Six years ago, my life was very different than it is today.
I was editor of the largest weekly newspaper in Virginia, managing a growing staff of freelance writers, photographers and graphic designers. My job was demanding, but I loved it, and I had no plans of switching careers anytime soon.
Then came 2009. The newspaper had doubled in size since I’d taken on the role of editor three years earlier, essentially doubling my workload. A long-term relationship ended. My mother was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and passed away just a few days before Christmas.
I was never the same after 2009. It’s as if some mysterious switch in my body turned off. I was always exhausted, no matter how much time I took off from work or how much I slept. I began having unexplained body aches and pains, in addition to other symptoms.
I was so stressed out that one day I found myself crying in my nurse practitioner’s office. Walking out with prescriptions for Xanex and an antidepressant, I knew I needed to make some big changes in my life. I resigned my high-stress job and ended up moving to another state. I reduced my work hours, thinking it would help me to heal and regroup.
But as the months passed, I realized something was wrong. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it wasn’t normal to feel so tired and achy all the time. I began to go from doctor-to-doctor, from lab-to-lab, trying to find out why I felt like the life had been sucked out of me.
Each doctor’s visit just added to my frustration. Several doctors tried to write me prescriptions for antidepressants, even though I insisted I wasn’t depressed. Nothing out of the ordinary showed up in my blood work. After two years of too many doctors’ visits and too many tubes of blood to count, I was referred to a rheumatologist, who finally put a name to the symptoms I’d been having for years: fibromyalgia.
I was ecstatic!!!! I finally had a name for what was causing me to feel like I was slogging through deep sand every day. I finally had a name to give to family and friends who had insinuated my symptoms were all in my head or had said that I should just get used to the pain because “that’s what happens when you get older.”
I naively thought that if I just took the right medication, then my health problems would be solved. I had somehow internalized all of those TV commercials that send the unspoken message, “Take our expensive medication, and you’ll be able to work in the garden and take your kids to the county fair, too, just like the actresses in our commercials.”
But that’s not what happened. During the year following my diagnosis, I tried several different medications, which were supposed to relieve my symptoms. All of them caused bad side effects, and in some cases, actually made me feel worse than I did before taking them. I’m 40 pounds heavier now, thanks to the medications my doctor prescribed for improved sleep, and I still can’t sleep.
But I can’t fault my doctor. He’s done the best he can with an illness that is still a great mystery. Truth is, there’s little out there that’s been proven to help fibromyalgia. The three drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat fibromyalgia only work in about one-third of patients. And research is even more scant for ME/CFS. Put simply, there is no magic pill to treat these conditions.
But I’m still hopeful. Now that the economy is improving, fibromyalgia and ME/CFS research is increasing. There are a few promising studies underway – studies that I hope will tell us more about how these conditions work and eventually lead to better treatments.
While I wait, there are actions I can take to improve my symptoms. That’s what Fed Up with Fatigue is all about. This website is my attempt to weed through the thousands of medical studies and claims out there, and find out what really works when it comes to reducing the symptoms of fibromyalgia and ME/CFS. As I embark on this journey, I hope that what I learn can be helpful in your healing as well. Gentle hugs, Donna.