A thought just suddenly popped in my head, seemingly from nowhere, and I am finally able to put my finger on exactly what the stigma of Fibromyalgia brings to the table. See it’s not that we don’t want to get better or are lazy or are working the disability system or are crazy, drug-seeking or just feeling the normal aches and pains of age. That is what the ignorant must believe for some odd reason of their own. But I am talking about the rest of the folks we know and come into contact with. The ones we expect support and belief from. Their reactions can lie from fascinatingly interested (my favorite of course) to apathetic, sympathetic, or just plain uncomfortable. And oftentimes we are treated poorly, our proclamation of ill health met with skepticism and the truth that lies underneath that attitude. The belief is that if you would stop indulging in this problem of yours and just assume yourself better, you could have your life back. And that is all it is my friends. Dismissed as optional. Once I was able to assess this fundamental truth I felt the scales fall away from my eyes. It was extremely easy for me to picture why we are not taken seriously.
I remember, long before I got sick, hearing about something called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Maybe it was towards the end of college, in my early 20’s. And I distinctly recall thinking to myself Well then why don’t they just get enough sleep? Go take a nap! Many moons later I got a very serious and debilitating group of infections with the same name, but in no way did the name fit the disease I was afflicted with. The debilitating, painful, life-sucking sickness that disabled me. And I understood. But you can’t really understand until you have it. Unless you have it. In the meantime, we are made to feel frivolous and indulgent about being sick! How about the disappointment and inconvenience factor? We are reminded, often in painful ways, how unacceptable our behavior (illness) is, or how harshly judged we are, and not even behind our backs! I struggled with this for years. Especially with family. Most of my friends had fallen by the wayside once I took ill. But family gathering, oh those were some doozies! As the salt of the earth traditionalists, the men watched football and women cooked and cleaned. Frequently it was inquired as to why I was only bringing one dish. Whispers wisped around, tongues clacking that I was not helping enough with food prep or clean-up. And inquiries straight to my, and my husband’s face, as to why on earth we don’t have children yet and need to hurry up already! We ain’t gettin’ no younger! Oh, that was an ugly one. The lack of empathy was never so strong as it was on that topic.
And all this judgment and criticism and refusal to accept that I was sick with something real only served to make me not want to be around them! It took a lot of strength, forgiveness, and self-love to get to the point where a complete lack of interest in my medical condition rolled off my back. And some days I am up to it, strong enough to deal, and others I am not. But I still am cut to the quick when I am challenged over my diagnoses. When it is implied, or blatantly stated, that I am just dramatically nurturing depression or am lazy or worst of all, don’t have good manners! Everyone suddenly turns into a diagnostic technician, doctor, herbalist, or pharmacist. Especially the ones that had a friend who had Fibromyalgia and just did and is all better now! So guys and dolls, we have a lot of work to do. A handful of doctors have picked up this diagnosis and sought to find a cause and cure. A bunch of organizations has been formed to spread awareness and raise funds for research. And those are SO important to advancing our cause. But the biggest social impact to raise awareness and validity of this illness lies with the 6 million and counting in the USA alone that have Fibromyalgia. We are the voice of this illness! We are the normal people walking around amongst our peers that must stop and inform everyone our lives touch that Fibromyalgia is real, we have it, and we are not going away because it is an inconvenient or disbelieved illness. I get a lot of inquiries as to what that purple band on my left wrist is for and cherish each opportunity to explain, educate, and ultimately make the reality of living with Fibromyalgia a much more decent place to dwell.
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