Due to my mental health causing me so many problems since I was a teenager, I have mostly ignored my physical health as it didn’t seem like a priority. Over the last couple of years however, I have began to try and deal with my physical symptoms too. Since my mental health difficulties started I have also had problems with fatigue, headaches, pains and aches, and many other symptoms, but I always just thought all this would go away when my mental health began to settle too. Instead, my physical symptoms started to become more of a problem. The first GP I spoke to about this diagnosed me with Fibromyalgia because the rest of my blood tests came back clear and at first this diagnosis was a relief, to finally get an answer for the physical symptoms which were having such an impact on my life but that I had been completely neglecting.
The more I read about Fibromyalgia, the more I realised so little is known about it and it includes so many different symptoms. I wasn’t offered any support or treatment after my diagnosis, and was instead just told to go and do some exercise. The more I read and thought about the words ‘chronic illness’, the harder I found the diagnosis to accept. I have spent so long thinking of all the things I would do when or if my mental health ever improved, that I never thought I would then have a physical chronic illness to deal with too. From what I have read about trauma and the impact it can have on the body, it makes complete sense as to why I would also have Fibromyalgia. But making sense of it doesn’t make it any easier to accept.
A few months ago I saw a second doctor who, after more blood tests came back clear, also said it was Fibromyalgia. Yesterday, a Rheumatologist said the same. I think it might be time to accept the diagnosis, as difficult as that is. The problem is the lack of treatment or support options. I have been given more options for medications, referred for physiotherapy which has a 5 month waiting list, and again told to go and do some exercise. Accepting the diagnosis is one thing but how do I move forwards? I have realised that managing the symptoms in the best way I can is all I can do, but finding ways to do that is not as easy as it sounds.
I sometimes feel so hopeless when thinking about my physical health. The fatigue means I barely have the energy to go to university for a few days a week, never mind trying to look after my flat and eat as healthily as I can. My social life doesn’t exist and isolation has always been a problem due to both my mental health and physical health. The pains, headaches, stomach problems and other symptoms control what I am able to do in a day and how much rest I’m going to need afterwards. If I do too much I’ll crash and I have to constantly plan to prevent this or to make time for it if it does happen. This isn’t me ‘feeling sorry for myself’ or being down on myself, or even complaining. I’m just trying to give an accurate picture of the impact it has on my life.
Acceptance helps. It has helped with my mental health and will help with this too. Accepting the diagnosis, the symptoms, my reality of what I am able to do right now and in my future. I might not be able to do all of the things I dreamed I would be able to do one day. My mental health was probably never going to allow that anyway, but I can adapt my plans and I can do other things. I might not be able to live the life other people my age can, but I can take my own path and live in the best way that is possible for me.
The idea that ‘you can do anything you want if you believe you can’ is a load of crap. Not everyone can do anything they want, and no amount of believing myself into being able to do certain things is going to change that. But I’m okay with that. I’m okay with accepting the things I can do and making the most of them. I’m okay with not constantly striving to be someone I can’t be, and instead being happy with who I am. I’m okay with being me with all my mental and physical illness I carry along with me, or at least I am getting there.