If you had asked me ten years ago whether I thought I would still be alive today, I would have responded with "absolutely not." That's how surely I was convinced that I was slowly dying — emotionally, socially, intellectually, spiritually, and physically. The most frightening thing about it was that I perceived I was powerless to stop my slow decline. I talked to my husband about moving the master bedroom down to the first floor so I wouldn't have to climb stairs. I made my funeral plans.
One night as I was working late at the office, I found myself so despondent that I closed my office door, turned out the lights, and just lay on the floor behind my desk, curled up and weeping. For me, that was about as low as I could go. I knew then that I was grieving for everything precious to me that seemed lost, my marital relationship, my love of the outdoors with horseback riding and camping, my career, my faith in God as my provider, all seemed gone.
After trying unsuccessfully to continue working on a part-time status in my career as a college professor, I knew I had to resign. A few days after my 55th birthday, I gave my dean notice that I would take early retirement. She was aware of my struggles, and so she graciously approved my decision. It was not long after I left my beloved job that I took a walk into the woods by myself in the dark hours of the early morning, without a flashlight, but with a handgun. It was only God's grace that gave me the strength not to use it.
It's very hard for someone without fibromyalgia to even begin to understand the consuming pain, weakness, and depression the disorder causes. I did not know how to talk to my primary care physician other than to tell her I was hurting all over and had no energy. No lab test validated my symptoms, so we blindly tried physical therapy, muscle relaxants, antidepressants, a TENS unit (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator to block pain impulses), massages, and vitamins, all with no lasting positive effect.
My mother, who was in her 80's at the time, was sensitive to my struggles in a way only a mother can be. One day she looked at me and said, "I think you have fibromyalgia." When I asked her why she thought this was my problem, she stated "I think I have it, too." We have become so conditioned to attribute our aches and pains to aging that health care providers don't take our pain seriously, especially as we grow older. My mother was never diagnosed with fibromyalgia. She gave me a book on fibromyalgia and suggested I read it. That was the beginning of enlightenment for me and it was also the beginning of a new battle.
I convinced my primary care physician to refer me to a specialty physician in rheumatology. He evaluated the classical pain trigger points then confirmed I "probably" had fibromyalgia. He prescribed pain medicine and told me that was all he could offer. I never returned to him. What does a person do with a diagnosis like that? Just live with it and take pain pills to keep going? There was no comfort in this treatment because there still seemed to be little hope for my functioning and doing life at any satisfactory level.
I have always believed God's Word that urges us to listen to the "still, small voice" that is His tender whispering to us, showing us the way to go. When I saw an ad in the newspaper about a free fibromyalgia seminar, I knew I needed to attend. A physician at the former Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Center explained fibro, its symptoms, and an available plan of treatment that was not in conventional medical textbooks. Because I was desperate for help, I made the decision to pay the price and enter the treatment program. At that point, I couldn't afford not to get the treatment because I had nothing to lose. My husband supported me in this decision even with its heavy financial impact, and thus I began a journey back to wholeness.
My journey has been "bumpy", trying different approaches with medicines, IV's, diet alterations, vitamin and mineral supplements, and stress reduction; but overall, Dr. Bullington has helped me to regain much of what I thought was lost. Through extensive lab tests she discovered I had Lyme disease, mononucleosis, and pneumonia, all at the same time. Looking backwards, I saw the pattern of infections I had been experiencing, including shingles, influenza, strep throat, and pneumonia. I did not recognize the extent of my compromised immune system and low adrenal function until Dr. B. showed me. No wonder I felt "sick" all the time! After four years of treatment, I was able to return to my college teaching career, my gardening and camping, my marital relationship, and most importantly, to a renewed faith in God. I credit Dr. B's patience, positive attitude, and expertise with my holistic recovery as well as my survival to tell you my story.
If you are reading this article, then I know you likely have either experienced some of these same symptoms yourself, or you are trying to help someone you love with these struggles. I hope you can take away from this an understanding that there is something that can be done to improve your life with fibro. Your quality of life depends on seeing yourself as a valuable creation who deserves to seek and receive the help you need. Be patient with yourself on your journey. . . .
Shirley R. (Georgia)
September 10, 2013