Invisible Illness 1: Fibromyalgia
When she was in her 30’s it was laziness. When she entered her 40’s she was told she was suffering from “depression”, with a bit of bi-polar thrown in, because she was going through a mid-life crisis. In her mid-fifties it was “hypochondria” and now, in her sixties, it’s a combination of “brain fart” and “old age complaints”. No one ever believed that she didn’t want to sit around all day, that she really did hurt all over, all the time…real, bone deep pain. As time wore on, no one was really interested anymore anyway, because she was “just getting up in years” and the best they had to offer her was “why don’t you just put your feet up and take a nap?”
Some illnesses and diseases are nearly impossible to recognize
Research into conditions that used to be considered merely female trouble, mental dysfunction and dis-ease amongst the elderly have unearthed a great deal of knowledge about the why’s and the wherefore’s of them. But for all the medical discoveries that have occurred even in the past half century, there are still questions about some “enemies” of human physiology that remain unanswered.
“Invisisible illnesses” fall into this category because, though they are physiologically real, their symptoms are not immediately discernable.
Fibromyalgia is one of them.
The simplest definition of fibromyalgia (FM) is that it is a common, chronic, generalized pain syndrome of unknow cause. Pain, tenderness at particular points of the body, fatigue, uneven sleep or disturbance of the sleep cycle, inability to concentrate and even chest pains are common symptoms of fibromyalgia. And although there is no evidence to suggest that having fibromyalgia will definitely result in psychiatric problems, a good estimate of those with the illness suffering from depression and/or anxiety runs around 35%, more or less. These symptoms are sometimes so severe as to be disabling.
Why can’t anyone else see the signs?
Along with symptoms which are impossible to measure, comes cessation of physical activity, withdrawing from social functions and even deep emotional distress when those closest to them cannot understand what is wrong.
There is an intense feeling of victimization and loss of control when a fibromyalgia patient comes to only expect what, to them, is ineffective treatment. They know first hand that their condition may be misdiagnosed many times before the condition is properly identified. Even then treatment cannot be directed to the root, as there are no absolute answers as to its origin. And so, one possible solution after another is attempted. In the meantime, everyday tasks take longer to accomplish and quality of life lessens more and more.
DON’T GIVE UP!
Studies show that, just as for arthritis, gentle exercise can help with pain management. Yoga, stretching, swimming…all have been shown to help with the discomfiture of fibromyalgia. Meditation and relaxation techniques, a sort of biorythmia practice, can also help to understand your pain threshold.
Studying your dietary habits will also help. Learn about what’s in the stuff that you put into your body, as some foods contain substances that may exacerbate your condition. Simply by following a more natural diet, though, has been known to help regulate your body’s chemical balance.
Pain is an indicator that something is wrong in your body and it is important to seek medical advice when you become aware that it’s become chronic. Because there are so many illnesses and diseases which share symptoms, testing for all the “usual suspects” will help to narrow down the illness with which you are suffering.
Educate yourself about your health. Seek medical advice if you think you may be suffering from fibromyalgia. Talk to a doctor about your concerns and don’t be afraid to go to your physician for testing.
Invisible Ilnesses can only be seen if you open your eyes and look.
Adapted from “Invisible Illnesses…Who Will See?” by PL Kirkby
Information is not advice!! If you suffer any of the symptoms mentioned above, don’t self-diagnose and always, ALWAYS, talk to a doctor before self medicating.