I’ve struggled with chronic illness in various forms for the last 20 years, and I’m 31 years old. I’ve had migraines for as long as I can remember, and my fibromyalgia developed eight years ago.
I like to think that, after all these years, I’m pretty good at managing my pain. In fact, you might say that I feel pretty chuffed with myself from time to time. I work full time, I socialize with my friends and family, and I have my coping strategies down to a tee. But behind the positivity and the smiles there are compromises, there are struggles, and there are moments of weakness. In fact, let’s be honest, at times there are moments of such exhaustion and frustration that only tears will do.
My alarm goes off at 6 a.m. every day. I roll over and hit snooze, and have five minutes to hang on to sleep before the same infuriating tinny ringtone goes off in my ear once more. I hit snooze again, and we repeat this dance move for 20 minutes. I feel like I haven’t slept, I’m so tired I think it can’t possibly be morning, and yet my body aches so much I am desperate to get up just to give it a good stretch.
Mornings are notoriously difficult for people with fibromyalgia; we wake up feeling exhausted and sore, wondering how on earth we will keep our eyes open as the day goes on. Lying in bed is uncomfortable, getting up is uncomfortable, and yet there is so much to do that the thoughts in our mind are uncomfortable. The 6 a.m. wake-up call is full of dread and often I find that searching for my usual positivity amid the fibro fog requires energy I just don’t have.
As my alarm goes off for the fourth time, I normally throw my phone on the floor and drag myself into the shower, wondering how I’ll keep my eyes open on the drive to work. I’ve fallen asleep at the wheel three times in the last month — a sure sign that I need to give myself some proper time to step out of the fog and in to the shower, bringing my mind and body in to the day.
It’s always difficult to explain fibromyalgia to people who haven’t experienced it — either directly or through a friend or family member. You tell someone that you’re tired at 6 a.m. and they tell you they are, too; they tell you they stayed up late binge-watching the latest Netflix drama, and you silently wish that’s why you were tired. Instead, you felt exhausted when you went to bed, exhausted when you woke up and the pain is stronger than it was the day before.
I guess, overall, I’m pretty pleased that the hour of hell is 6 a.m. At least by 7 a.m., the worst bit of the day is already a thing of the past.