Healthy but hurting: My life with fibromyalgia

Leah+Jamison+works+at+Student+Media+as+the+Bod+Magazine+Editor+in+Chief.+Her+most+recent+issue+is+available+for+free+on+newsstands+across+campus.

courtesy of Leah Jamison

Leah Jamison works at Student Media as the Bod Magazine Editor in Chief. Her most recent issue is available for free on newsstands across campus.

Hi, I’m Leah, and my life is kind of crazy. Seriously though, the running joke in my life is that I’m an old lady who’s constantly falling apart. You name an ache or pain, and I probably experience it.

Let me back up. I’ve dealt with chronic pain for quite a while now. I’ve had severe migraines since high school, and perhaps even middle school, as well as other unexplained pain that I always brushed off as normal.

In December 2019, I hit my lowest point. I was exhausted, depressed and in the most physical pain I had ever been in. I was tired of hurting all the time and not having an explanation for it.

Doctors would run tests just for them to come back normal. They would tell me I was healthy, but I didn’t feel healthy. It was in January 2020 that I finally decided to commit to figuring out what was wrong with me. In February 2020, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

According to Mayo Clinic, “Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain and spinal cord process painful and nonpainful signals.”

The process of how I was diagnosed is a topic I will save for another week of this column, since it is different compared to other illnesses.

Symptoms I experience include migraines, neck pain, back pain, nerve pain, sciatic pain, fatigue, numbness and tingling, joint pain, and achiness. That isn’t an exhaustive list, but those symptoms seem to be the ones that I experience the most.

Every day I have pain. In fact, within the last couple of years, I can only remember one truly “pain free” day. It was a weirdly normal day, and by the end of it, I had come to the realization that my body didn’t hurt for once. However, that glorious day was short-lived because the next day I was right back to my normal, achy self.

That isn’t to say that I can’t have good days. There are days where I notice that I am in less pain than usual and I am grateful for those, but there are also really bad days where the only thing I can do is lie in bed, hoping for the pain to go away.

I’ve tried just about every pain management tool out there. Physical therapy? I’ve done it multiple times. The chiropractor? I go about once a month. Ibuprofen and Tylenol? I’ve probably taken an unhealthy amount for my age and it usually has no effect. The list goes on and on. From pain patches to CBD to prescription medication, I’ve tried it all. At my lowest point in December 2019, I even bought a $400 massage gun. That’s how desperate I was to feel better.

In April 2020, I even went to Rochester, Minnesota to be seen by doctors at Mayo Clinic due to concern that I had a tumor. I came back a week later with assurance that I did not have a tumor and $13,328 in medical bills — and that’s with good insurance.

The point of this weekly column isn’t to make you feel bad for me. My hope is that sharing my experiences will help others in a similar position and remove the stigma surrounding invisible and chronic illnesses.

It’s been about a year and half now that I have been actively battling fibromyalgia. Each week I will focus on a specific part of my experience. Topics I will cover will include prescription medication and the side effects it comes with, health insurance and costs, pain management, physical therapy, CBD, working with a nutritionist and more.

If I can give one piece advice, I would tell you that chronic pain is NOT normal. I told myself that the pain I was experiencing was normal for years and looking back, I wished I would have pursued a diagnosis sooner. If you experience chronic pain, please do not brush it off like I did.

I hope you will follow along with this weekly column as I share my experiences and take you on my health journey.