In 2005 I sustained an awful back injury whilst I was away on business in Inverness. I’d herniated two discs, damaged my sacroiliac joint and one of the major ligaments running from the back of my pelvis and into my right hip.
At the very instant I twisted (pulling a really heavy suitcase down a staircase in a hotel that didn’t have a lift), my instant reaction was “that should’ve hurt” and I went to breakfast, thinking I’d had a near miss. Fast forward two hours later and I’m interviewing candidates for a job role and panicking as my back is going into spasm and I’m wondering how I am going to get out of the chair, let alone home to Cheshire. The pain was unreal. I could hardly get up the stairs to get on the plane – the hostess took one look at me, handed me a bottle of brandy and said “sit there” (1A).
For three days, I couldn’t really do much at all and was sofa-bound. Standing took about five minutes and sitting and walking were extremely difficult and painful. When I did get to the physiotherapist (about a week later) when she touched my lower back, I – involuntary -punched her.
So, for another two years, I was in constant pain with my back and considering that sitting exacerbated my compressed discs; the fact my job involved a lot of driving, was not exactly helping.
And then the tiredness started. Crippling, draining, constant fatigue. There were also other symptoms – lack of concentration, dizziness, heart palpitations, clumsiness and of course, pain. Perhaps worse of all was the inability to get a deep, restorative sleep – adding insult to injury when you’re desperately tired anyway.
Whether it’s understandable – or not – people were generally not particularly sympathetic. I would fall asleep on nights out. I even fell asleep on my friends hen-do in Paris watching the show at the Moulin Rouge. ” You’re working too hard” was a common response “you need a holiday”. The other gem was “you’re depressed” (of course I’m fu*!ing depressed, I’m getting no actual sleep you cretin) in a seemingly long line of diagnosis made by sudden medical professionals.
One day, I put my hand over my shoulder to scratch my back. My nails were short yet it felt like someone had dragged a red hot rake across my muscles. Concerned, I went to the doctor who had just been studying a condition called Fibromyalgia and my symptoms seemed to match. Getting a diagnosis on the NHS was a non starter at that point, so I paid privately and got a formal confirmation that yes, my symptoms were conducive with the condition.
Getting a formal diagnosis though was really the first part of a long road into understanding what I was dealing with. The private consultant prescribed me medication to help me sleep (Amitriptyline – which I couldn’t ultimately take because I wasn’t safe to drive the next morning) and told me to do more exercise (crucial to managing Fibromyalgia) when I was already walking several miles per day……..
Pretty soon; I realised that my ability to deal with the condition, was solely down to me. At the end of the day, no-one else can manage your symptoms and everyone’s experience is different anyway.
Fortunately, there is much more awareness of Fibromyalgia nowadays – in particular since Lady Gaga revealed she developed it, following a serious injury to her hip. Whilst there is ongoing research and therefore lots of new theories around it’s development; medical professionals do concur that the condition often starts following an infection or major injury to the skeletal structure.
So, if you’ve been diagnosed with Fibro – or another chronic pain based condition – don’t panic, help is out there. The Internet is awash with information and updates and critically, the medical profession is much more understanding. Here’s what I’ve learned about managing Fibromyalgia for myself.
Your ability to deal with a chronic pain disorder will boil down to your awareness of your experience and willingness to try new approaches…. and that may take some time. It took me several years to get my Fibromyalgia under control and even now I still have flare ups and every day I have pain. The difference is that I now feel I have the tools to deal with it.
So don’t lose heart and please, if you suffer from a pain condition, please leave your comments in the thread.