It’s easy to forget that some illness and disease can’t be seen by the naked eye.
I’m not even talking about mental illness, which is certainly invisible to the naked eye and is often brushed off by those who don’t understand.
I’m talking about physical issues that don’t show on the surface, and therefore are often forgotten about.
Yes I have Fibromyalgia. No, you can’t see there is something physically wrong with me by looking at me, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. And while I am probably more critical of people claiming they have fibromyalgia than anyone else (I still think many people are given the incorrect diagnosis of fibromyalgia), for goodness sake I spent the best part of 10 years trying to prove that, that it is not what I have.
But the more I researched, the more I read, the more I learned, the more it became clear that I do in fact have fibromyalgia. Even now I will occasionally go on a “proving them wrong” adventure, but the only one who gets proven wrong time and time again is me.
Looking at me you don’t know there is anything wrong with me. I teach a lot of fitness classes, something many people with fibromyalgia would never even think to do. And outwardly, especially when teaching, I go out of my way to hide any pain I’m feeling. Why? because these people are coming to see me, to get a workout from me, it’s not their problem that my shoulder is throbbing today, that my leg is numb, or that my fingers don’t want to work properly.
They don’t see me go home and have to soak in a hot tub to get the circulation in my arms and legs to feel right again
And so, largely by my own doing, people forget I have a problem.
And since they forget, I get back handed comments about how much I sleep. That I try to sleep-in when I can and have arranged my teaching schedule so I never have to get up before 9am.
I don’t like to tell people what time I get up because I am usually faced with a “look”. The, “I can’t believe you sleep until 9 or 10 most days of the week while I’ve been at work since whatever time.”
Well I’m not sorry. A big part of the reason I can do what I do (teaching exercise classes) is because I allow myself a bit more time in bed each night/morning.
Without that extra time I can’t focus. My joints and muscles hurt so much more. I feel like I’m weighted down with 50 pound weights on each of my limbs. My fingers get stiff and difficult to use. I get stupid and sloppy and forgetful (that’s the “Fibre Fog” setting in). If I’m only slightly over tired I will get a bad headache. If I’m really sleep deprived I will get physically sick to my stomach (and if I’m really lucky, I’ll get a migraine on top of it).
The person I am today is a completely different person than the one who would have stood before you 10 or 12 years ago. And while I credit my naturopath for getting me started on the journey that turned my life/wellness around, it’s because I left my 9-5 job, started consistently spending more time in bed (though I still only average about 7-8 hours asleep) and exercising that I am better.
And yet I still struggle everyday with some pain or discomfort. My limbs go numb for what seems like no reason. A random shooting pain will attack me for no apparent reason. A joint will decide without warning that it don’ts want to work this week. I never know what each day will bring, but I can be sure it rarely brings the same problems two days in a row.
(thank goodness for compression socks and clothing!)
So you might ask, “How are you better, if you are still suffering?”
Because 10 years ago it was all I could do to survive the day. I was in terrible pain all day everyday. Even walking a couple kilometres was more than I could even think about it. All I wanted to do was sleep.
So while I’m still in pain daily, and still have to be careful not to get over tired I’m a million times better than I ever thought I would be.
And it might be easy to forget that I, or other people in your life are dealing with invisible physical struggles, try not to forget.
Just because I’m 32 (nearly 33) and don’t get up at 6:00am doesn’t mean for a second that I’m lazy or that I don’t work hard.
What it does mean is that I know what my body needs from me and instead of fighting against it, I’ve learned to listen to it.
But I do understand that it can be easy for others to forget.