Cynthia’s FM Experience

I was diag­nosed with fibromyal­gia and chron­ic fatigue syn­drome (CFS) after sev­er­al years of wors­en­ing fatigue, increas­ing, inex­plic­a­ble pain, and grow­ing intol­er­ance for exer­cise that didn’t respond to any treat­ment. I was unable to do any­thing but sleep, go to work, and take care of Katie. All too soon, I was unable to work reli­ably. My envi­ron­men­tal aller­gies, which had been rel­a­tive­ly easy to man­age ear­li­er, inter­fered more and more with my life. I found myself catch­ing any infec­tion to which I was exposed, how­ev­er briefly, and had a hard time recov­er­ing from them. I had a chron­ic low-grade fever, with worse fevers any time I overex­ert­ed myself or was under more stress. I’d had trou­ble with chron­ic headaches since I was 17, but now they became migraines. No mat­ter how much sleep I got, I was always tired.

The years imme­di­ate­ly pri­or to my diag­no­sis were par­tic­u­lar­ly stress­ful in many ways. I was mar­ried and divorced twice, moved moved and changed jobs repeat­ed­ly to suit my hus­bands, and had sev­er­al surg­eries. My preg­nan­cy was a blessed sur­prise, but not an easy one, end­ing in a C-sec­tion at 8 months.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, after find­ing no relief from var­i­ous sleep reme­dies and minor pain meds, I stopped seek­ing any treat­ment around 1994. I fig­ured I could sim­ply deal with the pain, and I did for years. I lost more and more func­tion­al­i­ty, though, as the untreat­ed symp­toms wors­ened. I may nev­er reach the same lev­el of health as I might have had I been more proac­tive in seek­ing treat­ment and in reduc­ing the stres­sors in my life.

In 1998 I met Sam Chupp, and by ear­ly 1999 we were blend­ing our fam­i­lies. That wasn’t an easy process, and while I wouldn’t hes­i­tate to make the same deci­sion again, the next five years were extreme­ly stress­ful in many ways as a result. In 1999, my ex-hus­band Wayne died, and my daugh­ter Katie was diag­nosed with fibromyal­gia in 2000 around the same time that I had a bad fall lead­ing to a flare that just didn’t end. I haven’t man­aged to work out­side the home for more than a month at a time since then.

Still, I didn’t get real­ly seri­ous about get­ting good care until after I also failed to man­age attend­ing col­lege class­es in my first attempt to return to col­lege. In 2005, I final­ly per­sist­ed in my efforts until I had a rheuma­tol­o­gist and oth­er spe­cial­ists, includ­ing a sleep spe­cial­ist and a pain man­age­ment doc­tor.

At the same time, I strength­ened my bound­aries, and I have con­tin­ued to do so. Sam and Katie have sup­port­ed me as I’ve found my lim­its. I’ve had to low­er my stan­dards in some areas, del­e­gate tasks in oth­ers, hire help in some. I’ve removed cer­tain influ­ences from my life com­plete­ly. The stres­sors I can­not avoid are cush­ioned by bet­ter stress relief behav­iors.

While I still have pain, fatigue, and oth­er prob­lems, the right treat­ment and func­tion­al behav­iors and fam­i­ly sup­port have made a world of dif­fer­ence in my life. I’m pam­pered, and I’m the first to admit it. I hope you’ll make room for pam­per­ing in your life, too.