Stopping to enjoy a cup of homemade, vegan hot cocoa in this cute little vintage mug from the thrift store (hopefully there’s no lead paint 😳). Yesterday I spent most of the day recharging: I managed to meditate multiple times (yay!), I covered my head whenever I felt my brain going foggy or my stress levels rising, I read some in my new book (Tarot for the Healing Heart), and I watched Poirot on Netflix (my favorite!). Today I’m feeling the benefits of my day of rest and have managed to balance out productivity and pleasure. It feels good! I’m a far cry from where I was seven years ago when I first fell ill with fibromyalgia.
Seven years ago I was a second-semester Sophomore at a small Fundamentalist Baptist college, over a thousand miles away from home. A year before, I finished treatment for my acne with Accutane, a high-powered drug originally used as chemotherapy; it’s now banned in the USA. While on Accuraine I was required to take hormonal birth control. For almost two years I worked as a janitor on campus and constantly came into contact with strong chemicals. I was also involved in multiple highly stressful friendships at the time, in addition to the stress that is college life and the extreme stress of living in a cultish environment. I believe these things, on top of my (undiagnosed at the time) Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (which predisposes one to fibromyalgia), combined to make me sicker than I’d ever been before.
I thought I had done weird case of the flu, except it never went away. My joints felt like they were on fire and I suddenly had what felt like shin splints. I began having the most awful headaches and lived on Excedrin. I was constantly dizzy for a year straight and still have difficulty with my equilibrium. I began suffering terrible abdominal pain and irritable bowel syndrome. My hormones were out of whack and I developed insulin resistance.
Seven years later I’m greatly improved but not as “normal” as I was before. It took a year of tests and scans to receive the diagnosis offybromyalgia; it took three years to find out my underlying condition is Ehlers Danlos. Along the way I’ve developed intolerances to gluten and sulfurous foods (eggs, onion, garlic), highly-acidic foods, and developed an allergy to casein (the protein found in dairy products). I’ve also experienced pregnancy and an emergency cesarean section, followed by postpartum depression and subsequent treatment by antidepressants.
I’ve spent seven years figuring out what was “wrong” with me and how to “fix” it; my views now are so different from my views as a scared, ignorant Sophomore. This journey of living with chronic pain has truly taught me how to live, even if my life is not as easy as expected. The hours upon hours of research and study I’ve logged have taught me so much about my body, the modern state of humanity, and both the compassion and corruption that simultaneously exist amongst medical professionals. I’ve learned to think for myself and take NOTHING for granted. I’ve figured out my problems over and over again when the average doctor had no answers for me. I’ve tried many kinds of treatment and am still learning how to create a state of healing. So, what has worked for me?
1. Reducing stress as much as possible. Life seems bent on sending me stress, but I feel best when managing it through meditation and activities like walking, yoga, and dance.
2. Eating a solid diet. I focus on eating as free of chemicals, preservatives, additivites as possible. I also try to balance between a vegetarian diet and a traditional foods diet. The less sugar I eat the better, but I struggle with this area.
3. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants.
4. Use herbs to make nourishing teas and infusions. The more I study plant-based medicine the more I seek to use it to keep myself well.
5. Maintaining a steady treatment of an antidepressant. This has been surprisingly helpful and has allowed me to sleep better and be far more active than before. I currently have no plans to remove this treatment from my life, even though I would prefer not to be taking a prescription. I find this medication to be extremely helpful and value my state of health over the “purity” of using only all-natural treatments.
6. Covering my head. This is a tool I have only discovered within the last year and have been surprised at how helpful it is been for my fibro-fog. Securely wrapping up my head, thereby covering my crown chakra, has eased my anxiety, lifted headaches, and helped me maintain a general sense of calmness. Feeling balanced and calm is hugely important for someone with fibromyalgia because how you feel mentally/emotionally is so readily translated into pain, fatigue, and malaise.
7. Ditched hormonal birth control for a fertility awareness method of family planning. I’ve used hormonal birth control for two different periods of time in my life; never again! I felt terrible on the pill! Synthetic hormones = 👎 (thumbs down).
8. Remove emotional blockages through talk therapy, writing, and spiritual practice.
This is a brief overview of the last seven years and what has helped me survive those years. I plan to revisit this topic at a future date. Thanks for reading; I’d love to hear your stories and what has helped you find healing.