Saturday, February 17, 2007

Letter to Family and Friends

Hello Family, Friends, and Anyone Wishing to Know Me,

Allow me to begin by thanking you for taking the time out of your day to spend some time with me and get to know me better. A person’s time is their most valuable asset and yours is appreciated.

I want to talk to you about Fibromyalgia (FM) and Chronic Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS). Many have never heard of these conditions and for those who have, many are misinformed. And because of this judgments are made that may not be correct… So I ask you to keep an open mind as I try to explain who I am and how FM/MPS has assaulted not only my life but those whom I love as well.

You see, I suffer from a disease that you cannot see; a disease that there is no cure for and that keeps the medical community baffled at how to treat and battle this demon, who’s attacks are relentless. My pain works silently, stealing my joy and replacing it with tears. On the outside we look alike you and I; you wont see my scars as you would a person who, say, had suffered a car accident. You wont see my pain in the way you would a person undergoing chemo for cancer; however, my pain is just as real and just as debilitating. And in many ways my pain may be more destructive because people can’t see it and do not understand....

Please don’t get angry at my seemingly lack of interest in doing things; I punish myself enough I assure you. My tears are shed many times when no one is around. My embarrassment is covered by a joke or laughter, but inside I want to die....

Most of my "friends" are gone; I have been accused of "playing games" for another’s sympathy. I have been called unreliable because I am forced to cancel plans I made at the last minute because the burning and pain in my legs or arms is so intense I cannot put my clothes on and I am left in my tears as I miss out on yet another activity I used to love and once participated in with enthusiasm.

I feel like a child at times... Just the other day I put the sour cream I bought at the store in the pantry, on the shelf, instead of in the refrigerator; by the time I noticed it, it had spoiled. When I talk to people, many times I lose my train of thought in mid sentence or forget the simplest word needed to explain or describe something. Please try to understand how it feels to have another go behind me in my home to make sure the stove is off after I cook an occasional meal. Please try to understand how it feels to “lose” the laundry, only to find it in the stove instead of the dryer. As I try to maintain my dignity the Demon assaults me at every turn. Please try to understand….

Sleep, when I do get some, is restless and I wake often because of the pain the sheets have on my legs or because I twitch uncontrollably. I walk through many of my days in a daze with the Fibro-fog laughing at me as I stumble and grasp for clarity.

And just because I can do a thing one day, that doesn’t mean I will be able to do the same thing the next day or next week. I may be able to take that walk after dinner on a warm July evening; the next day or even the in the next hour I may not be able to walk to the fridge to get a cold drink because my muscles have begun to cramp and lock up or spasm uncontrollably. And there are those who say “but you did that yesterday!” “What is your problem today?” The hurt I experience at those words scars me so deeply that I have let my family down again; and still they don’t understand….

On a brighter side I want you to know that I still have my sense of humor. If you take the time to spend with me you will see that. I love to tell that joke to make another’s face light up and smile at my wit. I love my kids and grandbabies and shine when they give me my hugs or ask me to fix their favorite toy. I am fun to be with if you will spend the time with me on my own playing field; is this too much to ask? I love you and want nothing more than to be a part of your life. And I have found that I can be a strong friend in many ways. Do you have a dream? I am your friend, your supporter and many times I will be the one to do the research for your latest project; many times I will be your biggest fan and the world will know how proud I am at your accomplishments and how honored I am to have you in my life.

Please understand that being sick doesn't mean I'm not still a human being. There are days where I have to spend most of my day flat on my back in bed and I might not seem like great company, but I'm still me stuck inside this body. I still worry about school and work and my family and friends, and most of the time I'd still like to hear you talk about yours too.

Please understand the difference between "happy" and "healthy". When you've got the flu you probably feel miserable with it, but I've been sick for years. I can't be miserable all the time, in fact I work hard at not being miserable. So if you're talking to me and I sound happy, it means I'm happy. That's all. I may be tired. I may be in pain. I may be sicker that ever. Please, don't say, "Oh, you're sounding better!". I am not sounding better, I am sounding happy. If you want to comment on that, you're welcome.

Please understand that being able to stand up for five minutes, doesn't necessarily mean that I can stand up for ten minutes, or an hour. It's quite likely that doing that five minutes has exhausted my resources and I'll need to recover - imagine an athlete after a race. They couldn't repeat that feat right away either. With a lot of diseases you're either paralyzed or you can move. With this one it gets more confusing.

Please repeat the above paragraph substituting, "sitting up", "walking", "thinking", "being sociable" and so on ... it applies to everything. That's what a fatigue-based illness does to you.

Please understand that chronic illnesses are variable. It's quite possible (for me, it's common) that one day I am able to walk to the park and back, while the next day I'll have trouble getting to the kitchen. Please don't attack me when I'm ill by saying, "But you did it before!". If you want me to do something, ask if I can and I'll tell you. In a similar vein, I may need to cancel an invitation at the last minute, if this happens please don't take it personally.

Please understand that "getting out and doing things" does not make me feel better, and can often make me seriously worse. FM/CFS may cause secondary depression (wouldn't you get depressed if you were stuck in bed for years on end!?) but it is not caused by depression. Telling me that I need some fresh air and exercise is not appreciated and not correct - if I could do it, I would.

Please understand that if I say I have to sit down/lie down/take these pills now, that I do have to do it right now - it can't be put off or forgotten just because I'm doing something. FM/CFS does not forgive.

Please understand that I can't spend all of my energy trying to get well. With a short-term illness like the flu, you can afford to put life on hold for a week or two while you get well. But part of having a chronic illness is coming to the realization that you have to spend some energy on having a life now. This doesn't mean I'm not trying to get better. It doesn't mean I've given up. It's just how life is when you're dealing with a chronic illness.

If you want to suggest a cure to me, please don't. It's not because I don't appreciate the thought, and it's not because I don't want to get well. It's because I have had almost every single one of my friends suggest one at one point or another. At first I tried them all, but then I realized that I was using up so much energy trying things that I was making myself sicker, not better. If there was something that cured, or even helped, all people with FM/CFS then we'd know about it. This is not a drug-company conspiracy, there is worldwide networking (both on and off the Internet) between people with FM/CFS, if something worked we would KNOW.

If after reading that, you still want to suggest a cure, then do it, preferably in writing, but don't expect me to rush out and try it. If I haven't had it suggested before, I'll take what you said and discuss it with my doctor. She's open to new suggestions and is a great woman, and she takes what I say seriously.

Please understand that getting better from an illness like this can be very slow. People with CFS have so many systems in their bodies out of equilibrium, and functioning wrongly, that it may take a long time to sort everything out.

So you see, you and I are not that much different. I too have hopes, dreams, goals… and this demon…. Do you have an unseen demon that assaults you and no one else can see? Have you had to fight a fight that crushes you and brings you to your knees? I will be by your side, win or lose, I promise you that; I will be there in ways that I can. I will give all I can as I can, I promise you that. But I have to do this thing my way. Please understand that I am in such a fight myself and I know that I have little hope of a cure or effective treatments, at least right now. Please understand….

Thank you for spending your time with me today. I hope we can work through this thing, you and I. Please understand that I am just like you… Please understand….

2 comments:

Carmen said...

I said it before, and I will say it again - you AMAZE me with all that you CAN and DO do, even when you are feeling soooo bad!!! I admire you Sally for being brave and sticking this out and fighting this and trying not to let it honestly ruin your life!! I love you lots my friend. I cannot pretend to understand your disease, BUT I can understand you and your feelings and give you support!! HUGS

Jan said...

I do know what you are going through each and every day as you know I have one of the same things as you and we just keep going like energizer bunnies. lol