I Don’t Look Sick

13 Feb

I don’t look sick, but I am. I have an invisible illness, fibromyalgia, which causes  intermittent pain throughout the body; arthritis; fatigue and brain fog; and, possibly, my tinnitus. I also have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), depression and occasional bouts of anxiety. All are connected to each other and to stress.IMG_2054

Stress produces harmful hormones that in large doses can damage the immune system, causing a variety of autoimmune conditions, such as I have developed in the time that I’ve been taking care of Chuck since his stroke in 2007 (and about which I published a book, Stroke Happens, in 2017). The fibromyalgia pain and the unpredictability of my IBS symptoms (bloating, cramps, constipation, diarrhea, fatigue and brain fog) make it difficult for me work reliably.

My symptoms have been sneaking up for years, but suddenly increased in intensity, frequency and duration in the summer of 2018 after a particularly stressful personal interaction. I have submitted to dry needling, physical therapy, food sensitivity testing and other labs; I have sought medical help from specialists, but none in my are (South Carolina) were able to help me, so I have been referred by my general practitioner to the Mayo Clinic.

Meanwhile, I am learning to let go of the things I can’t control–in other words, most of life’s events–and control what I can–that is, my reaction to those events. I practice yoga and meditation; exercise; engage in a hobby (bowling); schedule time daily to “play” (spending time with my dogs in the backyard); eat well (I’m a vegetarian); don’t smoke; and am at a healthy weight. I get an occasional massage, which is one of the best therapies for pain because it suppresses the pain response and stimulates the release of serotonin and dopamine, the feel-good hormones.

Lately, I located a podcast, Like Mind, Like Body, which featured an interview with a doctor specializing in pain. Afterward, I ordered his book, Unlearn Your Pain, and have been reading the material, which includes worksheets and writing assignments. I also subscribed to an app, Curable, which offers meditation, brain training, expressive writing and education designed to help people recover from chronic pain. I can report a significant reduction in my pain since I started these regimes, and I highly recommend them.

My physical manifestations of stress make my life more challenging that it has to be. I’m sure I’m not the only caretaker–or victim of stress–who is suffering from such complaints. I understand how frustrating it is, and I hope that by sharing my experience, I can help someone else find a path to healing. Please feel free to reach out with your experiences with chronic pain, caretaking and healing.

Best, Laura Ann Garren

 

2 Responses to “I Don’t Look Sick”

  1. Lee Wylie February 14, 2019 at 12:44 am #

    I understand completely. I’ve suffered from these same issues for many, many years, long before fibromyalgia was actually recognized as an actual diagnosis. I’m on disability for severe depression, which is stressful in and of itself. I have gotten good treatment for that, however, I never know when there will be a significant relapse…I’m just coming out of a major one now. I have managed to start a little Jewelry business online. This allows me to work when and where I can, plus it gives me a sense of purpose and accomplishment, even though I’m not “successful” financially yet (there are other ways to be successful than just financially). People tell me how good I look and that I must be feeling better (I’m a breat cancer survivor). No. Not really. I’m just a good actress. Sometimes I can’t even leave my house. But, I’m a strong woman and I refuse to let all these things overcome me! You are one of the strongest women I know Laura. Let’s hang in there together! God bless, my friend.

    Like

    • Laura Ann February 14, 2019 at 5:37 am #

      I’m so sorry to hear it, Lee. I know what you mean about being a good actor, too. Hang in there, you!

      Like

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