What I Have Learned From Fibromyalgia

I have been fairly active my entire life. I grew up playing basketball, doing gymnastics, and spending hours swimming laps in my Aunt’s swimming pool. In middle school and high school, I was an active dancer and enjoyed running for exercise. I’ve always had a healthy diet, and I’ve always been relatively fit and in shape. I never really thought about my physical health that much, for I was always healthy and strong.

My senior year of high school I started to experience serious fatigue and sleeping problems. No matter how much I slept the night before, I would wake up feeling exhausted and drained. I didn’t think much of it, and blamed it on the stress of senior year. I thought it would go away over the summer when classes ended and I got a nice break. But, it didn’t. If anything, it worsened. But again, I didn’t think much of it. I spent most of the summer at various camps and volunteering at my church, as well as going to graduation parties and trips with my friends. As the tiredness worsened, I began to experience pain throughout my joints. My doctor blamed it on the years of doing gymnastics and dancing from a young age, and told me that I probably developed arthritis. I began to wonder if I would just have to live with the pain and exhaustion. Nothing really helped, so I accepted the fact that I would have to live life fighting chronic exhaustion and pain.

“just dealing with it” worked for a while, until the end of my second semester at college. The pain became overwhelming, and I found it hard to get out of bed almost every day. It didn’t seem to make sense, and I was quite miserable. My grades were suffering as well as my social life. All I wanted to do was lie in bed, and I began to dread having to walk to class. At the end of the day, it was physically hard for me to climb the stairs to my dorm room. I knew then that I couldn’t “just deal with it” anymore. My condition wasn’t getting any better – it was getting significantly worse. I wanted answers and I wanted to feel better. At that time, it was hard for me to remember what “normal” felt like.

I began to see doctors and specialists and get tests done. At first, I was frustrated because every test seemed to be coming back as normal. But I felt so far from normal! Finally, one doctor decided to test me for fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia cannot be tested by blood samples. Instead, it is diagnosed by pressing on certain pain points on the body. The doctor pressed on points in my shoulders, arms, legs, and back. With every little bit of pressure, pain shot through my body. That was when I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.

It was reassuring to hear that I was finally diagnosed! But then I discovered that fibromyalgia has no clear treatment. Everyone who suffers from fibro is different, and some treatments work for some and not for others. My doctor suggested lifestyle changes, like exercising more routinely and regulating my sleep schedule. A couple months trying those changes, I was put on medicine to help the pain as well as to help me sleep better.

I’ve been diagnosed for a few months now, and unfortunately, i can’t say that I am cured. It is hard to balance exercise and rest. It’s hard to know how far I can push myself physically, and having a normal sleep schedule is near impossible at college. I still get tired easily, and somedays I still struggle with getting out of bed. My life is busy with classes, homework, extracurriculars, choir, work, and a traveling worship team I am a part of. It’s hard to not let my physical limitations keep me from enjoying every second of my life. It’s hard not to get discouraged.

But through this experience, I’ve learned so much about relying on Christ. I am a very, very headstrong person. I am independent and ambitious to a fault. I know that if I set my mind to something, I can accomplish it. But so often, I rely on my own strength and my own drive to get things done. It’s naturally hard for me to give total control to God. I’m stubborn and strong willed, and I don’t like to not be able to do things for myself. (This is totally a pride issue that I’m still working on 😛 ) When the crippling exhaustion and pain began to take over my life, I was frustrated and angry that God gave this to me. I had to stop running and dancing, I had to stop doing some of the things I loved to do! I was discouraged and irritated because i couldn’t do some of the things I so effortlessly did before. But through this, I began to see life with new eyes. I started to see that I needed to call on the Lord for strength and guidance. I was made weak to be strengthened in Christ. He used this to draw me closer to Him, and to rely on Him. He is still using this. I don’t know whether or not He will choose to heal me. But I am not afraid of living with this condition. For I know where my strength and my help comes from. I pray that God continues to use this part (and every other part, for that matter) of my life to bring glory to His name.

Psalm 51:16-17

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.

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