Untangling Fibromyalgia and Self-Esteem

Sometimes I wonder if who I am has changed as a result of learning to live with fibromyalgia. Maybe that sounds crazy – my personality changing because of a chronic medical condition. I scoff myself at the thought. But lately it’s a thought that has been nagging me, like the tickle on the back of your neck that makes you turn around, but no one is there.

This thought has been ruminating all week, as I find myself slogging through a rather persistent fibrofog. For almost two weeks now, the mental cloudiness I dread more than any other manifestation of fibro has held me hostage. I attempt to focus on writing my ongoing book project, but have no memory for how I formed the sentences. It’s a feverish effort to get the words down and I am literally amazed I ended up with entire coherent paragraphs when I read over my day’s work. I find myself thinking I’m keeping a grip on the fog while at my day job, writing everything down and double and triple-checking my work, yet discovering later I still made mistakes that leave me deflated. It’s punishing to your self-esteem to discover that even your best efforts to tame the fibro beast are failing.

Earlier in the week I meet a new acquaintance for a coffee date. We ordered, enthused about our love for art history and travel, and everything seemed to be on a positive course. Yet I struggled to communicate the entire time – thoughts and ideas always just out of grasp, my tongue failing to form them. I tried to correct for this error of brain functioning, but may have only appeared overly enthusiastic and slightly manic. Maybe it wasn’t that bad, maybe I still made a good impression and provoked intelligent conversation, but I begin to wonder how much I can trust my memory while wrapped in a fibrofog.

In truth, the majority of my friends are people I knew long before fibromalgia’s grand entrance into my life. They knew me before I began to lose confidence in myself. Conversations are not as fraught with peril when I am with them. So I relax and laugh off any eccentricities of my fibro-plagued mind.

I suppose the goal then should be to do the same in all areas of my life. How do I recapture my confidence? Maybe that’s what my wanderlust is really at its core all about – a desire to throw myself into the world, fibro quirks and all, despite my fears and hesitations. I navigate a new city all by myself, make new friends in far-off destinations, and my self-worth soars.

So how do I extend this devil-may-care attitude into my daily life in the States? After all, anyone worth being a real friend would look past the fibromyalgia and see me. But that’s the catch: the puzzle of self-esteem and fibromyalgia is a complicated mess that often just looks like a massive tangled lump of string, impossible to untangle and sort out. I think I have finally pulled the string straight only to discover the string more jumbled than before. Living in an American society where what you do is who you are, it just seems to become more complicated every day.

If I ever solve the puzzle, I’ll let you know.


About chronictraveler

Chronic Traveler starts as a dream, one that I thought I had lost, but that has slowly changed into a mission to realize and live that dream every day. In December 2007 I became seriously ill and the doctors did not know what was causing my illness. I had to stop teaching as my life tumbled into a never-ending nightmare of doctors, hospitals and tests. Finally, in May 2008 I was diagnosed with a chronic condition - fibromyalgia. I was only 26 years old at the time. I have had to give up teaching, and now work part-time at a performing arts center as I learn how to manage my condition and improve my quality of life. What helped me through the months of uncertainty and sickness, and continues to inspire me, was a new focus on what truly mattered to me: family, friends, gardening, the arts, and especially travel. I have always fed my soul by traveling, ever since I first stepped off the plane at age 16 in Kathmandu, Nepal to help with an orphanage's building project. Meeting new people and experiencing how they live and how they view the world infuses my life with a richness I was so afraid I would lose when the doctor first said, "You have fibromyalgia". This blog is my story, as I begin to forge a new path. I am embracing my life as it is, with the fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, and learning to do what I love regardless. It may mean I have to go slower and take more naps or breaks! But I am determined to learn how to travel and experience the world, and hopefully what I learn will help others like me who believe their medical condition stands in the way of their travel dreams.
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5 Responses to Untangling Fibromyalgia and Self-Esteem

  1. Road Within says:

    Living with Fibro for over 40 years it does changes you, but I have found it has changed me for the best. My personality is still visible, it’s my experience with life that puts me in a positive place where I can learn to deal with my illness. I am enjoying your blogs. The word “fibromyalgia” is scary when you hear it for the first time. I know I felt the same way. We do change but I believe for the best. We make changes but maybe you see things in a different light now and the world is brighter through our eyes.

    • chronictraveler says:

      Wow, you just lifted my day – thank you! Even after all the people I’ve met who share our struggle and journey, I continue to be amazed that, yes, I am not alone in figuring this out! There is so much we can all learn from one another. I hope I can be as resilient and positive as you 40 years down the road. I think that’s part of why I’m writing this blog, as a way to stay focused on not just the negatives and pain, but how I can cope with it and grow as a human being in the face of this adversity.

  2. That is why I also blog to help others learn what I have learned over the years, so they do not have to go through the struggles that were so hard long ago. Now I have moved forward and left the pain behind me. I still struggle but not like the first time I was diagnosed. Now I blog and blog, and blog LOL

    Take care and I look forward to your next blog.

  3. jpdaily says:

    Just come across your blog today. I too suffer with a chronic illness, CFS. I do believe that illness, tests, trials and sufferings help shape our character and that everything that happens in life has a purpose and meaning. I used to travel a lot myself too, but since falling ill I can hardly leave the house at the moment without problems. So I will enjoy looking at your pics from time to time.

    • chronictraveler says:

      I’ve read a lot bout CFS, since for awhile that was also a possibility for what I was experiencing. I checked out your blog as well, and your faith in the face of such adversity is inspiring. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the courage of your public testimony. I hope my struggles with fibro are shaping me into a stronger and happier person, with a better focus on the important things. It is easy to fall into that dark well where the sunlight seems so far and unattainable high above. I think right now I am riding the wave of adrenaline and inspiration from my latest travels – as I come down from the peak into everyday life, that will be the real test of faith and resilience.

      I also know this time and relative health that allows me to travel is a gift, and thank you for reminding me of that. I will be checking into your blog for inspiration. I will also try to get some more photos up soon for you to enjoy. 🙂

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