was 12 and we didn’t get to a conclusion until I was 17. Every person has a different path, but it seems that two things are a constant: 1. It takes years to figure out why you’re in pain all the time, and 2. There isn’t enough information or the information isn’t taken the way it’s intended. It blows my mind really.
I was diagnosed by a pediatric rheumatologist that reminded me of Count Olaf from Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. The hair and body type was dead on and he was, at least in my head, a mean doctor. I’m sure the examination of trigger points didn’t help my view of him, however it was the comments made when it came to exercise that really made me not a fan. I would do what he wanted, nothing changed. When this all started I was within my appropriate weight for years anyways, so I didn’t see the point. He said that he should come to my house and whip me with an extension cord… in front of my mother. What kind of shit is that?
Needless to say, I didn’t go back to him. Now I don’t know if it was because I’m not as educated or if it was because he was not as educated, but we didn’t have a real understanding as to what was going on, what was ruled out, or anything inbetween. My pain wasn’t interfering too much in my life for it to be a huge issue so I continued on my meds and went about my merry way in life. I didn’t mention it a lot to people because most people thought it was a made up condition at the time anyways.
Today I am a medical professional and make sure that my doctors explain everything to me and take a vocal role in how my treatment is handled… Even if I feel like a fish flopping around on the ground in this situation… It’s always complicated with me. I have symptoms, nothing really shows up on tests, there isn’t really any damage as far as they can see, so there’s nothing to do. It’s frustrating to me and it’s frustrating to the doctors. The most important thing to have in my situation is well educated doctors that are keeping up with new research. This means university doctors for me.
I was hesitant to see new rheumatologist. I’d been handling myself with just my PCP, a gynecologist and a GI doc quite well. The feelings I had from the old rheumatologist came back and I just felt like I’d be berated for being overweight and that would be it. To my surprise it was nothing like that. She was critical in the way she examined me and went over my history, as one should. She didn’t think my new issue was a new condition, but she was going to do the workup anyways. When she asked if I had any questions, I hesitated and eventually just told her that I hate my fibromyalgia diagnosis. I told her that I never really trusted that it was my answer and I never felt any better.
Her response to that comment made an impact on me. She explained to me that they believe it’s your nerves confusing signals as pain and how exercise trains those nerves to stop interpreting that stimuli as pain. This made sense to me, especially after seeing the work done at my previous research job. I felt better about it. She even gave me a pamphlet for a place that works with a lot of her fibromyalgia patients for pain management.
So a few weeks ago I went to find groups on facebook that I could join and talk to others with fibromyalgia. I mean, let’s face it, dealing with this stuff makes for a lonely existence. I found a couple groups and after a day of my newsfeed being completely full of my new fibro friends, I couldn’t take it. The posts were full of pseudoscience, issues that have nothing to do with fibro, questions that should be strictly for a doctor and everything inbetween. My impression: most of these people have an actual diagnosis that their doctor didn’t find and most of these people have doctors that aren’t educated enough to educate their patients.
I had to get out of there. I felt terrible.
Keeping on top of your health is extraordinarily difficult when you’re dealing with vague symptoms, overlapping diseases, uneducated doctors, stubborn doctors, you yourself don’t have a background in healthcare and if you’re dealing with cognitive issues thanks to your condition like many of us do. There is a serious lack of awareness with this condition that we’re learning more and more about all the time. It makes it even more difficult when doctors are giving up on diagnosing their patients and throw them in our category.
This being said…
May 12th is Fibromyalgia Awareness day. Please take a minute to do some research, visit http://www.fmcpaware.org/ , talk to someone who has fibromyalgia and learn about their experience.