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Chronic Illness Doesn't Define Me
Thursday 22 October 2015
Chronic illness doesn't define me
All of my life I was the sporty kid who loved to be outside and getting amongst all that was going on. I was outgoing, motivated and loved exercise and sport. It was my passion.
As a 20-year-old I should still be able to do this, but it all changed after getting diagnosed with fibromyalgia syndrome - a rheumatic condition which includes muscular pain - at the age of 19 after a fall that changed my life forever.
I went from playing hockey and rugby to hardly being able to walk without crutches. I could no longer run or do any of the things I so enjoyed in the past.
Chronic illness completely changed my life and who I was as a person. Battling with symptoms such as chronic fatigue, constant muscle pain, loss of memory, headaches, and lack of mobility, as well as finding it hard to stand, took its toll.
I am unable to get a job or work fulltime and am limited with the amount of study I can handle in a semester and a year with my bachelor of science, so things take a bit longer than they would if I didn't have fibro.
With fibro, I may look like every other person, but what is going on inside my body is not like everyone else. Fibro is characterised by widespread muscular skeletal pain in localised areas, along with numerous other symptoms. No person with fibro has exactly the same symptoms, and it affects different people in different ways.
It is thought that the issue stems from our brain and the way that it processes pain signals through the nerve receptors, however it still isn't clear that this is the definite cause as the illness is not well understood just yet.
Many people with fibro and other chronic illnesses are so overwhelmed by the pain and are unable to effectively help things get better. I did this for a long time.
No medication is able to help me get better: the only thing that I can rely on to get me better is myself. A lot of chronic illness sufferers define themselves by their illness and I am trying to change my approach to how I tackle the battle I face on a daily basis. The key thing is to not let it define who you are: yes, I have chronic pain, yes, my life has changed, but I can be in control of my illness, the illness does not have to control me.
For me, how I looked at my situation changed my approach on how to tackle it. Instead of thinking there is something wrong with me and I am different, I can now look at it and say this is where I am at, there is room for improvement and this is how I am going to do it.
If I could tell anyone with fibromyalgia one thing it would be to get out there, get active and give it a go. Not doing anything makes the pain so much worse and makes it so much harder to find the motivation to get better. Slow and steady wins the race and small steps are all it takes to begin to improve the quality of your life. It may take a while, it doesn't happen overnight, but it can and will get better.
I may suffer from chronic pain but I will not let it define me. We may not have a cure but improving our quality of life through exercise and other effective measures sure is worth it to have pain more manageable and regain the ability to work away at doing some of the things we were able to do before we got ill.
There is hope. Stick at it.
The above originally appeared here.
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