The families of victims who’ve been missing for years or decades — identifying the body of their loved one, for example, can bring closure. For me, being diagnosed with fibromyalgia was also a relief. It meant that I had a name for my chronic pain ... that was so intense over a period of several years that I had to retire as a school teacher.
My diagnosis meant I wasn’t crazy, that the pain wasn’t “all in my head,” as some had suggested. It meant that my flu-like symptoms, accompanied by intense waves of pain, finally had form and dimension. I understood I was just one of many suffering with chronic pain that at last had a name.
Fibromyalgia syndrome is a complex, chronic condition of widespread muscular pain and fatigue. It often includes sleep disturbances, impaired memory and concentration, depression and other debilitating symptoms. The syndrome is one of the most common chronic pain disorders, affecting nearly 1 in every 60 Americans.
When medical leave, morphine patches, codeine and myriad pharmaceuticals brought no relief, I tried a different approach in combination with medical treatment. [I have] since enjoyed more than 13 years of pain-free and prescription-free living after finding an alternative healing therapy that works for me.
Through the years, I’ve learned a thing or two about dealing with the psychological trauma of illness.
Let me share these tips to keep in mind for those suffering from an indeterminate condition.
1. Trust in yourself. At times, the pain was so intense that I was certain my flesh was tearing away from my bones. I was just like the more than 100 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain, which costs nearly $600 billion annually in medical treatments and lost productivity, according to the Institute of Medicine. Despite this unmistakable pain, the critical doubt from others as to what I was experiencing was disheartening, at times causing me to doubt myself.
Trust in yourself, for you know what you’re feeling. Don’t fall victim to the judgment and criticism of others who doubt your illness and the limitations it places on you or your activities.
2. Don’t quit! Despite the immense scope of chronic pain, very little is spent on research to find better ways to manage pain. I was faced with the prospect of spending the rest of my life in a nursing home.
Yes, the pain was excruciating, debilitating and fatiguing, yet I still felt as though my life had the potential for vitality. The idea of going to a nursing home — reasonable for some — felt like a kind of death to me.
3. Seriously consider alternatives. I was able to achieve what I thought was impossible — not just temporary relief, but permanent, lasting mind-body-spirit wellness. I had been to orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, rheumatologists, psychologists, underwent MRIs and took all manner of medications for this unbearable pain. In a narrow sense, it would seem as though I exhausted my options — until I looked beyond traditional Western medicine. Alternative treatment guided me to recognize the layers of stress throughout my life that I believe were a primary driver of my chronic pain.
Every day, I am filled with gratitude for the fact that I am free of the torment from fibromyalgia that had plagued me throughout my life. I just wish I could give others a piece of the relief that I’ve found. All I can say is keep your eyes open, keep the hope alive and don’t give up!
(About the writer: Janet Komanchuk is a retired school teacher who has experienced the remission of chronic, debilitating fibromyalgia, which was the result of many overlapping stressors and unresolved issues throughout her life. She is now pain free without any use of prescription medication. She is an educational writer and public relations assistant with Joy of Healing Inc., in Valrico, Fla.)