A very tough mountain to climb
Many people with fibromyalgia find this extraordinarily difficult and depression is common; but others are able to finally tap into a kind of acceptance and look for life's pleasures where they can.
It's not easy. Waking up every morning exhausted (sleep disturbance is one common symptom) is simply debilitating. To then face a day of pain can affect your entire identity.
Lynne Matallana, cofounder and president of the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA), says "You lose your self-confidence and you end up seeing yourself as a sick person. You see yourself as somebody who's suffering from something that's abnormal. And people with fibro tend to use the word 'normal' a lot: 'I just want to feel normal.'"
In 1998 Carolyn Nuth, 65, of Baltimore, had no idea why she was experiencing so much pain all over her body. She thought it was arthritis, because her mother and grandmother had had it. But she finally went to her doctor in tears. "I really was at a point where I didn't want a life like this," says Nuth.
The diagnosis of fibromyalgia was something of a relief and steroid shots every few months helped bring the pain to a manageable level. But her new reality was a life of pain. She had always been busy, handling stressful jobs without paying too much attention to minor aches and pains. Suddenly she felt like an invalid. Like many other sufferers, it was a struggle for her to realize she could still have a productive life.
"I learned that I'm strong and even though I have limitations, I can still put one foot in front of the other. But I'm just smarter about it," says Nuth. "I used to be able to garden almost all day. Now I have to spend an hour and that's it. If I push myself beyond my limit, I will pay for it. So I've learned to limit what I do."