The uncool thing about this fibromyalgia is that, for me, at least, the depression it brings hits without warning sometimes. It creeps up on feet in socks, expertly, so that it doesn’t rustle even a hair on my head. Then it envelopes me, engulfs me until there’s nothing left for me to do but let it.
It’s difficult for people without fibromyalgia to understand this, coupled with all its other symptoms. Even I sometimes can’t get it. How can there be pain when I don’t even smoke, or join triathlons? How can I be depressed when there are two kids in the next room, talking to each other with minion voices? How can I be so out of breath when all I’m doing is sitting and reading a book about Snoopy?
Until some years ago, doctors thought fibromyalgia was a figment of a hypochondriac imagination. I remember about 15 years ago, I went from doctor to doctor to doctor and after 57 trillion tests, not one could tell me why I was so tired all the time. Someone suggested I take more calcium; his patronizing associate told me to eat more fruits and vegetables because they’re easier to process; another one said I should exercise more; but the wisest of them all said it was all in my head. He said I was just imagining the pain and the breathlessness.
Turns out, I wasn’t. Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that affects the nerves, causes a glitch in pain signals to the brain, lowers oxygen levels in red blood cells, causes over-all fatigue, depression, and a host of other symptoms. Intensity may vary from person to person but the bottom line is, everyone with fibromyalgia has to learn to live with it because medication mostly deals with only the symptoms.
I prefer to not use meds because I don’t like the side effects. And I’m grateful that my symptoms are not too intense that I have to rely on daily medication to function properly. Dropping the drugs has taught me to listen to my body more carefully. There’s always a sign when the pain is about to come: a twinge in the back, a hand that starts feeling heavy, a leg that becomes lazy. Then you brace yourself for the onslaught and try to distract yourself until the pain runs its course which, sometimes, takes days.
What always catches me off-guard, though, is the depression. It steals in at any time of the day, at any occasion. And it removes all logic. You tell yourself that there’s really no reason to feel down, but all words (even those said with the best of intentions) just bounce off a white wall; heard but unacknowledged. The grayness paints you into a corner and you’re too confused, too lost to crawl away even after the paint has chipped off.
And the thing to do, when that happens, is to wait for the sun to come out, because it always does. This is me waiting.