Unpopular opinion time: Which is better?

I don’t know why this is an unpopular opinion, but it is:

I feel blessed to live in a country where I can obtain so many accomodations to offset the effects of my disease.

If I were in many other places, or a third world country, I would have died within a few months of getting sick; there would have been no chance for me. Obviously that wasn’t the journey I was meant to take, would not have given me the lessons I was meant to learn, so here I am.

Things are not perfect, but it is a wonderful thing that we do have support systems in place for people in my situation, regardless of how many politicians call us malingerers or how many bitter people try to loop everyone on social security/welfare into one big “something for nothing” group.

All these things–social security, medications, things like laptops that help us connect to others in a housebound state, and things like wheelchairs and adjustable beds and home IV therapy–give us a chance at life that many before us never had.

This thinking I’m doing comes from a frame of mind that doesn’t expect other people to owe us anything. It comes from pondering Buddhist philosophies which simply seek to be realistic, accept What Is, and not live life in a constant state of wanting. It comes from thinking that we are worthy of love and joy and peace simply because we exist, but that suffering also exists– as a fact and not a punishment.

Yes I am upset at the discrimination of the now-infamous “47%”; yes I think it’s our responsibility as human beings to try and care for one another and get help to those who need it; yes I think it’s our responsibility to speak out against injustice, when we have so many means to help people, and those in places of power are not cooperating.

I’m not suggesting we simply turn up our noses, say “it is what it is” and not try to change it. But while you’re waiting for things to change, you have to accept the way things currently are; you have to realize what you have, and realize how blessed/fortunate you are to even have that. If you have something that the majority of the world does not, you are blessed.

You have to realize how amazing it is that you have methods to help manage your illness; medicine to help ease your pain; things like soft beds to lie in; the right food to eat when so many of us have allergies and intolerances, a place to live that has temperature control when most of us have dysautonomia. Many in developed countries, I think, forget that the majority of the world does not have these things to the exceeding surplus that we do.

I can’t forget that if I were somewhere else without these accomodations, I would perish.

Of course it is disappointing when there exists external items to help you even further, that are created for the purpose of helping–like money, certain foods, certain medical treatments–and for whatever reason, you don’t have access to them.

All the time, I see people with myalgic encephalomyelitis with no hope of getting better because research for our disease is not being funded (though the FDA did recently vow to find medications to treat both CFS and M.E.–not “ME/CFS,” but both seperate, distinct conditions). I see people with Lyme disease and its related infections trying to raise funds for their own treatment and cure which DOES exist, but because our government does not currently believe in our illness, getting access to it is sometimes impossible. I see people who are disabled and, due to the system we’ve created, should be able to receive benefits to live on, but are not getting them. Things are not perfect.

But what about what you do have? What about the things that help you face the day, without which you’d have been gone long ago?

Sometimes when I am in those situations–lacking things that I “should” have, but do not–I try to find gratitude for those that do have them. I try to be happy for those whose test results and various means of funding enabled them to get PICC lines and ports and hyperbaric oxygen therapy; somewhere there is a person who cannot get any antibiotics, who wishes they had the medication I do. Somewhere out there is a person who wishes they had a doctor who believed them; adequate pain management; funding to get accomodations for daily living; friends who were there for them; family who supported them.

I’m still going to be extremely disgruntled when my head feels like it’d be better off removed.

I’m still going to feel like crying when I hear another child with M.E. has been forced into asylym because their doctors do not understand what they’re doing.

I’m still going to be bothered by the fact that I will never be able to get IV antibiotics with my test results, just because my immune system is too poor to make the tests show my positive antibiodies.

Again, I am not saying we are to be emotionless zombies without a reaction to anything. I don’t want to type this and make it seem like I live in another world where nothing bothers me. I am trying my best to improve my state of being through whatever means available, just like the next person, even if often my body cannot cooperate yet.

I just find it better to guide our thoughts into being thankful, instead of dedicating so much of our time and energy to things we do not possess; self-compassion is better than self-pity. I find it better to realize that having anything to help us through disease is a miracle, because we are not, in fact, entitled, but blessed that we got sick in a place where anything at all could be done for us.

I just find it better to live in gratitude.

 

a rainbow at night

(Postscript: I was honestly scared to post this. I feel like, if absorbed in the wrong way, it will seem like I’m saying, “You’re lucky to get what you get, so shut up,” and that is not my intention. I know I’m not entirely responsible for how people perceive my writing, but I do hope I’ve framed it enough in the way of, “You are lucky to get what you get, and I think it’s best to focus on that while you try to get whatever else you need.”)

Asthma, reflections on having PANDAS, and mycoplasma.

First off, I have to say I was shocked at the response I got on my last blog entry. I halfway expected people to yell at me for saying it, but I’m glad everyone connected with it so much!

As for me, I had no idea it’d already been two weeks since I last posted. I have been more social than ever (online), and also more fatigued than ever. Because of this (and my arms, of course) I’ve had to choose my activities wisely, and pick one main thing to do per day.

 

The most important thing to report this time is that my random cough continued to be persistent and began to worsen, so I saw my primary physician who says I now have asthma. (Well, asthmatic bronchitis–two in one, aren’t I lucky!) If I were to assume this to be infection and/or herxing related, I would say this:

Since I’m fighting Mycoplasma pneumoniae, a bacterium that usually causes pneumonia (but also loves to attack your nervous system), my best guess is that treating this beast has caused a lot of die-off in my lungs, where it’s most likely been hiding out, at least partially. And said die-off may be causing the inflammation that’s triggering this asthmatic response… I mean, it can’t be any coincidence that as soon as I start trying to kill the pathogen that has caused lung problems for me in the past, I get inflammation in my lungs, right?

If that’s not it, then I have genetics to thank. But I’m going to go with “will hopefully go away as I treat Mycoplasma” until it proves itself otherwise. At least I’m not having any trouble breathing. I just have this cough, which, after three days on Dulera (which is literally just my Nasonex in an inhalable form…mixed with formoterol), I’m much, much better. :)

 

Also, I’m convinced I had PANDAS as a child. It stands for “pediatric autoimmune illness associated with streptococci,” and is basically what it sounds like: An autoimmune response to a streptococcal infection that causes damage to the brain, primarily resulting in obsessive-compulsive disorder and tic-disorders. In the “My Story” section I ponder over whether or not something triggered my childhood disorders of OCD and Tourette’s Syndrome, whether it could have been a brush with tick-borne infection, or something similar. But this makes too much sense…

  • My immunodeficiency making me extremely susceptible to infections (especially Strep),
  • a history of autoimmune responses to things (like vaccinations),
  • the fact that my OCD and Tourette’s were acute-onset…

With that lovely combination of factors, I was practically a walking target to get M.E. in the future, wasn’t I? :\

People with a history of PANDAS are supposed to stay on prophylactic antibiotics until age 21… Why? To prevent additional episodes of this infection-triggered disorder that could lead to further brain damage. Now I wonder, if my doctors had known about that… If I had been on prophylactic antibiotics until age 21, and that had prevented the two years of slaughter my immune system went through, contracting every infection that passed my way after I got that Hepatitis B inoculation, if the bug that triggered my M.E. would have still triggered it, or maybe I wouldn’t have gotten it… It doesn’t quite matter, at this point. But. It’s interesting. Like another piece of my puzzle…

 

On that note, I have to state the obvious, that Mycoplasma and Strep are very similar in this respect: They usually cause upper respiratory infection, but in the immunocompromised, they can wreak havoc everywhere, especially the nervous system. You know what happened to me when I got both Bartonella and Mycoplasma a month apart from each other in 2008? My Tourette’s syndrome and stuttering flared up so bad I could barely talk to people; I also got extremely paranoid, showing clear neuropsychiatric involvement. Additionally, that’s when my movement disorder began worsening. I had the beginning signs of the dystonia since getting Lyme disease (even though I didn’t know I’d gotten Lyme, yet), but after those two infections, things progressed very quickly. (The Tourette’s and stuttering eventually died back down, though they love to pop up at random, especially when I’m under stress.)

Treating Bartonella helped it A LOT…a lot a lot. But the thing is, the antibiotics that treat Bartonella are the same antibiotics that treat Mycoplasma (or at least the ones I was on, except for Bactrim), so I have no idea of knowing which infection is responsible for it. It’s not gone yet (as evidenced by my oromandibular dystonia showing itself more lately), but the worst parts of it stopped progressing after a year on Rifampin (with other antibiotics). That would suggest to me that the Mycoplasma may have been the trigger, while Bartonella aggravated it because it agitates the nervous system so very much.

This is one of the reasons I can’t type up a post explaining my Bartonella experience and treatment: Because even though I can pinpoint a lot of which symptoms were caused by Bartonella–especially the ones that recurred every 5-7 days–I have absolutely no way of knowing exactly which infection caused what, specifically in regards to my dystonia and other related movement disorders. Because I got those infections a month apart from each other, and I treated them both at the same time. I can type about my theories, but I can’t put a bunch of information out there that people are going to read, without being sure. All I have are correlations, and patterns, which I happen to have a talent at spotting.

Two years ago I hypothesized that Mycoplasma (which I easily tested positive for on the first try, unlike the others which I had to coax out with speciality labs) was going to play a much larger role in my health issues than I had at first assumed… I had no idea how right that would be.

If anyone has any experience or information they want to share with me about PANDAS, suspected PANDAS, or similar things triggering OCD and Tourette’s Syndrome, feel free to comment or contact me.

a rainbow at night

“Pay attention to me, pay attention to how I got this, and how hard it is for me to get my health back, so you can avoid it.”

I was going to make a more drawn-out post explaining why I’m not participating in any of the awareness campaigns of May concerning my illnesses…but then I came upon the realization that I don’t owe anyone justification for my actions! Or wise inactions, as they were.

And I am comforted by the knowledge that many other people with these conditions are feeling the same way I am: For those who can advocate–and I do it at random, it does have its purpose, particularly in our government to let them know we’re still here–that is fine. If it gives you purpose and belonging, then do it. For others like myself, my entire life is an advocacy campaign. I don’t need a month. Or a day. I get 365 days, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, of “this is what this disease does.”

Pay attention to me, pay attention to how I got this, and how hard it is for me to get my health back, so you can avoid it. Know that I was just like you, once. Know that I didn’t think it could’ve happened to me, either. That’s the biggest advocacy I can do.

Talking about Lyme or M.E. every second of every day for a month (and nothing coming of it, because people who have their minds made up are NOT willing to hear anything else) is not going to help me at all. I am not my disease. I am not Lyme disease, or mycoplasma, or myalgic encephalomyelitis, or autonomic neuropathy, or dystonia.

They’re just things that have passed into my life to help shape and change it into something else. That’s all.

I’ve spent the past decade in advocacy-mode. I’ve done my part, I think. In my absence there will be others. I personally think people learn more if you’re not yelling at them in desperation. I’ve been blessed to help several people find out they had Lyme, for example, and it had nothing to do with advocacy. You can’t force the information on anyone–if they want to know, they will seek. And if they’re interested, I am here.

So instead of advocacy, myself and several, several others I know, are focusing on what makes us feel normal. Sure, our every waking moment may be imposed upon by symptoms and dysfunction, but that is not all we are. No matter how sick I’ve ever gotten, nor how sick I will ever be, there’s always more to me than an illness. This blog is my health diary, yes, that is the POINT of this journal, to track my symptoms and such, but I don’t want anyone to get the idea that it’s all that I am. I have friends and family and pets and hobbies and interests (often obscure ones) just like anyone else. And I am an artist. Not because the title makes me feel important, but because at my core, that’s how I express myself, it’s who I become when my physical limitations allow.

“Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it. Autograph your work with excellence.”

So yes, no posts about my conditions (though I did finish the “What is M.E.?” section a while back). It’s time to cultivate the parts of my life that inspire and enhance, what makes me feel human and normal, not advertise what makes my life a living hell for the other 90% of the day, mostly to people who already know what I go through, anyway. And I’m glad I’m not alone in thinking this.

I’ll leave you with this link: 60 Ways To Make Life Simple Again

a rainbow at night

Thoughts on Emily Collingridge, and being judged for our disabilities.

These two topics complement each other in an unexpected way.

First, the recent death of fellow M.E. sufferer Emily Collingridge has shaken me. And I’m ready to be honest about why. Usually I would skip this part and post the conclusion of my thoughts, but it’d probably be therapeutic for myself and for those reading (whoever you are) to read a different part of the process.

There are many friends I have with M.E. (or, what is supposedly M.E.) that have never known the level of sick that even I have, much less something like what Emily endured in her final years. And that’s good, really! But it’s scary to think that this could be me, because of my susceptibility to this level of sickness. (And goodness knows not anytime soon, because she had the illness twenty-four years and I’m just at ten, but…) It’s not even the death itself, but the way it happens.

Most illnesses so severe will take you out quicker than this. There aren’t many that drag on and on in such a way… In 1995, as Professor Mark Loveless served as Medical Director of HIV/AIDS Programs at Oregon Health Sciences University, he said in his Congressional Briefing that someone with M.E. “feels effectively the same every day as an AIDS patient feels two weeks before death; the only difference is that the symptoms can go on for never-ending decades.” It broke my heart to hear of her suffering so much, for so long, and, just like Sophia, knowing that if she got hospitalized it’d be the worst thing to happen… Then sure enough…

I don’t want that. I want to be home, wherever that might be by the time I’m at that stage in my life. Who knows, maybe they’ll have hospice options for people like us in the future?

My friends say that even when they were at their absolute sickest with Lyme, they could still listen to music softly or watch television with sunglasses on, and they can’t imagine being that ill and suffering that much, not being able to do anything whatsoever. I can’t imagine it, either. I was only like that for a short amount of time, my symptoms being exacerbated by the trauma of those additional infections, and it just sucks all the happiness out of you (being unable to listen to music, in my case, was particularly difficult). It’s so hard to hear of someone enduring that for so long, to be on morphine from so much pain, and to not make it through… Had she not the illness for twenty-four years, she likely would have been able to bounce back to a less-afflicted state of sickness as she previously had, as many do, going in and out of the severity levels. Yes, she was young, but it is still a quarter-century’s worth of disease affecting her body even as it was still forming.

When you get it young, like Emily did, like I did (though certainly not as young as six years old), you usually do experience a remission (most, at around four years after the onset) and a lot of people stabilize after that. Most stabilize after that, actually, into a moderate or mild affliction. It’s just this 30% that get it really, really bad, and it continues to progress over time; almost all the deaths occur from this group. Some never remit, but for the others, something usually triggers it again after the remission or semi-remission, but that could be anything from a year later to a decade later (like a cancer might stay gone for long lengths of time, or come back within months).

I started this blog with severe M.E., my condition having been worsened by secondary infections, and I was very privileged a couple of months ago to remove the “severe” classification from my blog description, “Chronicling a very special way of life, that of someone living with M.E.,” instead of “severe M.E.” Even when I look outside, I can’t help but be reminded of the people who can’t… I remember a year ago, just wanting to be able to brush my teeth whilst standing up. And I have a chance to get better, still. I’ll be in the moderate group, if I can beat the Lyme disease into submission, and that would be good. (Well, not good, but, given my options…)

I never knew Emily personally, though I was a big fan of her her book for sufferers of severe myalgic encephalomyelitis, and linked to it here several times. It is an indispensable aid to those forced to navigate these unstable waters, one that could have only come from someone who knew its unpredictability and cruelty first hand.

It’s really not often I have to think of the M.E. anymore, because the things I do to keep it in check are just.. routine, after all this time. Really, fighting the Lyme disease is my focus and takes up most of my energy. I suppose that’s why being brought back to the reality that even once I get the Lyme subdued, that I’ll still have this terrible disease, has startled me so.

My niece, who I live with, has been sick with a viral-induced cough, and I’ve been thinking, at least it’s not like the flu (which would hospitalize me) so it wouldn’t be that serious if I did accidentally catch it… But then I remembered that it was a viral ear infection that ultimately made my M.E. relapse five years ago. And again, Sophia Mirza, too, was striken into irreversible relapse by an ear infection. So there really is no such thing as a “better” virus when you have ME. Just the thought that if I were to catch something so miniscule…

It was a lot of triggers at once.

 

And it came at a particularly awkward time, after reading an article about a woman with muscular dystrophy who paints:

“With her condition, most people would just be vegetating, watching TV, enjoying checks from the state. But she does a lot of work. She stays strong.”

I was furious at this.

It’s just more proof that you’re only allowed to be disabled and worth something at the same time, if you still do things. If you can’t, if you’re really, really sick, then you’re just “vegetating and watching tv and enjoy checks from the state.” Nevermind that we need those “checks from the state” to survive, or that watching tv might be the only relief we have from the every day, nonstop suffering…

People don’t want to hear of the severely disabled. They only want to hear of people who are disabled and yet still do things. They don’t want to hear of people who are bedbound to the point of being unable to do anything at all but exist, like so many people I know, and the person I have been (and will be again, one day). People like Emily, when she became too ill to even eat on her own.

Finding that article all started because I was wondering if there was any way I could still do art with the M.E. besides just taking a very long time to complete things. So I googled muscular dystrophy, which, with its similar progressive muscle weakness, was the closest thing I could think of to M.E. that might have more information out there about how to manage it while being an artist.

Then I find an article whose interviewer says that if I can’t do it, I’m just lazy and not strong enough in character!

It was infuriating, and the reason I wrote my “Media and Resilience” rant a long time ago. I really don’t take it as a compliment anymore when people say I’m “so strong” because I’m still doing something

Because what, when my M.E. gets to the point that I can only lie there and breathe, then I don’t matter anymore?

It’s just horrible being reminded that there are people out there who would look at you and think you, as a disabled human being, are inferior, weak, and lazy, for the sole reason of you existing without also inspiring them.

As fellow blogger and severe M.E. sufferer Laurel stated, Emily embodied “strength, spirit and determination — all of which she continued to demonstrate to the very end,” and which was not determined by how much she did.

She did do a lot when she was physically able, even though it took so much out of her. She thought her causes important enough to spend her very valuable resources on them, but when she became unable to continuing doing in her last years, that did not, and does not, make her any less strong or determined.

Lastly, I would ask you to take the time to read Emily’s Appeal, which she wrote over the course of several weeks while she was still able. Additionally, Emily’s story, from her own words, can be found here.

I’ve no idea what kind of conclusion statement would be appropriate for such an entry… Most of this post is a combination of things I’ve written in other places over the past week, that I edited to make into a blog post. So that so much needless sickness no longer occur, I hope that things change for us in the near future.

Somehow.

a rainbow at night

Remission from Fibromyalgia?

I don’t talk much about Fibromyalgia (FM) because it’s been so many years since I had it. A topic I read about even less, is the remission from this syndrome. But I still remember what it felt like and what it entailed, particularly before its supposed symptoms got muddied by research done on people who have innumerable other conditions, or co-morbid conditions.

I suppose I’ll start with an explaination of what is it/how it feels. Then I’ll explain what I did to help my own case, that eventually led to a remission.


Fibromyalgia is a a pain syndrome that is usually triggered by a stressful event, such as a car crash, surgery, accident, severe infection, or another illness worsening/starting; more or less, it’s the consequence of something else. The pain is primarily in the muscles, and the tendons that support the joints, lending to severe pain and joint stiffness, but without inflammation. The syndrome does not actually damage the joints or muscles–it just feels like it! There is an extreme sensitivity to pressure (allodynia). Things that would normally not hurt, such as getting a gentle hug, become extremely and lingeringly painful. The pain never stops, and is absolutely everywhere, all the time, but may focus more around the tender point locations necessary for diagnosis. Someone with FM will be hurting when they are sitting, standing, and lying down. Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) is very common, and a major contributor to headaches.

Sleep problems include an inability to fall asleep, but particularly staying asleep. Someone with FM may wake up every hour, all night long, without anything to help cure the root of the problem, which is the brain’s inability to conduct normal sleep waves. FM is thus also accompanied by a great degree of fatigue, that may or may not be managable. Cognitive problems are multiple and very prominent, including things like an almost complete lack of short term memory, working memory, any ability to recall the names of every day items, and silly things like placing the television remote in the freezer and the frozen peas on top the entertainment center. (Or pouring your milk in the trash and the tea down the sink… I may or may not be speaking from personal experience…)

Other symptoms include tingling and numbness of the extremities (your arms and legs), muscle spasms, cold sensitivity (someone with FM can always tell when the weather is about to change), and a high rate of restless legs syndrome. Stress is not the cause of fibromyalgia, but stress exacerbates any chronic disease, so proper management of stress is essential to keeping your pain, fatigue, and sleep problems as mild as possible.

Fibromyalgia is not an inflammatory disease. It is also not a progressive disease, though symptoms wax and wane over the course of several months, and can be disabling. If you are experiencing inflammation and/or illness progression, see another doctor for other illness possibilities besides fibromyalgia, which may only be a symptom of another, more serious disease process or underlying infection.


We know Fibromyalgia can disappear when it is associated with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. But what about otherwise? Does treating the main disease causing the FM, make the FM go away? That certain wasn’t the case when I fell ill; my FM stayed when the M.E. went into remission, and went away after I got Lyme disease! What makes this even more difficult to determine, is its consistent over-diagnosis. For instance, there are probably thousands of people who have been diagnosed with FM who actually have M.E., who just had the unfortunate circumstance of being diagnosed with FM first, and just stopped looking for other explanations. And nearly everyone I know with Lyme disease initially had a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Fibromyalgia (or both) before they found out the actual cause of their symptoms; I wish I were only exaggerating!

I’m not sure where I fit in with that group. Things happened to me in the reverse order that would otherwise “make sense.” But I will write about that next, in a post describing the differences between CFS, M.E., FM, and Lyme disease.

For right now, I want to talk a little about how I treated the syndrome, in case that might be of help to others. I don’t claim these to be the cure–I think it most likely remitted of its own natural accord–but they did help me immensely, and I could always, always tell when I was forgetting one of them. Maybe someone else will also find relief?

  1. Magnesium.

    You’ve probably read about this all over the internet, right? Sure you have. Well, it’s not just hype. I’m not going to pretend to know the mechanics behind why it helped, but daily supplementation with magnesium not only reduced my Migraine attacks (a condition I was born with) from twice a month to twice a year, but greatly reduced my muscle pain. I’ve read many an article overanalyzing the right “type” of magnesium to take for Fibromyalgia, but I can only tell you this: I bought the plain ole Magnesium oxide with chelated Zinc from Walmart and it worked without fail. One important thing to note before you dismiss this one: I’ve always had normal serum magnesium in blood tests. The amount in your blood is not an accurate way to determine the actual amount of magnesium in your body.

  2. Foam mattress topper

    This might should actually be number one… It’s that important. You have to understand that fibromyalgia is made worse by contact (in general, really, but especially) with the pressure points…which, if you’ve been diagnosed, you might know are practically everywhere. It should then be easy to grasp why relieving this pressure whilst sleeping is absolutely essential to easing your symptoms, especially when you’re pressing on them for eight hours at once. Invest in this, no matter what. You will not regret it. I couldn’t sleep on something that didn’t have my two inches of bed foam for even one night. When I would try to visit friends and family and sleep there, I would wake up after a couple of hours in excrutiating pain, from the pressure on these tender points. Sleeping better will also help your cognitive abilities (memory and mental functions) improve.

    • Also, for TMJ-related pain and/or head pressure, invest in an amazing pillow. You deserve it, and you need it! It’s all about support and relieving pressure on a body that interprets pressure as pain. I’ve personally been using Simmons Latex Foam Pillow (I cannot stand memory foam) and mine lasted 7 years before needing replacement–you will get your money’s worth!
  3. Protein.

    You know what honestly made me start increasing my amount of protein? It was back in the day when Montel Williams still had Sylvia Browne (a world reknown psychic) on his show on Wednesdays. Every time someone mentioned having fibromyalgia (which was largely unheard of back then), she’d tell them to eat more protein (and less sugar). I figured, it couldn’t hurt me one bit to try it, so I did. And I’ve been doing it ever since. (I’m not vouching for her abilities or inabilities one way or the other, but that information helped me. I now also know that people with infections requires 50% more protein in their diet than those without, so that’s another reason for me to continue.) I made a pact with myself to get an adequate source of protein every single day for two weeks to see if it made a difference. Obviously, it did! For me, it was chicken, and luckily there are hundreds of ways to prepare it so I didn’t get bored. For vegetarians it might be soy, or something similarly protein-rich that contains all essential amino acids, but I noticed I had more energy and was not as weak. I highly recommend you try the same test.

    • We all know too much sugar is bad for us. I switched to honey instead of sugar in my coffee, and cut down on my intake of white-flour, empty-calorie foods (which admittedly wasn’t very difficult since I didn’t eat a lot of that stuff to begin with). Honey is structurally different than sugar, containing mostly fructose and glucose (instead of sucrose), so your body can use more of its properties for energy instead of donating it to your fat reserves. =)
  4. Aloe vera.

    If I had a dime for every person who told me “thank you” for telling them about this one! Fibromyalgia is, without fail, associated with some degree of irritable bowel syndrome; if ever a case existed without IBS, I’ve never heard of it. This stuff will help if your digestion is too slow or too fast (and most IBS sufferers cycle in-and-out throughout, sometimes, even the same day). I’ve had people tell me they’ve even been able to start eating foods they previously couldn’t touch! Hopefully, if you try this, you’ll have the same reaction?

    Puritan’s Pride recently changed their aloe vera gel capsules, and I’ve noticed that even though the strength hasn’t changed, I now need two of these daily to give me the same effect as one of their old-model capsules. :\ But I’ve been taking one (well now, two) a day for at least eight years. It has many other health benefits, but mostly, it’s to protect the intestinal tract and help keep things from acting out, whether one extreme or the other. Note that it’s very important to consume the inner aloe vera leaf gel, not just the ground leaf, like you may also find if you’re searching for an aloe vera product. People have also told me they get relief from drinking it, but the gel capsules are much simpler, if you ask me.

  5. Flexeril.

    This is one of the first things your doctor used to give you for Fibromyalgia before Lyrica came around. It’s a muscle relaxant that some say is similar to tricyclic antidepressants (but you’re not taking it to cure some delusional illness belief), while others say it’s more similar to cyproheptadine (which is typically an allergy medication that has an extensive list of other uses)… My vote is on the latter, because I’m extremely sensitive to it, like I am to cyproheptadine. The point is this: People with fibromyalgia do not enter the restorative stage of sleep as often as healthy people, so whenever you do, you have to make it count.

    Flexeril (and other similar drugs, but this is the one usually handed out) makes it to where your muscles relax during those rare restorative sleep stages, allowing your body to heal more than if you hadn’t taken anything. The difference is noticable, particular when you’re in one of those “waking up every hour” phases that leave you a zombie during the day, and contributes substantially to the “fibro fog” part of the illness. You may not be able to keep from awakening fifty times a night, but at least you’ll get the most out of whatever sleep you do get. Now, I eventually had to switch to Robaxin (methocarbamol, another muscle relaxant) because I couldn’t tolerate the sedative effect of Flexeril, but just be sure to try something.

  6. Exercise daily.

    If you’ve made it this far down the list, I hope you’ll stick with me through this section! I cannot stress enough (1) how much exercise is essential for fibromyalgia, nor (2) how difficult it is to get started. Second to no other treatment does it improve fatigue and stamina, and only second to the mattress topper did it improve my pain (i.e., it helped a lot). I could always feel my symptoms worsen when I hadn’t exercised for a day or two. The type of exercise I’m talking about is, for all intents and purposes, graded exercise therapy. This is the type of exercise that studies claim helps chronic fatigue syndrome, but don’t mistake this for being a treatment for M.E., which again, is not the same as CFS. I absolutely could not exercise until my M.E. began to go into remission. Only then was I able to very slowly start doing exercise, gradually adding on more and more activity.

    The first goal is to have fifteen minutes of activity a day. At first, I could only walk laps around my house in five increments of three minutes each, spread out across the day. Next, I moved on to three increments of five minutes each (i.e., more activity at once). Also, every morning I would sit up, and very slowly rotate all of my joints, to fight the terrible morning stiffness; it was practically the only way I could move, particularly during the colder months. Then I started adding in the gentle stretching, using a similar method: First, five minutes a day of very slow, gentle stretching, only as far as my muscles could go, and eventually I was able to stretch for a full fifteen minute routine at once, with some music to make it more enjoyable.

    Do not try to do it all at once at first, nor force yourself to stretch like a “normal” person would–you are not normal! Even with this graded approach, it was still unbelievably painful, and followed the next day by a huge increase in pain. But with fibromyalgia, you don’t stop just because it hurts the next day; you cannot, or you will lose whatever progress your body has accomplished. The first two weeks were absolute hell. I was exhausted and beyond sore the next day, and moreso the day after that, and so forth, until “the pain stage” (as I not-so-affectionately call it) finally passed. Then I started to reap the benefits of my very hard labor, and noticed that my symptoms were actually worse if I didn’t exercise. (Only someone with FM can understand how mind-numbingly painful it is just to try and stretch for five minutes at a time!)

    Important: This is the exact opposite of treating myalgic encephalomyelitis, and in my opinion, the biggest proof that M.E., CFS, and FM are not the same thing. If your muscles become inconsolably weak and begin to fail the next day, and worser still every additional day to the point that they may even literally stop working, you have more going on than “just” Fibromyalgia. Additional exercise will causes illness progression in M.E., so STOP. (Also possible, if not M.E., is that you may have Lyme disease and/or Babesiosis, chronic viral infection, hyperthyroidism, et cetera; i.e. other illnesses that cause muscle weakness in response to exercise, with no eventual benefit.) But this is NOT the same as experiencing more pain or fatigue like you would with Fibromyalgia, because let me be the first to state the obvious: You are going to hurt, and be exhausted, and not want to continue. But I can also tell you on behalf of myself and everyone else who’s ever successfully initiated an exercise routine with Fibromyalgia: It will help you.

Am I cured forever? Maybe. I have days where something strange will happen–a herx from my medicine, a day of severe stress, a storm passing through–where I will get a rush of pain that feels just like fibromyalgia, and leads me to think the mechanisms behind it may not actually be gone as much as they’re just not currently active. But I no longer suffer from its trademark symptoms. Even the type of cognitive problems I experience now, with the M.E. and Lyme disease, are different than that which accompanied the Fibromyalgia. And I no longer have chronic pain in all of my muscles and tendons, irritable bowel syndrome, or trouble waking up 10-20 times per night.

And I thank God for that, because if I had to deal with that terrible illness on top of the severe disease I already battle, I don’t know what my life would be like, or if I’d even still have one. I can only keep hoping that it never gets re-triggered, especially since there is practically no information out there about the reoccurence of FM in myalgic encephalomyelitis… I have the feeling though, that with all I’ve been through the past five years, if it were going to reappear, wouldn’t it have already done so?

a rainbow at night