Fibro Fighter

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This entry was going to be all about my favorite riding spots on Breck with maps and pictures, but something else recently came up. When someone thinks about all the things a college students struggles with, studying, homework, relationships, or finding the balance between partying and work might come to mind. But I'm not your average college students, and my battles are quite different.

Two years ago I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia (Fibro-My-Al-Jah), or Fibro for short. It is a condition of the Central Nervous System that makes all the nerves in my body hyper-sensitive. Instead of feeling the sensation of a "touch", my body perceives that as pain. It hurts my digestive system to eat and drink, bright lights hurt my eyes, loud noises hurt my ears. In fact, I don't remember what it's like to not feel pain. All of my joints, especially my spine and fingers, are in pain 24 hours, 7 days a week. I use to have certain fingers that I wanted amputated, and I was serious. When I get "flare-ups" my pain is 10x worse, and I usually have a fever. I get "fibro fog", where I feel drugged, can't think straight, and my memory gets really bad. I never know when I'm going to get a flare-up, and I never know how long they're going to last. Sometimes just an hour, sometimes for months. There's little known about Fibro- what causes it, how it manifests, etc. There's no cure, and currently not that many medications out there for it. It's a very devastating diagnosis, but if I could live again, I'm not sure I would chose to not have Fibromyalgia. Fibro has given me qualities that I would have never had.

There are a few key things that help me live the way I live: Acceptance, self help, letting go of the negative, embracing the positive, living in the moment, and never quitting what I love. I have had my triumphs and my failures, and I want to share them all with you. I am no doctor, and I can’t tell you how to live and what is best for you. But I hope that in some way, my story can inspire others to live happier lives, and enjoy themselves.

I was in denial for a long time, and I remember the day I came out of it. I was at my doctor's office and he rolled his chair over so he was eye to eye with me. He choked up ever so slightly when he looked me in the eyes and said, "I am going to be honest with you; there will probably never be a day in your life when you're not sick and in pain, but I'm going to do my best to make you as comfortable as I possibly can." I spent the next several months at home feeling sorry for myself. Most of my time was dedicated to research on Fibro forums, where all anyone did was talk about what they were going through and how hard of a time they were having. I realize for some people getting that out can help, but it was the worst thing I could have done for myself. All I read about were the issues people faced with getting disability benefits because they could no longer work there 9-5 job. I was brain washed into thinking I was no longer capable of college or anything else that young adults do. Until one day I had an epiphany. Fibromyalgia can take my body, but it can't take my soul. 

I have always been told that anything is possible, and no one should ever give themselves limits. I started to realize that I was never going to be the same person, but I should be okay with that. Just because I can't run as fast doesn't mean I shouldn't try running at all, should it? When I finally accepted my diagnosis, I started accepting the fact that I was different, but I wasn't gone. I began doing all the things I use to love, and I started feeling better. The more active I became, the better I felt, and it dawned on me. I spent so much time being angry and feeling bad for myself, when the only disability I had was my bad attitude. If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. I didn't want people to feel sorry for me, I wanted people to be proud of me. I changed everything about my daily life, from my diet, to my activities, to my outlook on the world.

Before Fibro I easily judged people by the clothes they wore, the job they had, or the car they drove. After Fibro, I didn't physically look any different. I was easily hurt by rude people who didn't have the slightest clue what I was going through. It made me realize that behind every pair of eyes there could be a war that I knew nothing about. I learned what compassion was. We feel bad for all the blind kids who can't see, but do we stop to notice all the kids who wished they didn't have to see the things they did? Or do we tell them "at least you can see?" Everyone struggles in their own way. It doesn't matter if they're a stranger or your best friend. It doesn't matter if you see them everyday or you're never going to see them again. Being kind, generous, and showing someone that you care is the greatest gift you could ever give.

It is ironic however, that the biggest war I have been fighting since Fibro is one you can actually see. When I was first diagnosed I started taking a medication called Lyrica. It helps dull my pain to the point where it's bearable and doesn't stop me from doing my daily routines. It was a great medication, except for the one side-effect I suffered from: weight gain. After I started Lyrica, I felt such a relief that the extra weight didn't bother me. But as time went on, it did. I accept the irritable bowel/bladder syndrome, the migraines, fevers, and aches and pains. I accepted all that Fibro threw at me, but I did not accept the fact that I had two choices in my life: Be "fat", or be in pain. So over the last few months I have tried to ween off of Lyrica. The first two times I lasted two weeks, and this time I am on my third.

The reason I wrote this entry is because today, I am in an immense amount of pain. The pain I feel in all of the joints in my fingers is very easily described as what it feels like if a clothes pin was on every single joint of your hand. My spine feels like it's being set on fire, squished together, and beaten with a hammer all at the same time. The digestive pain makes me curl up in a ball in my chair and not move for hours in the morning. I am going to try a new med on Wednesday, which is called Sevella. It doesn't have weight gain as a side effect, so I am praying it works for me. So far, only Lyrica has.

I start school tomorrow, and this is where I have to dig deep into my soul and think of a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." For most, pain is only temporary, and only comes in waves. For me, pain is a daily part of life. But pain has opened my eyes and made me realize that in every negative, there is a positive. Without pain, would I have become the optimistic, accepting, caring person I am? Probably not. Since crashing my car I have had to walk so many places... and I have never felt more refreshed. It's so easy to get caught up in the negative things that often times people forget to look at the positives.

Humans are creatures of habit, and it took time for me to change my ways of thinking. When you're mad about something, let yourself be mad. Everyone has the right to be upset, but no one has the right to be cruel. So when you find the strength within yourself to let it go, if you can't find any positives... make some. "Life isn't about finding yourself, it's about creating yourself." It's 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react, learn, and grow from it. 

To sum things up, I saw a movie called Kung Fu Panda, and in it was this quote: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift... that’s why we call it the present.” And that’s how I live. I can’t change what happened to me, and I can’t change what’s going to happen to me, but I can control how I feel and live today.

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