Thursday, December 15, 2011

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome vs. Fibromyalgia

I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME. It was my first diagnosis, actually. Fibromyalgia was not mentioned until I sought out a second opinion doctor that recognized it's early stages. My first symptom was a strange paralysis in my right arm and hand. Then my tender points were through the roof. Those were her clues. But the fatigue was so crippling, so unbelievably consuming, pain was but a distant second place for top priority in my life. See I could not leave my house, make my bed, empty the dishwasher, take my dog to pee or do anything else within two hours before or after the other. So I learned how to do nothing, embrace my rapidly multiplying dust bunnies and picked up a voracious obsession with General Hospital I had forgotten about when I graduated from college and entered the "real world" six years earlier. At least they could put mascara on and go create drama in each others lives. I was jealous.

What I know now is there are two very distinct illnesses, CFS/ME and FM. Yes they are both syndromes, originating from an unknown cause. Yes they have a great many shared symptoms. But I was able to recover from CFS/ME and for me the difference between them is very clear. What hits you harder? Pain or fatigue? Therein lies the answer, in my opinion, as to which one has a stronger grip on your life. I went to a specialty clinic and took tons of supplements and massive amounts of anti-biotics, anti-virals, anti-fungals, oh you name it. Slowly but surely my energy returned and I was able to go back to work. That is when Fibro knocked me on my ass. See I had not been in as much pain because I was not doing anything. Once I started doing things, well I was a sitting duck.

I blog on Fibromyalgia, have an awareness campaign for Fibromyalgia, run a support page for Fibromyalgia. I was able to recover from CFS/ME, or more specifically, get it into remission. What I am left with is Fibromyalgia. But not everyone has the same experience. There is a wonderful woman who has written a beautiful book, How To Be Sick*. The author has tried everything under the sun and hasn't recovered from disabling fatigue and chronic illness. So she has learned how to accept her new life and find value and purpose despite her limitations, discovered and rejoices in the joy of what she does have. There are very different and specific ways to live with CFS/ME. They are not the same as managing Fibromyalgia. Many people and sadly plenty of doctors don't recognize this distinction. There is no one answer or miracle cure or fast fix for either of them, I have found. There are multiple levels of illness with a multitude of problems, complications, and hindrances individual to each patient. What I have seen with the greatest frequency is success when a person breaks apart every component of their life and puts it back together again in a realistic way they can live it.

Thanks for joining,

1 comment:

  1. It was the crippling fatigue that knocked me for a loop more so than the pain when I was first sick. (this was years before the diagnose) now the fatigue isn't so bad (although it is still rather bad at times) it is the pain that limits my movements.