The following is a guest post by Sue Shipe, PhD, Founder of the International Institute for Human Empowerment.
Living well with Fibromyalgia is more than a slogan; it’s an attainable and sustainable goal. I know, because I have had to face several of the challenges that many other patients face. They are tough, but not insurmountable. What may be required is not pushing through, or giving up, but changing one’s thinking.
Fibromyalgia means loss. Chronic illness requires change to be managed with proper tools and care. It also means that what was lost may never completely return. So the person diagnosed with Fibromyalgia may go through stages of grief. It is important not to get stuck in any stage, but to process the diagnosis and look for the best help availble.
My own journey began seven years before my diagnosis. In fact, by the time of diagnosis, I was already unable to work every day. Overwhelming pain and fatigue challenged my strong will to achieve. Eventually, I left my career in education to start a not-for-profit so that I could work from home. I didn’t know that while I was leaving a rewarding career, new challenges, people, and opportunities would be equally rewarding. With new and renewed purpose, my energy increased. I learned to manage my time, using my best time for my creative work, and my down time for the more routine parts of life.
At some point, I realized that what was happening was that I was reinventing myself. My ability to write had always been an asset in my job, but it was to become my release and most rewarding activity. Being able to work at home without the requirements of meeting schedules and travel meant that my limited “good” time could be used more productively.
If I could sum up what has best helped me in dealing with Fibromyalgia, I would say it has been having a higher purpose focused toward helping other Fibromyalgia patients. When I’m tired, my desire to help others energizes me. When I have pain, it helps me to rise above it. When I need companionship, I can reach out to many healthcare providers and patients who are willing to help other Fibromyalgia patients according to their expertise. I have learned that most people are generous with their time and talent when they are contributing to something worthwhile. We all need to feel that our life, whether full of energy, or with limited functioning, makes a positive difference for others.
Assets for living well with Fibromyalgia are a knowledgeable, caring physician and medical team; understanding family and friends; a support group; complementary therapies; movement as tolerated; and medications as needed. Getting pain under control is the first step, but there are many more positive steps to be taken to bring the focus of living well into view. We can each do our part to make the entire situation better for ourselves and others through education, access to resources, and connection to one another. As with most of life, love is what makes the journey worthwhile. Caring about another while you care for yourself brings us that experience. For more resources, go to www.humanempowerment.org/fibromyalgia.