Guest Blog: Fibro & Fearless: Living with Fibromyalgia
written by Emma Jacobs
It has been almost 20 years since my fibromyalgia diagnosis and I will be the first to admit that it had been an unpredictable rollercoaster ride. I was about fourteen years old. I had already been diagnosed celiac for 7 years at that point in my life. I had also experienced trauma that left me with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some research suggests that trauma can contribute to the onset of fibromyalgia, I believe it to be true, however I also believe it was a genetic predisposition that helped me obtain the diagnosis, my mother also lives with fibromyalgia. Notice how I don't say suffers, struggles, or any other word that may be misconstrued as negative. I have learned to live with my chronic illness and chronic pain. I learned acceptance, compassion, and understanding. I learned to embrace each day and each moment. It may sound unrealistic, however, it's my truth. As far as my days go, there are great days, good days, okay days, and absolutely horrible days, as far as my symptoms and pain are concerned. I firmly hold that even on my worst symptom day, I can still have a good day. It took me years to change my mindset. It took years to realize that I am in control of my happiness, my body, how I treat myself physically and emotionally.••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
For far too long I was the victim, poor me, why me, and never able to accept the diagnosis. I was resentful, angry, and upset that I had to live with these things. At some point it hit me... "Emma, you aren't a victim, you are not diagnosed by fibromyalgia, or anything else. You were made for more, you are made for more, and you are in charge of your destiny." No one actually said that to me, at least not like that. I had been told before that I didn't have to let it control me and dictate my life, but until I was ready to accept it and make the changes, I sat in my own misery. When I learned that I had a choice, when I learned how much I was in control of, I got my life back. As I sit here, I am in a massive flare. I had a fantastic weekend, I know I pushed myself beyond my limits. However, there isn't a thing I'd change. It's Monday, I am at work, I may rather be in bed, but I also know that's not really going to help me. In fact, it would only make this worse. It would lover my mood, increase my pain levels, leave me feeling irritable and anxious. I learned to master opposite actions. If I feel like I want to stay in bed, like I want to take a nap, or as though I want to isolate, I do the opposite. It's a very intentional choice and decision. Living with intention is also a part of my story. For the past several months I have been waking up early and going to the gym, or out for a walk. For me, movement is huge. If I stay sedentary I suffer more. My pain levels increase, my mood decreases, and my focus dissipates. Positive mindset, mindfulness, meditation, and remaining focused and intentional has helped me in so many ways.
My morning walks center and ground me, they get my body engaged and moving, because lets be honest, when I wake up, they don't feel attached to one another. Others assume because I work, I work out, I am going after my goals, and because I am not on medications for my fibromyalgia that it's not that bad, or that I'm not as bad as some other person they know. Truth. I'd be on medication if it worked! and if my body could tolerate any amount of being on a substance, but I'm allergic to so many things, and if it's not an allergy I have severe reactions. Vitamin B and D, elderberry syrup, apple cider vinegar, probiotics, and eating mindfully and healthy have helped me in so many ways. Staying consistent with these things, eating as organically as I am able, avoiding processed foods and alcohol as much as possible. I am not perfect, I don't pretend to be. However, I am very aware of my body, and I give it what it asks for. I have learned what it needs, what it takes, and how to cope living with fibromyalgia and other autoimmune diseases. I know in my heart I was made for more than being labeled as someone with a chronic illness, and I let that drive me. I work in mental health, I have the blessing of being able to help others daily, and I refuse to let a disease, a stigma, or myself be a barrier to the life I want for myself. It isn't always easy, but it is always worth it.