Fear in Writing: Confessions of Pain

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Friday, January 8, 2010

Confessions of Pain

It is confession time.

On January 23, 2009 my back went out.  I was sitting in my old bedroom at my parents' house and I just couldn't get up.  My father had to come home from work to help with my children and I had to delay my trip home to Raleigh by a day.  An MRI discovered Degenerative Disc Disease (basically a disc depleted of all fluid), probably caused by a soccer injury in my youth (remember I played for 11 years competitively).  But physical therapy proved the pain spanned most of my lower back and hips and showed numbness in my feet.

A few months later the pain in my neck was almost unbearable and we began working on that.  We figured it was due to any postural changes I was making to compensate for the back pain.  Then the migraines started.  When I say started I mean started daily.  I have had migraines once or twice a year since high school, but this was different.  In September I had a migraine cycle for two weeks we couldn't break.  The pain was like fingers spreading around my head and squeezing.  I am now on a daily migraine prevention medicine with some extra migraine killers should the need arise, which it does quite regularly.

In early November I injured my left knee.  Or so I thought.  In high school I messed up my miniscus (thank you soccer) and had surgery on the offending knee, so we assumed this was coming back to haunt me.  We also assumed I was having a string of bad luck and it would all end soon.  At least, we hoped it would.  Another MRI showed nothing wrong with my knee but the doctor prescribed physical therapy anyway and I followed like a good patient.  The therapist worked diligently but could not pinpoint an exact location of pain.

In late November, my left elbow began screaming.  I did not tell anyone.  Would you have?  I was scared I was going crazy.  I was scared I had bone cancer.  I was scared I was a hypochondriac or, worse, had some form of Munchausen.

The week of Christmas the migraines returned in full force.  I blew it off as holiday stress and kept on going.  But they kept on going as well.  After two weeks of daily migraines I knew something was wrong.  I finally googled the oddest of my issues, still without telling anyone, and came up with a few options.

On Tuesday of this week I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.  This is a chronic pain disorder that is not life-shortening, but is life-altering.  Already the pain has taken to my left ankle and the fatigue is almost overwhelming.  The worst part is the sensitivity.  When my children jump on me I have to keep from flinching because my joints are so tender.  I love them so much and it hurts to even react to them in this way.  It is not the physical pain that hurts me the most - it is my reaction to them that kills me emotionally.

This is not something that will get worse with time.  However, I am still in the early onset and diagnosis stage, so I don't know where it will stop before it becomes manageable.  I am taking it by the horns!  Yoga, acupuncture and other treatments are all in my present and future.  I have many things in my corner - my amazing husband, my supportive parents, sister and in-laws.  But I also have a few things against me - I am nine hours away from any family, limited as to childcare options and racked with guilt when it comes to just sticking my kids in daycare (not much different than the choices most mothers face).

What do I need?  Just your support.  I am hoping that, through the healthy diet prescribed, the yoga and the awareness of my body, this could be my healthiest year yet!  But it will also be a long road.  It will be a painful one.  And I am aware of that.  But it will be a long one, no shorter because of fibromyalgia.  And for that I am thankful.


  1. So sorry to hear about the pain. I totally understand about the migraines. Those I have on a regular basis. I'm not that familiar with Fibromyalgia, but have you also checked about chronic mugraine? I know they are extremely rough.

    Keeping positive thoughts for you. You will make it work.

  2. Thank you, Mason. Chronic migraines are part of it and I have had that for a while.

  3. Wow, Michele. I've hear of Fibromyalgia, but until now didn't know anyone with it. It just sounds so painful. I am in awe of how you're handling it and pushing forward.

    Straight From Hel

  4. We'll see, Helen. Right now my greatest fear is that it will seap into my hands and it will be harder to hold my children. My husband jokingly talks about all the cool voice technology we could get for my writing! That's great and all, but it's my children I want to hold and love.
    I truly believe I will make it through this and I will have a long, wonderful life. I get my optimism from my parents, mostly from my father. Life has thrown a bunch of lemons at us. We love lemon meringue pie!

  5. So sorry to hear the news Michele! I second Helen's words about being in "awe of how you're handling it and pushing forward"! You never cease to amaze me!

    I had a bout with migraines last year for no apparent reason and they are no fun at all...rushing home to get sick from the pain...well, I just hope I don't get another one. Mine come and go and if I sense one coming on I sprint for the IP profen (sp?)! Sounds like that's just a tiny piece of what you have going on every day. My thoughts are with you and I'm cheering in your corner! My heart also goes out to you being a mother..I know that has to be difficult!

    I actually was making a point to stop by and say "Thanks!" Received Serpent's Kiss in the mail last night and there's something fun about getting a new book in the mail that words can't describe! I will be sure to pass on a new book to my 40th follower in honor of being yours!

    Hope you have a terrific day!

  6. Wow, Michelle, you have it. I didn't know what Fibromyalgia was until just now but it sounds so hard. I'm so glad you know what it is. And your attitude at "attacking" it head on is beautiful. I'm praying!

  7. Oh Michele! That sounds so incredibly frustrating.

    I have complex migraines (with stroke symptoms) from time to time...I know how debilitating those kinds of problems can be.

    I used those "childwatch by the hour" places when my kids were little. I called them the "Play Place" for my children and I'd drop them by there if I were sick or had a doctor's appointment or needed a couple of hours. They *loved* it--games, crafts, etc. Looking at Google, it looks like the Raleigh area has/had a few of them: http://www.thekiddepot4fun.webs.com/ is one and http://www.merchantcircle.com/business/Drop.Zone.4.Kidz.Raleigh.NC.919-859-6449 is another. And Screaming Mimi is in Clayton: http://screaminmimiskidsplace.com/ ...I can't remember how far away that is from Raleigh.

    I'm a MUCH better mom when I have a little break from my kids. Especially if I'm not feeling well. Now that they're older, this is easy, but when they were toddlers I really blessed the folks at these childwatch places.


  8. Kristi- Thank and thanks and thanks. And how wonderful that you will pass it on! I love that.

    Kristen- If nothing else, I hope this helps others learn more about what is a painful syndrome, but somewhat on the fringe. I appreciate your prayers!

  9. Elizabeth- That's exactly what I call them - "play places!" They are at one today, actually. How kind of you to look some up for me! The Kid Depot was a blessing, but it seems they are going out of business after only two months of giving it a shot. I'm still hopeful one will stick near us!

    Stroke symptoms, that sounds horrible. Mine have never been that bad! I don't know how you cope!

  10. Oh, Michele! I am praying for you! Jesus is a healer, halleujah.

    Keep your beautiful spirit, and we are here.

    God bless!

  11. Michele--They do tend to close up really fast..which I never understood since they always seemed so busy to me! You could always do preschool, though...I started my kids early there at one of the local churches.

    The migraines were pretty awful...numbness, garbled speech, confusion. And no actual head pain! So we just thought I'd had a stroke. Fortunately, after the neurologist figured out what the heck was going on they were able to get me some medicine to prevent them. I'm glad you're getting some help--and you're in a great place for medical care.


  12. Thank you, Tamika. You are right. You are right!

    Elizabeth, thank you for sharing and thanks for the ideas. I don't understand it either. So much need for the service! And you are right, this really is a great area for medical care. I felt it when my son had heart surgery and pneumonia in 2008. I felt it when my daughter had complications the same year. There is a reason we are in Raleigh!

    As you can tell, this is a personal one for me, so I am following it closely today. But I am off to my first post-diagnosis yoga class at an amazing yoga studio nearby. I'll check back in later! Thank you for all your well-wishes!

  13. The healthy stuff sounds like the best medicine. Frustrating that there's no cure for this. I know several women who suffer and they just have to endure it. I have heard stress makes it worse. Like avoiding that is even a possibility in this day and age!
    I'm so sorry!

  14. I have a friend around the same age as you who has fibromyalgia. It took her awhile to adjust to it, but she's fine. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. One day at a time.

    I certainly know what you mean about guilt with the kids. No one tells you when they hand you that wet wrinkly baby is that hidden in the blanket is one big load of hairy guilt which (trust me) never ever goes away.

    My best thoughts to you and yours;


  15. So sorry to hear this. I hope everything you do will to ease the pain...soon! : )

    Hope you have a good weekend!

  16. I am so sorry to hear about all this. You're a trooper!

    I knew a woman with fibromyalgia a few years back and she mentioned that baths helped. There's a great German herbal bath line that she loved- Kneipp. She said the juniper bath was really helpful for the joint pain.

  17. Yoga, baths, avoiding stress, kids in childcare...Does this sound so bad? Someone mentioned aromatherapy to me the other day. I could get used to this! Maybe I should start a Pamper Michele Fund!

    Yoga was fantastic today. I hurt all over, but that is good. Some of it is from working my body out, some of it is the fibromyalgia. So life continues. And now I write. I'm definitely going to check out Kneipp - thanks, Stephanie!

  18. we are with you!
    Thanx to my job I also have problems with my back - close to discus hernia, but I try to exercise every day and walk as much as I can to keep it from getting real serious.

    Good health really is the only thing we should wish for :(

  19. How horrible.
    I really hope a cure is found but until then I hope you find how to manage the pain.
    Praying for you.

  20. Thank you, Dez. Exercise is key, you are right. I sent my sister to your site today - she is going to love it!

    Michelle- Thank you for prayers. And I will find a way!

  21. I'm so sorry. My daughter-in-law has rheumatoid arthritis and she was just told yesterday that she has to go on a chemo-therepy drug in order to slow down the damage to her bones. She's twenty seven years old, has a two year and a half year old, and an eleven month old baby. I do my best to support her. It's hard to stand by and watch someone you love suffer. I pray for you.

  22. I am so sorry to hear about the pain you are in, but I'm glad that you finally have a diagnosis and can start a treatment plan. It must be a little bit of a relief to know you aren’t going crazy, etc. I hope you are able to get the pain under control quickly. My thoughts are with you.

  23. I'm sorry to hear about that, Michele. Do take care of yourself.

  24. Wow - I wish I could do something to help you. What a frustrating experience - especially with the kids. So hard. Hopefully the doctors can get it all sorted out soon. Good luck - my thoughts are with you.

  25. Elizabeth- I can barely scratch the surface of her pain. I am waiting on my arthritis screen to come back so we can rule that disease out for sure. Please tell her she and her family are in my prayers.

    Jane- Thank you, and so do I! Relief is in the knowing.

    Simon- Kind words from a kind man.

    Jemi- Just your words are helping. Thank you.

  26. Michele,
    Pain on any level is an invitation to shrivel up and withdraw. In contrast, what I read in your post is your determination to keep going, to search for sources of support, to identify what you are grateful for. I see a fighting spirit. That combination of personal qualities will get you through the rough times or, at the very least, will keep the opportunity of hope in your awareness. May you be blessed with love, kindness, and fortitude on this journey.

    Having just written this last sentence, it occurs to me that I’ve just written a post about a hero’s journey, specifically about Nelson Mandela. Whenever I am my lowest, I think about this great man and his horrible suffering and how he managed to emerge from prison with grace and a forgiving spirit. Then I tell myself, if he can overcome those conditions with his spirit intact, so can I.


  27. So sorry to hear about the pain you and others deal with. You are so strong! I've had a few migraines in my life and they were agonizing--I couldn't imagine them going on for weeks or looking forward to fibromyalgia and worsening pain. My heart goes out to you.

  28. Judy- Thank you for the honor. I am fully aware of the low points as well, but hope to concentrate on the possibilities. So good of you to pen your encouraging words.

    Lorel- Thank you. Your kindness is comforting.