"I’ve got to sit down and rest. This is really strange—what is happening with my body? I must be more out of shape than I realize," I thought to myself while bringing in the groceries.
Then I realized that it wasn’t the first time I experienced pain all over my body; there were a whole lot of things that just had not seemed right with me that springtime seven years ago.
Naturally, I made an appointment with my family doctor. Thus began a three year process of seeing numerous physicians, undergoing an assortment of tests which revealed nothing. I was weary of hearing it over and over again, "Everything looks fine, get some rest and take it easy." One of the last doctors I saw was a psychologist, who looked at me five minutes into our visit and said, "Why did they send you to me? You don’t seem like you are depressed. I think you truly have some medical issues that need to be addressed." At this point I decided it was time to educate myself and do what I could to feel better.
To the internet and the library I went in pursuit of any helpful, sensible, practical information I could find. I was certain I wasn’t losing my mind; I knew that something had gone wrong physically and I desperately sought relief. Adding more veggies, fruit, and grains and drinking plenty of water seemed to help. I also knew I could definitely begin a regular exercise routine, so I began doing yoga at home, which also provided some freedom from pain. After one year of attempting to treat myself I ventured back into the medical world, seeking answers once again.
I was referred to an internal medicine specialist. Skeptical and tired I made the appointment. This was the very first time a physician had taken the time to really listen to me. His recommendation was to send me to physical therapy—an unexpected option, but I was desperate so I went.
This was it! This was exactly what I needed. Someone who could teach me to better understand my physical self. My physical therapist, Allison, taught me that "pain does not equal gain…if something is painful don’t do it…listen to your body." This made sense to me and it really seemed to help relieve the pain in my joints and muscles. She began each visit by placing hot packs on my back and my arms, where I experienced the most regular and intense pain. This felt so good—and it prepared my body for the work ahead.
I must admit that going into that first physical therapy visit I was tired, I hadn’t been sleeping well, and I was experiencing pain and weakness in my muscles and joints. Even after that, it was difficult to go at times. In fact, some days that was my only activity. It was the strength of my will that drove me there three days a week to do my workout. Allison was a significant motivator for me; she understood my condition and gently prodded me to the next level over the following two months. At the end of that time, she prescribed a fitness routine for me to do on my own in the gym. I proceeded and, slowly but surely, began to have a little more energy. More importantly, I felt like I finally had some control over my physical health.
That was three years ago. I still maintain my fitness routine, including yoga, treadmill and bicycle, and strengthening exercises. If I get off schedule and miss a day, a week, or more, I sense it in my energy level and overall sense of well-being. I know it seems contradictory, but for me exercise really is the key to relieve the pain and provide the energy I need to care for my family. Now I regularly function at about 90% of what used to be normal for me. I can bring in the groceries now without needing a nap afterward!
Many days were dark, and I felt so alone and misunderstood. Yet I knew all the while that there really was something wrong. Alongside my faith in God, I believe that the improvements I made in my diet, making sure I get plenty of sleep (which is another bonus to regular exercise), and taking an expectorant medication prescribed by a caring and wise physician, have all contributed to a more energized life.
I know you are tired and you may feel hopeless and sentenced to a life unfulfilled, but there is hope. You must pool whatever resources of energy you have to continue seeking the answers, help, and strength that you need to live a healthy and abundant life. It can be a reality for you as it is for me.
Kim Bagato lives with her loving husband of twenty years and three helpful teenage children, two dogs, a tarantula, and a turtle. She has also lived with the constant presence of fibromyalgia, to a greater or lesser degree, for the past seven years. Reading, writing, traveling, gardening and cooking are among her favorite pastimes.