Guest Blog: Navigating Marriage with a Chronic Illness
written by Vanessa
Rock climbing, walking around downtown Pasadena, and exploring the Santa Monica pier…that is how my now-husband and I spent our very first date. At the time, I wouldn’t have imagined that my life would look much differently only a couple years later.
When I met the man I would eventually marry, I was a bit of a thrill seeker and I was always looking for the next adventure. I loved rock climbing, sky diving, hiking, shark diving, and just about every other activity you can think of. I remember feeling energetic and full of life. I would constantly look for the next challenge and even ran a half marathon just two weeks before he asked me to be his wife! At that point, I couldn’t have imagined how differently our married life would start out.
A few months prior to our wedding, I began feeling tired and groggy even after a full night’s rest. My mood began to change and I no longer felt like myself. I decided to make some lifestyle changes that included changes to my diet, more intentional vitamin intake, and stopping my use of hormonal birth control. These changes brought about improvement and, although I still didn’t feel 100% myself, I certainly felt better and I thought that might be the end of it. To this day, I believe that a vitamin deficiency diagnosed by my then-doctor and the hormonal birth control I was taking at the time were at least partiallyresponsible for the changes I had experienced in my mood and energy. Now I also know, though, that there was another culprit.
Shortly after our wedding day, I began experiencing severe pain in my body—particularly in my back, shoulders, arms, and legs. I began feeling groggy again and found myself struggling almost on a daily basis. After many, many, many doctor’s appointments, blood tests, MRIs, and plethora of other exams, I was finally referred to a rheumatologist and diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Through all of it, my husband has been my biggest supporter and helper. I am incredibly humbled and touched by his patience and his willingness to accommodate me and this unpredictable illness. Still, though, I can’t help but feel down about the fact that I am now quite different than the woman he thought he was marrying. I am still me at my core, of course, but we now tend to stay in a lot. We haven’t gone rock climbing in years even though it was one of our favorite things to do together. Oftentimes, we go out to do something fun but I’m wiped outwithin a couple hours and we have to cut our plans short.
I had envisioned a marriage filled with fun and adventure and, while there are still elements of that in our marriage, it is also very different than I had imagined. Thankfully, I have found ways to manage my fibromyalgia symptoms significantly. What has helped most in our marriage, though, is flexibility—not only on my husband’s part but also mine. Flexibility to tweak plans when necessary. Flexibility to move things around in my schedule whenever I feel a flare up might be on the horizon. Flexibility to allow myself to be who I am now without judgment or resentment. I recently decided to go after a goal that has eluded me for some time—to become more fit. This can be a very challenging goal for anyone and certainly for someone with fibromyalgia. I think, perhaps, that may be part of the reason why I’m chasing after it—to challenge myself. But even in that, I must learn to be flexible. There are days when I simply don’twant to go to the gym and that is something I can get myself to push past. But there are other days when I cannot and should not go to the gym and I’m learning to be flexible with myself when I have those days. I have come to learn that it is me, not my husband, who is most disappointed in the ways in which fibromyalgia has affected our marriage but I’m learning every day that a bit of flexibility with myself can go a long way.
My name is Vannessa and I’m a 32-year-old living in Southern California. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia roughly two years ago and I am determined not to let it control me. Of course, this is sometimes easier said than done. I enjoy spending time with my family (including fur babies), reading, crocheting, and watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Though not always easy, I try to maintain a positive attitude as much as I can and I hope to be a source of encouragement and support to others whenever possible. I recently started a fitness journey and although it won’t be easy, I’m determined to stick to it as much as possible (if interested, you can follow along on Instagram at @inasportsbra).