Recently I became unable to move by myself. I became over fatigued while trying to do a little bit of housework, so after hanging laundry I laid back on the side of the bed, with my legs hanging down. My legs and ankles are my worst trigger areas, and my claim for disability strongly rested on my need to have my legs elevated to reduce pain, on top of the fatigue. And I knew I was getting worse. I’ve known since about October that my symptoms have progressed. I couldn’t bring myself to believe how far until I tried to stand up and couldn’t even try to lift my leg without screaming.
Thankfully L was still home, instead of working, and came when I called. At first it seemed like an annoying “my hip locked up” kind of thing, but whenever we worked to get my legs to move, it was either a case of excruciating pain or inability to move. He got my left leg bent and close to my body, and then cleverly freed his hands by leaning his body into my leg to hold it in place. With one hand under my back and the other holding my right leg, he managed to turn me on my side. Poor guy probably still has ringing in his ears from my scream, but it was his clever manipulation that enabled me to then begin to move my leg. He did socket manipulation to make sure I didn’t have anything wrong in my hip itself, plus it helped loosen the tightness from the inflammation that was all ready flaring up. After some work, we were able to get both legs bent without assistance and got me into a mostly standing position.
For days I had a lot of pain, obviously when walking, but also trying to sit or lay, and found that I could actually sleep or focus on something like reading (instead of the pain), if I lay in the fetal position on my inflamed side. My whole thigh and connected muscles ached, but when my inner thigh and really low back got intense, we realized the pain wasn’t responding to my meds because it was mostly likely from my nerve. I was pissed off at myself for not thinking that such a simple thing as laying back for a moment to recuperate to take the laundry basket back to the laundry room could cause a problem, especially when I have my legs elevated at least 80% of the time, if not more. When L went to work was the worst though. That’s when the dark thoughts about what could I have done if it happened now, since I didn’t take my phone with me while just hanging laundry up. If I’d tried to slide off the bed, not only would that be quite a way down with the deeper mattress that we have, but I probably would have struck my head on the cabinet across from my side of the bed (it’s a narrow passage around our bed, since it’s a small room with a king bed lol). I finally faced that my body would have left me trapped in place, which turns out to be a huge fear. I’ve always found Alzheimer’s terrifying since working in a Neuro office, because these poor patients were trapped, and then auditing medical records and reading about patients who showed mental activity during neuro testing but were otherwise in a coma, unconsciously made my fear worse.
I’ve been afraid of my illness progressing until I’m on permanent bedrest for a while now, with the memories of what I’d seen and read behind one of those closed doors in my mind. (If you’re a new reader, I often compare life experiences and traumas as doors in a hallway in the brain. Things I don’t like to face or have trouble with are behind closed doors, and I’ve worked for the past two years to open and work through everything in each room I open. Apparently I have more closed doors than I had realized though.) There is another Spoonie that I follow on WP and have watched interviews of on documentaries and he has progressed to this, despite the fact that his body was in WAY better shape at onset than mine has ever been, and it makes me cry every time I read his posts or watch his decline in subsequent interviews. So I’ve known the likelihood of someday reaching that stage and have been afraid, but have worked hard at not acknowledging my progression or my fear. Every so often I’d break down privately and after watching one documentary with me L finally learned about my fear. We both set it in our minds to a later time to deal with, I think, although I am “death positive”, as mortician Caitlin Doughty from Ask a Mortician, calls it. (Btw, she is phenomenal and I highly recommend at least watching her interviews and her “Confronting Your Death” YouTube episode, and checking out Order of the Good Death.) Anyway, as a way of being positive and leading the best life I can while I can, I made a kind of bucket list of experiences I want to share with L and “my created family – biological and emotional”. I’ve worked hard, especially with the help of one of my best friends, to accept using my wheelchair the next time I go to an event, like when L and I went to Branson last Fall. Yet, somehow I shoved the reality of my symptoms worsening behind a door. While laying in bed recovering the door opened, though.
I’ve always acknowledged that Fibro has stages and some super lucky people even get to go into permanent remission of their symptoms. Nobody acknowledges that there are last stages though and I began to wonder why is this different from other diseases? Cancer is one condition that is openly labeled with stages, among others. Are doctors afraid to label Fibro stages because it’s an invisible disease or because it has unknown origins? Maybe because each person has their own journey and my “good” day could be a horrible day for another Fibro sufferer? I became angry that my doctors all emphasize that a person can get hit by a car and die any day, so live each day to whatever my fullest is without worrying about my progression, but none acknowledge that I was progressing to the next stage. I also got really mad at myself for closing my fear and knowledge that I had all ready progressed behind a door. I was mad that I hadn’t been strong enough to actually face it or even admit it to myself, let alone others (and believe me, this is a super hard admission to write about). My “episode” scared those close to me and I think we all had to admit that things are worse than I had been admitting or allowing others to see.
I don’t feel that it’s fair for my doctors to refuse to acknowledge that I’ve entered a new phase or that it’s terrifying to have progressed. It doesn’t feel fair to just say “I have Fibro along with the commonly associated conditions”, when saying “Stage 3” or something like that could emphasize to “normal people” that I have more needs and worse symptoms than others. They’re used to having the stage given as a measure for their compassion, willingness to assist, or even their concern. Why don’t we have the right to have recognition? Why do we always have to fight for every aspect of this often disabling chronic disease to be recognized and acknowledged?
So, I decided that I can be angry and still live the good life while acknowledging my progression. I’m going to get a bold haircut (for me), dye my hair a dramatic color (full on ruby, here I come!), and I’m going to try to at least get the outline of my half sleeve tattoo done; all hopefully soon. In the meantime I’m making plans for how to get assistance when I’m alone and don’t have my phone in the room when I have something happen. I’ve made my decisions for how I want my death and body to be handled. I’ve started making plans for the few items that are important to me to be passed along to those I care about (just a small tip: talk to those you want to inherit something. See if they actually want it. Too often we leave behind things that the recipient has no desire to receive, so if it means enough to you to leave that item as an inheritance, talk to them first). I’ve even started to give some of “my treasures” to the inheritors, because I don’t want to add to L’s responsibilities even more, especially knowing that further progression without dying means he will have to take on more of a caregiver role. In the meantime I’m still setting goals for my good enough days, when I can do a little or sit guiding someone, such as making more product and getting my small business going again. That’s one of my biggest goals for this year. A friend has agreed to be my business helper whenever it works for us both and actually looks forward to it, so I’ll get a small piece of “me” back. What I can do in my daily life is limited, but I have the power to make the most out of every minute of them, no matter how tired I am or how much I hurt.
We all have the chance to leave a legacy, even if it’s just a small one. Mine is a tiny voice to raise awareness about this disease and fight for equality for us Spoonies. Like they say in my teen favorite musical Newsies, “Bryan Denton:
Sometimes all it takes is a voice, one voice that becomes a hundred, then a thousand, unless it’s silenced.” Mine is one of the voices joining the others to help get Fibromyalgia fully accepted and to get the needed research to help others. I may absolutely hate admitting how sick I’ve gotten, especially outside of my very small circle of people that I’m honest about it with, but I can be thankful that I have a way to be one of those voices; to be part of the change.