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Fibromyalgia is an invisible illness. What does that mean? It means on the outside those that suffer from this illness look perfectly fine. Internally our bodies are literally attacking themselves. It can be hard for our friends and family to understand that we are not faking or that it's “not in our heads”.
Let's start with a clinical definition of what Fibromyalgia actually is. Fibromyalgia syndrome affects the muscles and soft tissue. Symptoms include chronic muscle pain, fatigue, sleep problems, and painful tender points or trigger points, which can be relieved through medications, lifestyle changes, and stress management.
Everyone that has Fibromyalgia is different. Some symptoms are the same, and some are different. The symptoms also vary in intensity. This makes it hard to treat and diagnosis Fibromyalgia. There is no cure or even a set treatment plan. It varies by patient and by the doctor. Since there are no medical tests that can diagnosis this condition, it can take years to be properly diagnosed. Some doctors don't believe it really exists because of the lack of tests. Over the years though, awareness of this disease is getting better and more people are aware of it and take it seriously.
What are the classic symptoms of Fibromyalgia?
- Pain and tender points
- Sleep problems
- Concentration and memory problems, known as “fibro fog”
- Anxiety or depression
- Morning stiffness
- Numbness, and tingling in hands, arms, feet, and legs
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Problems with peeing
- Painful menstrual cramps
I personally suffer from Fibromyalgia and it makes life very difficult. What is not added to the list above is that weather changes can affect my pain level. Any kind of precipitation (rain, snow) causes extreme pain. So does extreme hot/cold. My hands and feet get very cold very fast.
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As a blogger, I'm obviously on my laptop a lot. It's not uncommon to see me typing with texting gloves on to keep my hands from being ice cold. I actually plan my day/week ahead based on the weather. Example: it's raining as I create this post and it will rain all week. I made sure that all of my errands are done, food in the house etc so that I don't have to leave the house.
Anxiety, depression, low self-esteem are all symptoms of Fibromyalgia as well. I'm not sure if they are caused BY Fibromyglia or if they appear BECAUSE of Fibromyalgia. It can be very depressing to know your body does not function correctly. The simplest of things can cause what we call a “Flair up”. If I do leave the house, I have to nap when I get home. It takes everything out of me to function when I leave the house.
Having low self-esteem is common because we can't do what we want to do. There are often times we have to cancel plans at the last minute because we just can't function and the pain is too severe. This can alienate us from family and friends that think it's just an excuse and that we don't want to spend time with them.
Anxiety is severe because we worry if something will be a trigger for us when we are out. Will we be able to stay and function the whole time? Will pain set in quickly? Do we have enough medication to help? Are there places to sit down when we need to rest? These are the things that Fibromyalgia patients worry about.
One of the things that I love to help calm me down at home is my weighted blanket. Oh, it's heavenly! It adds extra weight to my body but in a way that doesn't cause more pain. Getting good quality sleep is an issue as well. When I take a nap with my weighted blanket, I wake up feeling refreshed and it helps my pain level and overall mood.
Hopefully, this post will help you to understand what it's like to have Fibromyalgia. I'd love to hear your thoughts.