by Sarah Borien
I suffered from fibromyalgia for six years. To this day, I’m not sure what is harder for me; Constant pain, fatigue and a lot of other symptoms that accompany the diagnosis, or the constant need to explain and justify it.
In 2010, when I was diagnosed, it was due to the elimination process. I had several tests and scans without a conclusion, and one day I asked my GP if he could have fibromyalgia after reading it online.
I am sure that self-diagnosis on the Internet is what all doctors advise doing, but here it was. I was referred to a rheumatologist who confirmed my diagnosis after passing the pain test and, for a moment, I felt relief.
But this appointment became one of the many frustrating conversations with doctors who did not believe or understand my pain. This rheumatologist, who had no training in clinical psychology in his name, asked me the most tense question of all.
“Then,” he said, “tell me about your childhood. Have you heard about your parents?
However, five years later, I am furious with myself for not challenging him. I should have asked him why he published Pop Psychology 101, but instead I told him about my childhood.
He suggested that I have a series of sessions with a psychologist and I did not ask why, I just nodded and cried. I asked him about pain treatment and how to deal with it, but he said that talking to the psychologist should help.
This experience was the first time I felt such a lack of understanding, and each time it was as heartbreaking as the previous one.
But they are not just health professionals. When my friend was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a few years later, I felt jealous. You can believe that?
I never told her anything, nor did I confess it to anyone, but seeing her receive cards and flowers from all our friends during the first weeks of her diagnosis, I realized how few really understood fibromyalgia.
I had an appointment with many doctors and nurses, all there as part of their “support network”. I had not heard from anyone after this appointment with the rheumatologist, unless I had a psychologist who had discharged me after three sessions because I could not “see signs of trauma”.
I did not have such a network of friends, relatives or doctors. In fact, at that time, I was having trouble getting my GP to understand the pain I was in.
If you suffer from fibromyalgia, I am sure that your path to diagnosis was as horrible and complicated as mine. I have not heard from anyone who has been received with understanding, belief and kindness from beginning to end.
I find it really disconcerting that so many people are so sick, and yet the lack of support and the unwillingness to understand are just a fact.
My occupational health advisor told me: “Fibromyalgia is the fashionable state of the 90s; in the 90s, everyone claimed to have ME “and my consultant at the pain clinic said:” Many patients with fibromyalgia come here with tears and pajamas: it seems that you’re fine.
I will never understand why comments like these are acceptable, especially from health professionals.
However, not everything is bad. Over the years, I’ve been pretty lucky. It is possible that my support network did not exist at the beginning, but it grew as I was more frank about my condition. I speak at work, I blog in my free time and I make connections in social networks with other patients with fibromyalgia.
My boyfriend supports me a lot and never questioned the validity of my pain; His father has been living with me for more than 30 years and understands the challenges of chronic pain and invisible diseases.
But, unfortunately, I have read many discussions about fibromyalgia forums where patients talk about their lack of family support or lack of understanding in their social circle, so blogs and social networks are so important. They remind us that we are not alone.
There are more than 5 million people suffering from fibromyalgia in the United States and millions more around the world and I believe that our voices will be stronger and stronger, we will create awareness, we will promote research, education and understanding of Fibromyalgia will increase.
As the research develops, clinical trials will be conducted and who knows, maybe one day there will be a cure. In my life, however, I would like to see our diagnosis mean something.
I want people to respond with understanding and sympathy when someone says to them: “I have fibromyalgia.