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Fibro Fridays: Fibromyalgia 101

Welcome to Fibro Fridays! I'm Sky, your host. I have been living with fibromyalgia and other health conditions for most of my life. Chronic illness is something that has colored every memory and every experience I've had. It's also not talked about nearly enough, so I've decided to start a column called Fibro Fridays which will explain and explore the various facets of living with a chronic illness.

First off, I want to start off by saying everyone's fibromyalgia is different. Not only that, but everyone's chronic illness is different. I don't claim to be an expert, and what I say will not apply to everyone. I will be sharing my own personal story, which is what I know best. Yes, my goal is to raise awareness and understanding for this difficult disease. However, if you have a friend with fibro, the best thing you can do is to ask them about it! While it can be scary to ask questions, I promise you that we don't bite. And often honest and open communication is a welcome relief for us because we don't often get a chance to express our feelings on the subject.

The second disclaimer I want to offer up is that I have multiple conditions. I have fibromyalgia, migraines, headaches, anxiety, and PCOS. I also have symptoms galore, but because of multiple diagnoses, it's difficult to say which symptom is tied to which thing. This column is titled "Fibro Fridays," but it will definitely explore a myriad of different illnesses, and please understand that my symptoms (and even my diagnoses!) are confusing, random, and definitely in flux.

In short, my disclaimer is that I don't have everything figured out--not in general, and certainly not with my illnesses. I'm not an expert. That being said, I want to share my personal stories so that others can get an idea about what it can be like to live with a chronic illness.

With that out of the way, let's dig into the nitty-gritty details.

What is fibromyalgia?

According to Mayo Clinic: "Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues." That's a lot going on all at once, so let's break it down.
  • Musculoskeletal pain, according to WebMD: "Musculoskeletal pain is pain that affects the muscles, ligaments and tendons, and bones." So, basically, fibromyalgia tends to manifest in pain all over the body. For me, I often struggle with muscle and joint pain, and it's often random and inexplicable. (And yes, it totally sucks.)
  • Fatigue. Know how it feels after you've run a mile or walked around for a while? That feeling of bone-weariness and total, utter exhaustion? Often, people who have fibromyalgia also deal with accompanying fatigue. It can be triggered by something as simple as going up the stairs, but it can also be triggered by absolutely nothing at all. 
  • Sleep. Sleep can be really tricky for fibro patients--often we have trouble with insomnia and/or regulating our sleep cycles. Personally, I went through a period in 2012 where I would go to bed at 7 am and wake up at 5 pm. Thankfully, I've regulated it now, but it's still not technically "normal"--I still go to bed late and wake up in the late morning.
  • Memory. "Fibro fog" is a common phenomenon with its own cutesy little nickname, but it's really not fun. Often we can have trouble concentrating or remembering things. 
  • Mood issues. Symptoms of fibro can include mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and depression. It's often hard to keep a good, positive mental state when you're feeling sick all the time, so our physical struggles often lead their way into mental ones. 
There are a myriad of other symptoms, some of which I'll go more into detail about in the coming months. To sum all that up, fibromyalgia manifests in a bunch of different ways for different people, and there are a huge range of problems that you could experience.

For me personally, the biggest ones I battle are the pain and fatigue, but let's just say that the other symptoms find their way in there. It's one big mess a lot of the time. I have found some ways to help untangle that mess--some medicines and relief methods. It is possible to cope with fibro. However, that leads me to another really important point: fibromyalgia cannot be cured. It can only be managed by treatment options, and even then, sometimes it can be impossible to find a treatment option that works for you (treatment is included but not limited to lifestyle changes, medicine, and exercise).

At this point, you're probably thinking that this sounds depressing. Honestly, it kind of is. My whole life will probably be colored with pain, and that's just a sad thing to think about. However! This does not mean that I will have a bad life. I have had such a good one so far, and it's only going to get better from here (fingers crossed). 

Basically, there are good days and bad days. As my favorite Doctor Who episode says, “The way I see it, life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.” 

In the coming weeks, we'll dig even more in-depth into what I've covered here. I'll share a bunch of different topics relating back to fibro, chronic illness, and what it's like for me to live with it. If you have questions for me about fibromyalgia, please leave them in the comments. I'll write back in the comments, but I may also use your questions in an upcoming post. I'd also love to read your story if you have fibro or any kind of illness. You're not alone. Together, we can make it.

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