Silent Survivor

I am a 40 something year old female and have lived almost half of my life expectancy. Let me tell you, it has been a struggle. A struggle I am determined to beat because I deserve to live a better life. I suffer from Fibromyalgia, Connective Tissue Disease, Chronic Migraines, Anxiety, and most recently bulging disc in my back that have caused me to suffer from chronic leg pain.

Being me, and going through temporary and life long ailments has caused me to miss out on many things in life and love. My hope is this blog will help women suffering from hidden ailments, damaged relationships, and alienation from life by giving them hope or at the very least know they are not alone and to fight with everything they have left! 

The products I have chosen to feature on my website all relate to women, wellness and beauty. Just because we suffer, some of us silently does not mean the sass and glamour has to be missing from our lives. Together we can show the world, we are warriors, we are women, and we are worthy!

To Live in Pain Everyday

People who do not suffer from chronic disease or chronic pain have a difficult time relating to or understanding someone who does. For the non sufferers, think back to the last time you had pain. Was it a headache, back ache, or a stomach ache? Did your feet hurt? Did you aggravate an old sports injury? Now imagine having that one specific pain everyday, what does it feel like? Is it something you believe you could live with comfortably everyday? Probably not.

I live in chronic pain every single day of my life. I have upper and lower back pain, pelvic pain, knee, foot, elbow, wrist, and finger pain. I have pain when I stand up, lay down, walking, and sitting. I have chronic pain. It never lets up, and it never gives me a break. Now let’s throw in the random migraines, irritable bowel, allergic reactions to the unknown, and my fluctuating vision. Whatever I have not mentioned feels great!

Everyday people manage to ask me how I am doing. My response is either okay, good, or not bad. I know the people I talk to get tired of hearing about my aches and pains so in most instances I don’t mention pain and they are lead to believe I am well. I hide pain very well, it is a skill you acquire after being in pain for so long. You get used to putting on a happy face when you are pain, it becomes your norm. After all in most cases you don’t look sick anyway.

In my general conversations throughout the day, pain or some ailment always manages to make its way into conversations with the people closest to me. It is definitely not intentional, but they do ask. I minimize my pain when speaking to family and friends as much as I can because I am not so sure they believe that any one person can experience and survive that much pain. It sounds extremely fictional and damn near impossible.

I have an extremely high pain tolerance so pain medications do not help my pain other than causing me to sleep. My doctors have explained to me that because my tolerance for pain is high it is very difficult to prescribe medications for me because my dosages would be extremely high. So basically my body does not register pain until its too high to control. The level of pain I am able to tolerate a “normal” person would probably not function well, at all.

I know how to put on a good face and look good when necessary. I know how to make my way through the pain until I can find time and space to be alone. I spend a lot of time alone and for good reason. I simply do not want to be around people while I am in pain. Someone I thought I was very close to and had a future with, told me I physically and mentally drained him because I was always in pain. What in the entire hell? I am the one drained, physically, mentally, and emotionally because I am the one living in pain! Needless to say that person is no longer in my life…

I know now not to seek refuge in people, but in myself. I am beginning to practice meditation and I try to do as much as I can until I can not do any more. I have no issues with the perception others have of me, and I am damn good at saying no! There are many times the shower is my refuge. I can cry and my tears wont be noticed or mocked. I am not weak because I cry and I do not cry because of self pity. I cry because I hurt and pain is a constant part of my life. Plain and simple.

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The Migraine Experience

Migraines, I believe originate from the very pit of hell. For the folks reading this that have already drawn the conclusion that I am exaggerating and so are the many people who suffer from migraines, I will give a scientific explanation first. Then I will free flow and give my description, something a little more relatable, to paint a clearer picture of a migraine for you.

Migraine headaches are mainly classified in two ways, chronic or episodic. Chronic migraines occur approximately 15 times or more a month, whereas episodic migraines occur four to 14 days a month. Migraine is a headache that may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, and possible sensitivity to noise and smell. This type of headache and symptoms can last anywhere from four to 72 hours with additional symptoms long after the headache has stopped.

Ok, now that I have gotten the scientific knowledge out there, let me give you a personal description of what a migraine feels like and what it does to me. However, let me say this, everyone that suffers from migraines may not suffer the way I suffer. Migraines are specific to the individual and each persons triggers, symptoms, and tolerance are their own.

I experienced my first migraine in the seventh grade. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting in Biology class preparing to dissect my frog, which I was very much looking forward too. I remember my vision becoming dark. Almost like someone turned the dimmer switch down on the lights. Then I began to experience tunnel vision. I could visibly see multiple rings in my line of vision, my peripheral vision was completely gone, and then complete blindness. I began to feel nauseous and began to vomit.

The pain was on one side of my head and it was awful! The pain felt like someone was attempting to split my skull open with a pickaxe. Let’s not forget to mention vomiting with such a force that it reminds me of The Exorcist. Then there are other little things like extreme sensitivity to smell, light, and noise. The only thing that gives me any relief, is being left completely alone, in the dark, quiet, and cold.

I remember one migraine, I had to drive to pick up a family member from the train station. The pain was so intense I had to lay down on the kitchen floor which was ceramic tile and very cool to the touch. After resting on the floor for a few minutes I grabbed about two, one gallon zip-lock bags. I remember filling up those bags with vomit on the way home and was told I tried to jump out of the car while it was moving. I guess that was because of delirium. Thank goodness someone else was driving the car at that moment…

My migraines sometimes try to be sneaky and present themselves as various other types of headaches such as a tension or sinus headache. The truth is the majority of my headaches end up being migraines. My migraines last anywhere from a few hours to two or three days and often end with a trip to the emergency room for injections. The latter days of my migraine cycle act as a migraine hangover or the remnants of the migraine.

No matter how many or how few migraines a person experiences, one thing is for sure… everyone’s experience is their own. Everyones pain is their own. It’s up to the individual to be mindful of their triggers and avoid them at all cost. Migraine sufferer’s are survivors.

Chronic Disease & Toxic Relationships

This particular post may ruffle a few feathers upon reading. That is not the intended purpose of this article and I am way past the point of giving a damn. If it ruffles, it ruffles. I simply want to share my experience, hoping my experience helps someone who is dealing with issues in their personal relationships as a result of their chronic/invisible illness. At the very least I hope this post will alert individuals in similar situations what to look for as the person affected by a chronic illness and what not to do as the support person or significant other.

From this point on, significant other(s) may be referred to as the “other(s)”.

In the past year, I came to the conclusion that my chronic/invisible illness and other medical problems would keep me from having a successful relationship (a significant other). Why? Because people not going through what you go through on a daily basis do not understand how a person can feel bad day after day. Many of them want to try to convince you it is all in your head and you can push through it, not to mention you DON’T look sick. The person suffering really wants to scream shut the hell up, but decides against it because that would just be another problem. Instead, we push ourselves or at least try to push ourselves so we do not appear to be a complete failure as a person to our significant others. But what we know (the sufferer), that you don’t know (the “other”), is “we will feel much worst later.

Significant others come in a variety of types. Wait for it… I am sure you have had at least one of these types or a combinations of these types in your life. Lets start with the best of them…

  1. The “I Love You” Type – This type of significant other can be mixed in with other types of significant others I will mention later. However, for the most part, these significant others sincerely love you for who you are, and make a genuine effort to understand what you battle day after day. Not everyone claiming to love you will be able to handle your illness. I thought I was loved but it turned out I was more used. This “other” preached about my well-being, and how important it was to him, and in the same breath said I was draining him. How in the hell am I draining you, and I am one that is sick? I drained him of his energy… what the hell?!
  2. The “We Will Get Through This Together” Type – This type of significant other is all aboard in the beginning of the relationship. As time passes and the “other” decides he/she did not sign up for this, they begin to pull away and not be as helpful and supportive as they once were. Other things in his life begin to take priority over you. Things like extracurriculars, or hobbies… They begin to get tired of hearing you talk about how you feel and begin suggesting its all in your head or the result of something you are or are not doing.
  3. The “You are Not Doing Anything to Get Better” Type – This particular significant other believes he/she is the authority on how you feel and why you feel the way you do. This “other” also tends to minimize your pain and believes you are weak. They watch you swallow pill after pill on a daily basis and believes you are doing nothing but causing your body to be toxic and not to be able to heal itself. And God forbid you suffer from medication side-effects like gaining weight, sleeping, fatigue, or loss of appetite. I was told I was overweight and unattractive, I was lazy, I was treating my body poorly. Yep, that type of support was helpful, and now I feel much better. Ass!
  4. The “I am Here for You If You Need Me” Type – This “other” is never available for you but always expect you to be available for him/her, even if you don’t feel well. To say this clearly, this person is not a good support person and is a stressor, further aggravating an already painful situation. This “other” believes they are supporting you by simply tolerating you. You do not appear to be sick so you are not sick. You are simply an attention seeker.

I could go on forever talking about the “other(s)”. I went through a lot dealing with toxic, under educated, selfish individuals. The idea here is to learn to recognize the toxicity elements in your life and eliminate them. Yes this includes people, even people you love. Stress and anxiety in the body only makes your suffering worst. I lost significant weight, I started having migraines, depression crept in, anxiety ruled my life, I vomited with no onset of symptoms… this is just a short list of things that happened to me because of my toxic “other”. Now don’t get me wrong, I still suffer from anxiety, and have the occasional migraine but I definitely notice a huge difference in my day-to-day symptoms.

Eliminate toxicity. Build an educated support system. Follow your doctors orders and create an environment for wellness. Additional stressors will only aggravate your condition. Learn to recognize, acknowledge, and eradicate your triggers. You know your body better than anyone else. So listen.

Fibromyalgia, Stress & My Body

We experience many different emotions and stressors during our lifetime and most of us experience some type stress all of the time. This triggered my thinking and I began to question how my body responds to stress, good or bad. Is stress good or bad, all good, or all bad? I guess it all depends on how we perceive and our bodies process stress. Our perception determines how the body interprets that stress. What kind of stress am I dealing with? Am I dealing with the stresses of yesterday, 20 or 30 year old stress, the stress from today, or the stress of tomorrow which has not even happened yet? Either way, I have stress that needs to be dealt with.

Fibromyalgia patients are thought to have struggled from some form of emotional trauma during their childhood years and as an adult, that stress manifests as Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia surface because stress in the form of pain all over body needs to be released. There are various types of stress agents known to trigger fibromyalgia pain such as family stress, stress from the job, marital stress, and other forms of health related stress. Some of these stressors are almost impossible to avoid unless you are the type of person who is fortunate enough to float through life as a stress proof super hero. And just to be clear, that would be a power I would love to have.

There are other events the body may consider stressful and could also be a trigger for fibromyalgia. Some of these conditions are part of the natural life cycle, like the birth of a child, death of a loved one, relationship inconsistencies or breakups, viral infections and injury have also been identified as stressful to the body and a possible trigger for fibromyalgia. Out of these possible triggers I know I can safely say I have experienced every one of them.

Based on my personal experiences, I can definitely confirm stress causes my fibromyalgia to flare up. As of late I have been experiencing stress coming at me from all angles. I am extremely exhausted, sleeping 12 to 15 hours a day and waking up as if I had never slept. So yes, it is safe to say I have a sleep disorder. I sleep eat, and talk in my sleep (more about this another time) which are symptoms of the medications I take along with symptoms of my fibromyalgia. It is almost like my mind never shuts down and is always processing things. My body feels as if I have been hit by a truck during my flares.

I take a daily regimen of antidepressants, immunosuppressants, and muscle relaxers. When I have migraines I add Tylenol to my daily cocktail to help take the edge off of my pain. I can no longer be treated for my migraines because of the various medications I take to treat my fibromyalgia. Even though I take many medications, I still suffer from pain everyday. The severity of the pain and the magnitude of my stress determines if the day is a good day or a bad day. For now I just tell myself to keep fighting, keep doing what I am doing to manage my pain. I may appear all put together on the outside, but on the inside I am fighting a war.

Fibromyalgia & Energy

Fibromyalgia, a painful disgusting chronic disorder that manages affect the musculoskeletal system, fatigue takes over the body, and sleep seems to never come when you need it. Every part of the body hurts, the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and the body’s soft tissues are also affected. As a person who suffers from fibromyalgia at times I swear my teeth hurt (although this not the case).

From the very first time I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia I have searched high and low reading just about everything I came across to find some form of relief. I have taken numerous drugs my physicians have prescribed that claim to help suppress the pain, but I soon discovered that was a lie. Then I tried to convince myself that even though the pain had not been relieved, the edge has been taken off of my pain. Okay, if I can convince myself to believe that, then why can’t I dig a little deeper to determine if there is another reason for my suffering?

I have recently come across some literature that seems to link fibromyalgia to emotion. Really? Okay, let me continue. There is research indicating fibromyalgia attacks the bodies of people that are extremely busy and lack proper rest and exercise. We push our bodies to the limit and allow the needs of others to come before our own. Allowing our mind, emotions, and body to be pushed to the extreme, we eventually disrupt our entire nervous system disrupting body functions, specifically our individual sleep pattern. Without the proper amount of sleep we make our bodies vulnerable to a plethora of diseases and chronic ailments.

Examination of my own life has allowed me to identify I have never really given myself what I need. I have always put myself last and taken care of others neglecting myself. I also discovered I experience the emotions of others, empathy overload. Once again neglecting my own feelings or suppressing them to keep others happy. Inside my body, a ticking bomb is waiting to explode. There is anger, resentment, fear, and as I much as I do not want to admit it, some very strong dislike for people. No wonder my body hurts… I think. Makes perfect sense, right? So where does all of that toxicity go?

My body has become a safe harbor for negative energy. Well damn. Could this be the key to my pain? Anger, neglect, hatred, and fear among other things have manifested in the from of pain throughout my entire body. The theory in itself is interesting and worth further exploration. I am going to do additional research on energies and the affect these energies have on the human body. If there is any validity to this claim, my fibromyalgia may be manageable without drugs.

Fibromyalgia & Me Day

Let me start off by saying, if you suffer from fibromyalgia you have no or very little control over your life. Some of you may differ in opinion, but like the title says, I am talking about “Fibromyalgia & Me. Fibromyalgia disrespects every one differently and the level of disrespect I receive may be better or worst than your level of disrespect. Although many of us in the fibromyalgia community share similar symptoms, our pain and suffering may be completely different.

Today is a Fibromyalgia and me day. It hurts to move, its hurts to be touched, and if feels like I have been hit by a semi-truck. It hurts to walk, it hurts to sit, you name it, it hurts! As I have suffered with fibromyalgia for many years, you never know when your good days will run out and you start a cycle of bad days. You also have no idea how long a fibromyalgia flare will last, the flares are unpredictable. I guess you can compare it to a tornado… the conditions may be right for a perfect storm.

The humidity is high, the clouds have darkened the sky, and rotation of the clouds begins. A funnel begins to form and drop from the sky, ever so gracefully. Will the funnel touch down and quickly resolve, or will the funnel touch down and ride the ground for miles, tearing up the terrain leaving a path of destruction… We never know the outcome because of the unpredictability and the lack of stability associated with fibromyalgia. Our only defense is to hunker down (I hate that expression), and ride out the storm with the supplies (medications & coping mechanisms) we have on hand.

Once the storm ends, no matter how extreme or how mild, we begin to pick up the pieces of our lives rebuilding to gain some semblance of normality. Fibromyalgia is destructive and misunderstood. Awareness is key and I can not stress this enough. The sky may look harmless, beautiful in fact. What we can not see are the conditions changing in the atmosphere. My perfect storm is raging and I patiently wait for the aftermath.

Anxiety Humans

Anxiety is triggered by many things and one of my biggest triggers are people, yep humans. I like to call them “anxiety humans”. Not all people, but the people we give most of our time and effort to. A “human” trigger can come in the form of family, friends, relationships (significant others), and it is up to us to recognize and admit that certain humans cause us anxiety. There is nothing wrong with admitting certain people literally work your nerves and cause you anxiety. As a matter of fact, the sooner you admit it, the quicker you can fix it, and the better off you will be.

For the sake of this post I will use relationships (significant others) as the example. I was in a relationship with what I thought was great human. I wanted to do everything I could for this person to ensure this person was happy, and wanted or needed for nothing. I identified a flaw in my character… I care too damn much, but is that really a flaw? I am not talking about caring for my children, or a family member. I am talking about a person I welcomed into my soul, my heart, my physical being because I wanted to be with this person, close to this person, love this person, and this particular human became my own personal hell.

You find yourself in a relationship giving, and giving, and giving yourself and this person gives you nothing but complaints about the things you do for them, unrealistic expectations, false hope, and let me not forget about the list of rules and unspoken requirements you must meet to keep this person happy. Anxiety moved in with no immediate plans to move out and there was not enough Xanax to keep me anchored. But yet, day after day, I dealt with the bull crap because I had convinced myself things would get better, or should I say that is what I wanted to believe. The longer I stayed within reach of this person the more intense my anxiety became and then one day I crashed and it clicked!

I asked myself, what exactly are you gaining from this relationship? What are the pros and cons of pouring yourself out for this person? What has this person done for me? Why am I over extending myself for this person? When I realized I was the one coming up on the short end of the relationship I made the decision to immediately make some changes, changes that would benefit my health, my heart, my life. Let this ungrateful, unappreciative, never wrong user go. It took me some time to separate myself completely from the virus of a relationship I was in, but when I did, I discovered what it felt like to breath without an “anxiety human” wrapped around my throat sucking the very air I needed to survive from my lungs.

I know that if your “anxiety human” is a family member, a child (yes this is possible), parent, or grandparent, you may not be able to simply walk away and free yourself, but there are things you can do to guide the behaviors of others when it comes to taking care of yourself. Managing if not eliminating your anxiety is the key. Easier said than done, I know. However we must learn to identify our triggers even if the trigger is human! Set boundaries with loved ones, have a conversation about your anxiety and your concerns, implement changes, and stick to it.