My whole life people have told me the pain is all in my head. They say I don’t look sick. Others say I’m ‘faking it’. The reality is a different story.
For more than 20 years I’ve had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME. For 15 years I’ve lived with fibromyalgia, which causes pain all over my body.
More recently this has been compounded with the onset of several forms of arthritis: psoriatic, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid. I also have plantar fasciitis in my right foot.
Every day I experience joint pain, muscle aches, tingling in fingers and toes, and sharp, shooting pain. I feel very lethargic, as though I have a bad flu without the head cold.
Living with pain has decreased my mobility and impacted my ability to work. For 18 years, I had a good paying job but when I had to take a lot of sick leave my employer wasn’t very understanding. I took a less demanding job but then had to leave work altogether for several years.
I find it difficult to sleep and my mental health has been affected. I have depression and anxiety and have been on antidepressants for many years. The last few years have been particularly difficult with the arthritis worsening.
However I’ve now realised I have to take control of my own health. I’ve learned to take each day as it comes and just deal with it. I don’t push myself too much anymore.
I take several medications for arthritis and do gentle exercises every day to strengthen my body. In the past I had some relief with alternative medicines and I would like to see a physiotherapist or chiropractor regularly, but I can’t afford these on a low income.
Community services have given me a house cleaner and I pay for someone to mow my lawn. I save my energy for the things I really enjoy, like my veggie garden.
My experiences have given me a lot of empathy for others and I’m gaining a lot of satisfaction from my new part-time work in disability.
I do believe ‘what doesn’t break you makes you stronger’.