I was in constant pain. A body-wide, life-long list of symptoms. I struggled to move. I didn't sleep well. The pain affected my mental health. I felt like a hypochondriac, always something wrong but no real explanation of why. I lived in a deep depression for nearly 20 years with no hope of ever feeling better. I hated the world, myself, everything.
But I learned to heal, and now feel better than I ever have before.
Please note, my 'fibro' diagnosis is both self-diagnosed and retrospective. I was too young to voice my pain when it started but I had the early signs of fibromyalgia by the time I started school.
I had no pain-free time to compare to and grew up thinking that many of my symptoms were just a part of normal life, after all I saw a lot grown-ups with aches and pains so why should I be any different?
From the sudden itches, gnawing and biting sensations. The jolts of electricity and random shocks shooting through my limbs. The pins and needles. The intense spasms, stabbing pains and weird sensations that came and went from head to fingers to toes.
The stiff legs after I had been sitting for a while. The aching limbs that fatigued quickly. The muscle cramps and 'stitches' in my sides when I ran or swam. These were all just a part of daily life to me. Everything I did always hurt. I didn't know any different.
The plantar fasciitis was a curiosity to me as a child - observing as my foot would spasm - how long could I bear the pain before I had to move? Which toe would be pulled in what direction this time?
I suffered from shin splints, tight knots in my calf muscles, pulled hamstrings and popping sensations in my thighs. There was a wide range of pains in my knees, hips and pelvic region. Every step was sore by the time I was 8. X-rays of my knees showed a problem with the cartilage and I was told I should rest and take ibuprofen when it was bad. My diagnosis of chondromalacia patellae written on a piece of paper by the orthopaedic consultant did make me feel special.
My back pain was classified as chronic by age 14. Sitting, standing, moving, lying in bed trying to sleep - there was always pain. The pain moved around, from sacro-iliac joints, gluteal muscles, lumbar and mid-spinal regions. More X-rays and more ibuprofen. The tablets didn't touch the pain and I pretty much gave up on doctors at that point (thankfully I was not in the time or place where opiods were commonly prescribed). My osteopath told me I'd be in a wheelchair by the time I was 40 (a terrible thing to tell a child).
There were burning sensations in my upper back and shoulders. The stiff neck, waking up and being unable to move my head without feeling like it was going to explode. The tension headaches, sore teeth and crunching jaw. The twitching muscles around my eyes, tinnitus and ear pain.
I never slept well, with restless legs, recurring dreams and nightmares. Waking up trying to scream but I was unable to - I felt trapped, paralysed. The constant feeling of exhaustion. I thought I was unfit but anything I tried to improve my fitness just made me more tired and sore.
The abdominal pains worsened over the years. From pulsing sensations to cramps and symptoms classified as irritable bowel syndrome. I would be scared to eat, knowing it would trigger the pain but I also had a compulsion to comfort/stress eat, almost like I was punishing myself. The right upper quadrant pain was the worst, leaving me doubled up in agony every evening for years. I did seek medical help - I had scans and was offered surgery to remove my gall-bladder but I wasn't convinced it would help so I never had the operation. 5mg of codiene would allievate the pain but I was careful not to take it too often.
Then there was the costochondritis, sore ribs and chest palpitations. I thought there was a problem with my heart, feeling it racing and about to jump out of my chest (usually in the evenings when I was resting) but I was too depressed see a doctor. The thought of having a heart attack and dying seemed a good way to escape the pain.
Name a body part, name a pain - I had about every combination going.
At some point I started to struggle to believe all the pain was real, that I was not faking it (for attention? I tried not to be sympathy seeking) or imagining it somehow. Life couldn't really be this painful, could it? I doubted myself - was it all in my head? Was I a hypochondriac?
I was in a deep depression by the age of 21. The overwhelming feelings of failure and despair constantly with me. My mind ever-active, so many thoughts, so many worst-case scenarios. I felt continually stressed, a bundle of tension. Always trying to plan, wanting to do so many things but never managing much which gave me more reasons to berate myself. I found no joy in anything, had no hope for the future. A deep sadness was always there, with the stress and anger bubbling away. I felt responsible, and blamed myself, for everything. Suicide was daily thought. I just wanted it all to stop. I thought about trying anti-depressants but my gut said I would be in the cohort of increased risk of suicide and I guess I didn't really want to die.
I did not use my body correctly.
I was not using the right muscles. Other muscles tried to take the strain which resulted in wide-spread myalgia.
My posture (the positioning of my body) was bad, causing stresses to be poorly distributed.
The damage my body experienced stayed with me - a progression of pain and 'stored trauma' over the years. I absorbed trauma rather than recovering. The body is very adaptable adjusting to avoid painful positions but imbalance leads to further imbalance.
My body became increasingly tense, imbalanced and misaligned as my connective tissues stiffened, restricting my range of movement and generating a lot of pain and weird sensation from head to fingers to toes.
Layer upon layer of physical restrictions, bracing me and holding me rigid, like a scaffold. Zig-zagging from left to right, inside to out, front to back.
Chains of tension - twisting and and kinking, compressing and tensing, the whole length of my body as it tried to remain 'upright'. I didn't appreciate how much movement I was missing until I started to regain it. My shoulders had been 'frozen' since I was a toddler (I spent time in hospital when I was about 10 months old with scalding to my upper back and shoulders). I'd never trusted my arms, never been able to do a cartwheel or play on the monkey-bars. I had no idea what it felt like to be able to spread my arms wide and free.
I kept on going, adding more damage to my body. I played sports, rode (and fell off) horses, worked hard at the local stables, being tough and bearing the pain because I didn't want to appear weak. I made it though university to fufill my dream of becoming a veterinary surgeon which was a very physical job, from lifting large dogs and horses feet. Wrestling with cows and operating in awkwards positions. I didn't make things easy for myself.
I had no internal reference for body alignment, no guide to re-set back to Base-Line healthy after trauma and inflammation.
I learned to heal by working with the main muscles of movement, slowly releasing the physical restrictions and associated pain, regaining a full range natural of movement and working towards a better posture, physical alignment and a balanced body I now feel better than I ever have done before.
The way my depression lifted as I stood up from a roll-down convinced me it had been due to a physical cause. It was that dramatic a change. It wasn't "my" fault, it wasn't "me" that was broken - it was my body. I was physically wrecked. It was all the pain that had caused my depresssion.
A lot of hard work, pain and tears followed over the next 4 years, but from that day I had hope, I knew I could get better.
As I recovered I had to relive all the painful symptoms I'd had over the decades - releasing the physical tensions, slowly unravelling the physical mess that I was in, I experienced pains everywhere - shifting around and around. Serving as brief reminders of all the symptoms I've had over the years, and then they were gone - cured.
It's not easy living with constant pain. The pains and weird sensations, unexplained and doubted. It's nice to have that recognized by someone else, but the self-acknowledgment of my pain, of how real it was, how tough I'd actually been to keep going for so long, was a big part of healing for me. At first reducing my self-loathing about my behaviour, and that I wasn't to blame. The part of emotional releasing
As I and associated pains I had been carrying around. Working through the trauma as I regained my natural range of movement.
I could feel how the pains were never quite in the same place as my body threads were detangled. Whether it was the bands of tension over my skull or the pains in my knee, I experienced my pain almost in reverse and at a much faster rate - a year of pain in a couple of weeks.
Through my recovery I've experienced a lot of pain all over my body, reliving all my symptoms. releasing stored pain - reliving it. re-awakening pain sensations. more soreness/stiffness the next day.
10months in - It's hard, well it's sore and a lot of crying, but I still feel so much better it's OK. feeling a bit sorry for myself, lack of recognition of my suffering for all these years, melodramatic or just honest? still hard to accept/admit. self consciousness/not wanting to be thought of as making it up.
Everything starts from finding your Base-Line, the body's core pillar of strength and the key to connecting body and mind so that you can feel how to heal yourself.
© Copyright Leigh Blyth BVM&S 2017-2020