I’ve been asking myself this question for the past several months… how did I end up here? How did this even happen?
I’d been depressed and severely anxious for over a year. I had an average of at least one panic attack per week. It was frustrating and debilitating, but I was surviving. And then it seemed to hit out of nowhere.
I’ve researched fibromyalgia (FM) for any clue as to how it could have started. There’s a genetic component, so that’s a possibility. My mom was diagnosed with FM in her late 20’s, and most of her blood work was negative–just like mine. The internet says that FM can also be triggered by trauma (physical or psychological), stress, or an infection.
I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty much always stressed out. My goal is to find some sort of inner-peace through scripture, prayer, yoga, meditation, essential oils, whatever. I hope to be less stressed someday. But being moderately stressed is my baseline. And why shouldn’t it be? I’m in nursing school. But as I have thought about my life the past few months, my mind settled on the day I first felt the pain beginning to seep through my body, and I realized that a majorly stressful event happened that same day.
My husband and I had gone to visit his family for the weekend. His parents are very conservative Christians and live a simple, off-the-grid lifestyle. They have 6 children, 3 biological (including my husband, who is the oldest at 22) and 3 who they are in the process of adopting. They’re wonderful people. But to be blunt, they’re also very stressful.
In particular, my mother-in-law is stressful. I don’t think she means to be, but she has a very sensitive heart. We had a mix-up regarding how long my husband and I would stay with them. My husband had initially told his mom that we would be arriving on a Tuesday and leaving on a Saturday, forgetting that I was scheduled to work and that I had several important doctor’s appointments. As soon as we realized (the Sunday before), we quickly called his mom to tell her of the mistake. We would be arriving Thursday and leaving Saturday. I knew from the tone of her voice on the phone that she was incredibly hurt and offended, and that we would be having a discussion about it that weekend.
And that we did.
In fact, it came up in a family counseling session that my husband and I had agreed to attend. The family counseling was started to help incorporate the new siblings into the family and resolve tension and issues associated with that. Now, I have absolutely nothing against counseling. In fact, I am ALL FOR IT. I’ve seen several different counselors in my life, and I think counseling is a wonderful thing. But I prefer one-t0-one counseling. Group therapy? Not my thing. Especially when it comes to my in-laws.
I was completely tense through that entire hour and a half. It started out as just a nervous tension until we started digging deeper into our thoughts and feelings about family issues. My anxiety increased. And then…it HAPPENED.
My mother-in-law stated that she felt like we didn’t want to spend time with them. That we didn’t want to be a part of the family. That we didn’t like coming to visit with them. That we were trying to separate ourselves from them as much as we possibly could.
My anxiety turned to panic. And rage. But mostly panic.
We had gotten married barely 6 months before. Nevermind that we had visited his family at least 5 times since the wedding. Nevermind that we had only seen my family ONCE since the wedding. Nevermind that we had saved up for weeks for gas money and took time off of work to come and see them. Nevermind that it was the weekend of MY BIRTHDAY and we lovingly decided to spend it with them, even though that meant that my husband and I didn’t get to do anything to celebrate.
I sat on the couch, hands clenched over my chest and stomach in a desperate attempt to focus on my breathing. I listened as my husband stumbled over his words in a desperate endeavor to explain that his mother’s assumptions were so far from the truth.
I took a deep breath and tried as well, my voice shaking, to help her understand that we couldn’t come visit them every few weeks, that my husband worked full time, that I worked part time and was in nursing school full time. That we lived over 4 hours away and had no gas money. That yes, we were newly married and trying to build a family of our own.
There was no resolution. The topic eventually moved on as my panic clenched every muscle in my body. I sat so tense and rigid on that couch that I was shocked that no one said anything about my state of being. No one seemed to care.
Finally, the session was over. The counselor spoke to my mother and father-in-law for a few moments, as I grabbed my husband by the shirt and drug him out to the garage. We must have looked like we were running away. As soon as we were out of sight, my panic attack really began. My husband pulled me behind a land cruiser and sat me down on a tool box as I desperately gasped for breath. He held me as he’d done many times before, encouraging deep breathing, comforting me with his words. At some point his mother came into the garage, wanting to talk to us. My husband (bless him) shooed her away, saying we’d be out in a little while.
When the panic attack finally subsided and the Ativan had kicked in, I began to feel the ache. It felt flu-like, as if I had been hit by a semi-truck. I assumed it was from my muscles being tense for so long.
But the pain never went away. In fact, it only got worse.
I feel terrible tracing the start back to this event. I feel like I’m saying that my mother-in-law caused my illness, which I don’t believe to be true. But it seem so silly that a stressful event could have started this cascade of sickness. This whole fibromyalgia thing makes me feel silly.
If you have fibromyalgia or any other chronic illness, how did it start for you? Did it come on gradually, or can you pinpoint the day that you first noticed it?