An Excerpt from the book “The Secrets I Share With My Friends: Everything I know about building a small business. Part memoir, part blue print/business plan for every entrepreneurial spirit out there trying to find their way. Get your copy at Amazon!
Pssst… My first secret—a painful struggle
I want to share with you something many people don’t know about me.
It was in the early 2000s, a year or so after my daughter was born, when I began feeling like crap all the time. I wasn’t sleeping because I was in too much pain. I had no energy, my body ached everywhere, and I always felt physically “off.” I imagined how I was feeling must be what it’s like to be 90. I was only in my late 30s.
The chronic pain, exhaustion and discomfort led me to doctor after doctor, trying to figure out what was wrong with me. Something wasn’t right—that I was sure of—but no one could tell me what was wrong. It was totally frustrating, depressing and disappointing to be told I was okay (as strange as that sounds), when I knew I wasn’t. It was only after my doctor got sick of seeing my face and did every last test he could that he sent me to see a rheumatologist. After he painfully poked and prodded me throughout the appointment, he looked at me and said, “You have fibromyalgia.”
“Fibro-my-WHAT?!” I didn’t know what it was, but it sounded bad, and I knew it hurt.
I finally had a diagnosis and felt a sense of relief to have a name attached to how awful I felt most of the time. I cried all the way home. I was devastated to have a condition called “fibro-my-something.” I wasn’t sure what this meant for the rest of my life and didn’t know if it was debilitating. I had so many questions. It wasn’t commonly known back then, and most people had never heard of it, so they certainly didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand it, and I was living it.
The diagnosis of fibromyalgia put so many questions in front of me and so much fear in me of what would happen to my body as it progressed. Would it progress? Was there anything I could do to keep from getting worse? Would I be stuck in bed, or would I be able to fight through it? Would I be tough and brave? Could I handle it? What would happen to me? I was really panicked and sad as I thought about my husband and my kids and how I needed my energy to be a good wife and mom. I wanted to live my life. I have always had so much energy and a mind that doesn’t stop, and the thought of being trapped in a body that doesn’t work properly frightened me.
“I’m a wife, a mother and an entrepreneur. I have work to do.”
When I was first diagnosed, the doctor put me on medication to help my discomfort. All it did was give me a dry mouth and make me feel irritable. It was of no help, so I stopped taking it, and I haven’t taken fibromyalgia medication since, except the occasional 600mg of ibuprofen when I’m really hurting. It doesn’t do much to help, but it takes the edge off. The worst part of the day is the evening, and the best source of relief is resting.
I’m not sure how to explain how I handled my diagnosis, but I decided that I was going to be in charge of the fibromyalgia and not the other way around. I didn’t have time for this, seriously! I got a diagnosis, and I needed to understand it. By understanding it, I’m better equipped to manage it and work with it instead of fighting against it. It is what it is, and fighting it wouldn’t change it.
Anything you’re fighting in life is sucking the life out of you, so why not just roll with the punches and go with the flow? Life is so much easier when we accept what is.
Here’s what I’ve learned while living with fibromyalgia.
By reading the book Codependent No More by Melody Beattie, I learned to lean into my pain and feel it, roll in it, embrace it and accept it. Beattie practically wanted me to bathe in it! Geez! After a couple of times reading that book, I realized I could overcome anything I could accept for what it was. I didn’t need to hold onto bad feelings or mental or physical pain. I could feel the pain, accept the pain and simply let it go so I could move on.
Living with fibromyalgia is not fun. It’s super painful and sometimes debilitating. The fact that no one around me can touch, see or feel fibromyalgia makes it mentally debilitating at times. The only way to describe how it feels is to imagine your whole body cramped up like a “Charlie horse” all the time or with muscles that are always in “flex” and tight like twine. Massage therapy is one of the ways I manage. Though the relief is always very temporary, any relief is good relief. Every massage therapist I’ve ever met has told me I’m the worst patient they’ve ever seen.
It’s part of my story, but it hasn’t stopped me. I’m not sure it has even detoured me, because I’ve never let it run the show. I’m sharing this part of myself with you not so you’ll have pity on my (I respectfully decline all pity party invitations, no thanks!) I’m sharing so you’ll know that you can do anything you put your mind to, even in adversity. Adversity only prepares you for the amazing things that are still to come in life. The human mind is amazing and capable of doing incredible things that haven’t even been conceived.
Life is going to hand you challenges. Life gives everyone challenges. Handling your challenges is what prepares you for what’s next in life. Overcoming what challenges you helps you to know and understand what you’re capable of. Think about how boring life would be if you didn’t have challenge in it and weren’t growing all the time. There’s nothing exciting about going nowhere, and I’m excited about this life I’m living. It’s amazing.
If you aren’t failing, you’re not really trying, and you’re certainly not living up to your potential. The way to find out where your potential is, is to test it by failing. When you fail is when you know where you’re capable of going. Until you do, you’ll never know. A child that gets 100% on every math test everyday isn’t challenged in math. It’s when the child begins to fail tests that you find his true level of ability. Once you identify your abilities, the real work can begin.