OK, now I have your attention – I am not having a pop at anyone with Fibromyalgia. Why would I? Unless I like having a pop at myself.
The context of this is that I was speaking to someone last week who was making excuses about why they couldn’t achieve something in their business, and blaming other people for their (lack of) results. They were so tired because of this injury they had, and the building work going on across the road, and the end of year stuff they had to prepare for HMC. Then a second person piped up with – “Tired? You don’t know what tired is until you have babies, and can’t sleep for months”.
In my head I was thinking – “ I haven’t slept for years. Frozen shoulders, 3 weeks off when I had my second child – a boy who would never sleep, and now I have fibromyalgia and a puppy (at least my babies wore nappies and didn’t bite me….very often!). And you’re tired?”
The point being – we all have stuff going on don’t we?
This weeks Facebook Lives (in my leading women in business group) have been on the subject of Fibromyalgia, something I was told I had back in early 2014.
Now, if you haven’t heard of Fibromyalgia, it is a condition where you are in a lot of pain for no apparent reason. Yep – lovely! The other big 2 symptoms are excessive tiredness and brain fog. There is almost no treatment for it on the NHS and it is tricky to diagnose, masquerading as it does as anything from growing pains (yes teenagers can have it), to ‘women’s troubles’, to menopause to chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, lupus, MS and a host of other things with similar symptoms.
Before I was diagnosed, I went through probably 6 months of feeling progressively worse. Initially, I put the symptoms down to working too hard, or coming down with something, or stress. I ignored it in the hope it would go away, and because I refuse to be sick – it’s such a waste of time! And of course, I was SuperMumpreneur, wasn’t I? Able to juggle all the many tasks of motherhood, running a business and being a director of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce for the previous 13 year, and dodge a speeding bullet, while rescuing people from tall burning buildings.
For the 2 months before I finally went to see my doctor and had tests, I really thought that maybe I had something very serious like bone cancer – because the pain was so bad at night that the longest I slept for in one go, was 40 minutes. After that I would HAVE to move because the pain of lying still was unbearable.
Once it had been diagnosed (which is really an elimination of everything else it COULD be), I felt relieved and annoyed. Relieved because it wasn’t terminal. Annoyed because there was nothing the doctor could do – there is ‘no’ treatment for it, beyond a few sessions of water based exercise and a bit of acupuncture / physio – paid for privately.
Fibro is something you really have to sort out for yourself. The NHS won’t do it for you. Oh they are great if you have a car crash and they can put you back together, but stuff like Fibro, or mental health, or lupus or many other conditions – they don’t solve the cause, and therefore they CAN’T solve the problem. The best they can (sometimes) do is treat the symptoms.
They believe that 50/50, fibro is caused by a physical or emotional trauma. In my case I had a run of a few years with both of those. I ripped my Achilles tendon in karate class in 2012, I had a frozen shoulder and back cramps caused by a car crash. We had had 5 years of recession (2008-2013) which wiped out 50% of the recruitment industry (which is what my main business was in at the time), so 5 years of intense stress. And before all of that, my Dad had passed away at much too young age of 70 from stomach cancer. Maybe that all contributed.
Looking into the more holistic approaches, Fibro has been linked to childhood trauma and the suppression of emotions. If you haven’t seen the Facebook live relating to this – it was Tuesday 26th Feb I think. And yes, I had learnt to suppress my emotions. One of my bosses once told me I was his ‘low reactor’ – if he told me I had done something brilliantly, or he gave me some bad news, I would react the same way – by not reacting.
So, when I was finally diagnosed, after the initial relief (that I wasn’t going to die), I started trying lots of stuff to make things easier. I realised that I am not Superwoman (dammit!) and my body was probably trying to tell me to slow down a bit. I also learned it was good to cry (sometimes). Still not brilliant at that one!
Now, I still work harder than most people I know (not bragging…… admitting!), but I work less hard than I used to, or should I say less relentlessly. I DO have time off at the weekend. And if I work till 11 today – I will get up a bit later tomorrow, and vice versa – get up at 6, stop working at 5.30.
I have finally realised that I cannot, in fact, burn the candle at both ends without getting burnt fingers at some stage. And that I needed more balance in my life.
So why am I talking about this today?
Well for a couple of reasons. Firstly, what I have come to realise is that the old sayings are often true. A trouble shared is a trouble halved. Well, not literally – but by sharing what has happened to you in life, someone else doesn’t have to feel so alone. Someone else might see that there is some light at the end of the tunnel. And there is. Fibro doesn’t have to stop you doing everything you love.
Secondly, it might be a reason, but should never be an excuse. What I mean by that is, I believe, too many people allow themselves to be defined by a diagnosis or more importantly – a label – they are given. “Oh, I’m X so that means I can never Y”. Now, don’t get me wrong a person with no legs is never going to be a fireman, and a blind person is not going to be a commercial airline pilot. Although with the technology we have now and how fast it is moving, who knows what might be possible in the future.
But here’s the thing. You can be defined by your illness, your condition, your circumstances – or you can define THEM. I have brown eyes, brown hair, crooked teeth, and fibromyalgia. It is part of me, but it ISN’T me. Does that make sense? And it is something I can affect – like I can dye my hair or wear contact lenses. Now my hair is still brown underneath, and so are my eyes. But I am in charge of that. My hair is not in charge of me. And neither is my Fibromyalgia.
What are you using as an excuse for stuff that you really want to be doing? N
Not enough money? Not clever enough? Some condition you have? So that’s your reality – what are you going to do now? Use it as an excuse or do stuff anyway?