By Melissa Swanson
For many people, symptoms begin after an illness or emotional or physical trauma. While these events do not cause fibromyalgia, they may trigger the onset in people who are already at risk.
If you ask most fibromites what caused their fibromyalgia, what was their "trigger," they can usually tell you. In fact, there may have been more than one. Before I was 25, I had experienced several events that could easily have triggered my fibro. I was in two severe car accidents, experienced a devastating unexpected loss of my grandfather, and a move away from everyone I knew. Yet, none of those events triggered my fibromyalgia.
However, 17 years later, the combination of a stressful job, another unexpected family loss, and a year of weekend travel with physical and emotional stress dealing with the family member’s estate was, as they say, "the straw that broke the camel’s back."
It began with migraines, insomnia, lower back pain, jaw pain and body stiffness. I went to a GP, chiropractor, dentist, radiologist, physical therapist and counselor. Each test came back with a new diagnosis but nothing to show the why or what I could do about the increasing pain and fatigue. The worst feeling in the world is when no one believes you. It’s bad enough when your doctors don’t believe you, but when your own family members say (in one way or another) that “it’s all in your head," you really begin to ponder your own sanity.
So I began doing my own research. I typed in all my symptoms and diagnoses to find out if they had anything in common. There it was: Fibromyalgia. The more I read, the more I was certain that I had it.
I needed someone who would be willing to look at all my symptoms and run the tests needed. I decided to see a new doctor. I wanted a fresh start and a new perspective with someone who had no idea about my previous health history.
I researched physicians in the area looking at their specialties. I found a young doctor who listened and began running blood work and every test she could. At last, she decided to send me to a rheumatologist. Although, he was very rude and made it perfectly clear that he would not treat me, he did tell me that I indeed did have fibromyalgia.
I had never been so happy to get a diagnosis in my life. Finally, someone believed me. Wouldn't everyone else have to believe me now as well? It gave me validation and hope.
It all made sense to me now. This diagnosis explained all my symptoms: headaches, exhaustion, insomnia, chronic muscle pain, stiffness, fevers, emotional rollercoaster, anxious and depressed, jaw tenderness, difficulty remembering and concentrating (Fibro Fog), increase in urinary urgency, and feeling of swelling (without actual swelling).
I dealt with my diagnosis on a cognitive level rather than an emotional level.
Now that I knew what I had, I could begin my research into managing my condition. I wanted to learn everything, talk to everyone who had fibromyalgia or knew someone who did. Thankfully, we live in an era where information is at our fingertips, and social media allows us to connect easily with others.
I never would have guessed that this would be a defining moment in my life.
Would I roll over and let this illness take over my life?
Or would I stand up and fight?
The search for answers and desire for positive support led me to create Fibro Warriors Living Life, a blog for others who live with fibromyalgia, and a Facebook page. We are living our lives in spite of the pain, fatigue and other "evil sidekicks" that co-exist with fibromyalgia.
Although, there are days when I feel like I am losing the battle, I am fortunate that I have an army of warriors who remind me to keep on fighting.
Melissa Swanson is a chronic pain patient, advocate, and author of Ravyn’s Doll: How to Explain Fibromyalgia to Your Child. Through her Facebook page, she offers positive encouragement, medical information, resources, and support to 20,000+ fibromyalgia and chronic pain patients. In addition to her own blog, Melissa has been published in "Living Well with Fibromyalgia" and the NFCPA "Advocate Voice." She's a graduate of the 2014 Class of Leaders Against Pain Scholarship Training sponsored by the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association, a member of the Leaders Against Pain Action Network and Advocacy Program Director with the International Support Fibromyalgia Network.
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