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Discovering Fibromyalgia

  • Posted on November 28, 2012 at 9:00 AM

As part of my new-found determination to engage in self-care, I thought a good first step was to take a closer look at some of the health concerns I was experiencing and to take corrective action. I would take the time to take my own health seriously.

It started with researching the symptoms that I believed were associated with my history of gallstones, to see if there were better ways to avoid, alleviate, or eliminate the time-consuming, energy-draining pain and discomfort. I was surprised and a bit taken aback when my searches consistently led, not to gallstones, but treatments for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In comparing symptoms, the IBS seemed more consistent with my experiences.

Then, I discovered that IBS is strongly correlated with fibromyalgia. I remembered learning, during my early research into autism, that children with autism were strongly correlated with mothers with fibromyalgia. So, I clicked on the link to fibromyalgia to see what the symptoms were.

I was amazed to find, between the list of symptoms for IBS and the list for fibromyalgia, all but one of my health “complaints.” (The suspected diagnosis was a bit of a surprise for a lot of people, because I’d been trying not to complain.) I already knew the cause of the other one and had already started addressing that problem.

I admit to spending a rather lengthy night trying to talk myself out of these discoveries. Fibromyalgia and IBS are both among a set of disorders that are only recently acknowledged by health professionals and are also among those where there’s no real “fix” for the problems. And one of the problems is chronic fatigue.

I was prepared to discover that I was “stuck” with chronic pain; I was not prepared to discover that I was equally stuck with chronic fatigue.

I have four children, three with diagnoses of autism, two (soon to be three) teenagers, and a husband with chronic depression. Add to that my high motivation, my business, my classes, and my desire to expand my writing projects. The math clearly states that I cannot afford chronic fatigue.

The whole point of all this research, after all, was to increase my productivity, which has been in a downward spiral, tanking after the latest discovery of epilepsy. I had absolutely no interest in coming to terms with my limitations. Nope. Not gonna happen. I was resolute.

That lasted until a family member who is also a medical service provider, who happens to have some expertise in fibromyalgia, came over the next evening. I discussed my suspicions with her. She touched me in two places and I didn’t provide a fibromyalgia-type reaction. For a moment I thought I was in the clear. But I kept talking and she decided to test the other trigger points.

I’d felt the pressure she exerted against the first two points. It was a poke. When she “poked” my shoulders, my back, my hips, and my chest it felt like she was jabbing me instead. The pain was sharp, intense. It faded slowly—far more slowly than I would have expected. She tested me around 7 PM. I was still awake with a dull, aching pain in each of those areas until 2 AM. A piping hot bath helped a little, but the pain lingered in a dull, lazy sort of fashion until well into the next day.

Slowly, with a sinking feeling in my stomach, this new reality set in. My first response was to talk to my husband about the tests, because he’s the most likely (aside from me) to be impacted. Then, I shared the probable prognosis with my co-author, who is another person who is likely to see a considerable impact. Next, came my mother, but only because she was sleeping and prefers to talk; so, I had to wait until the next day; whereas, I communicate with my co-author mostly (but not exclusively) through e-mails, so I could blast our suspicions off for him to read at his convenience with the specification that this convenience be after his vacation had concluded.

Then, as the pain continued into the wee hours and I still couldn’t sleep, I thought back. The first time I could remember Alex “jabbing” me with his finger in a tender spot was two years ago. That’s also around the time the “gallstones” got less occasional and the associated discomfort stopped responding to the sarsaparilla. That’s also around the time I started feeling “old,” meaning that I would wake up stiff and sore, requiring longer and longer periods of time in the morning, creeping from fifteen minutes to two hours, to work out the “kinks.”

After finally getting some much needed sleep, I took a good, close look at those symptoms again. Damn. Damn. Triple damn. I’d already given up the denial, but now I was convinced. That doesn’t mean I have to like it.