When you first start experiencing symptoms, you chock it up to many different things. “I overdid it at the gym yesterday”, or “I’m not getting enough sleep”, or “I need a new mattress (pillow, sofa, chair, etc)”. You try to come up with any and every reason you could be suffering debilitating pain and overwhelming exhaustion other than even entertaining the thought that you could be sick. It is only when your symptoms become overpowering and begin devastating your life that you try to figure out what’s wrong.
However, don’t expect a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am blood test and – BOOM! – a diagnosis. It doesn’t work that way. Lupus is called the great imitator for a reason; it mimics many different illnesses and disorders. Nothing shows up in your blood test (or any other diagnostic test, for that matter) to indicate fibromyalgia. RSD is only now being recognized by the medical community, and often goes undiagnosed for years. Your doctor must evaluate you through a process of elimination with many of these conditions in order to find the correct diagnosis.
So now you know what it is you’ve got. Unfortunately, that is not the end of your trouble. Because these conditions are so rare and so new to doctors, there aren’t many treatment options available, and many that are often leave you lethargic, spacey, and as unable to participate in life on meds as you are off-meds.
For women, this can be much worse. Women are social creatures. They need the support of their loved ones to get through the flare-ups and the down-spirals. They deserve this, from their families, partners and friends, especially when you consider the many things that women experience that make these conditions worse. Pregnancy increases the symptoms of fibromyalgia, well into the third semester and beyond, and women with fibromyalgia are much more likely to experience post-partum depression. Menopause causes the same thing, making many women feel as if they’ve been beat up all over. Many of the symptoms of PMS are far worse in patients suffering from chronic pain disorders than they are for women free of these conditions.
Oftentimes, our only solace is the support of our families and friends. Sadly, many sufferers don’t get that support because their “support system” doesn’t believe them about the intensity of the pain they suffer, or the absolute gut-wrenching depression that comes with being unable to get out of the bed, play with your kids, spend a night out without paying for it the next day. They need physical proof that someone is sick, something in writing from a lab. They just don’t get it.
I’m asking you to try and get it. Just because your friend, lover, sister, daughter, mother isn’t losing weight, coughing up a lung, vomiting or exhibiting any other of the many indicators of illness doesn’t mean she’s not sick. Believe me, it’s not all in her head.