This is the first part of a series that I’m writing about embracing life.  This post describes some of what my life has been like living with chronic pain thus far.

It is no secret that I struggle with life on a daily basis.  I am almost in constant pain.  The horrible fatigue that plagued me for so long after my fight with pneumonia in 2007 is starting to ease up and I’ve been spending many more hours awake, upright, and often out of the apartment.  Is my chronic fatigue cured?  Probably not.  But it is much less severe and only gets really bad occasionally, especially when I don’t pace myself. 

This has spurred me to start focusing more on living my life with chronic pain and not waiting to “get better” because I honestly think I will never be free of pain.  In fact I should probably have started doing this long before I ever got as sick as I did.  There is really not a time in my life when I haven’t been in pain.  As a kid it was my knees and ankles, I saw doctors and got no real diagnosis for why they hurt so badly, I think I was probably 8 when I started taking ibuprofen on a regular basis per doctors advice to help the inflammation in my knees.  

The pain really didn’t stop me, I trudged on and ran cross country for quite a few years.  In high school I was fortunate enough to meet a great sports doctor who fitted me with orthotics and reduced my running pain, I still experienced shin splits and sore knees but not as severe as they were before.  It didn’t go completely away, and I found even when I wasn’t running my legs still hurt quite a bit.  I eventually quit running all together and the pain remained.

In high school I also experienced wrist and elbow pain, mostly when I was cheerleading.  I suppose having girls standing in my hands and constantly slapping my hands against the gym floor probably contributed to this, but the school trainer insisted that there really wasn’t anything wrong with me.  So I continued on without any explanation for the pain.  Pain itself is fairly fatiguing, so although I did all these great things while in high school, I still was not the athlete my classmates were, and I found myself getting sick during hot and sunny band camp practices while others had no problem at all.  What I ultimately decided about myself is that there was nothing wrong with me and I was just lazy.

Through college, which added more and more pain in my hands, wrists, head, neck, and some pretty horrible shin splits obtained from grueling throwing practices I continued on.  The more pain I was in, the more tired I got, and the more lazy I felt.  If you had asked me before all of this fibromyalgia stuff came to light I would have told you  I was a slacker which is why I didn’t work out as much as I should and rarely participated in any kind of vigorous activity.  

I was probably at the height of pain (pre diagnosis) in the spring of 2007.  I was working on a farm, feeding animals, hauling maple sap, playing with kids, and spending hours bent over in the garden and green house.  I was bruising super easily, in constant pain, and had some of the worst headaches of my life.  But when I couldn’t do the work required of me, or was slower than I should have been, I laughed it off and said I was a slacker.  It was an amazing job, and a great experience, but the reality was that I was so miserable because I was in so much pain.  I suffered silently and moved on.  This was the norm for me, I thought everyone had pain all the time and that it was just part of living, and that everyone else was just much more motivated and driven than I was. 

I often wonder what my life would have been like if I had known about Fibromyalgia from the beginning.  Would I have done all the great things I’ve done, like band festivals, summer camp, endless roller-coaster riding, cheerleading, throwing, hiking, camping, etc? Or would I have said no, I can’t because of my Fibromyalgia.  Although I would have liked to understand where the pain was coming from, I’m glad that I had the opportunity to do the things I did regardless of the pain.

The series continues with part 2 here.