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.