Lesson #1: Pain, Meds, Rest, and Gilmore Girls

Yesterday I was all set to conquer the writing challenge “Lessons” on the website Blogher. The challenge is part of their monthly NaBloPoMo which encourages bloggers to write and post every day of the month. I spent over an hour setting myself up on the site, changing my picture, and signing up for September. I had a good idea in my head and was going to grab my laptop to pound out the post after lunch, but instead I spent the afternoon on the couch nursing a flare-up. My aches prohibited me from accomplishing simple tasks like writing or even making dinner.

Here is a little history on what has been going on with me. Last September I went to the local doc-in-the-box complaining of chest pains. His diagnosis was pleurisy; he handed me a prescription for antibiotics and sent me home. My condition did not improve through October, so I made an appointment with my regular doctor. After an examination, she decided to give me a course of steroids. This also did not touch the pain. Along with the pleurisy, I also fought bouts of whole-body aches that would sideline me for days. My doctor then ordered a series of blood tests along with a stress test to rule out any serious conditions like heart disease or blood clots. I, being the teacher and researcher that I am, spent a lot of time on the internet self-diagnosing, an informative yet scary practice, I might add. Many of my symptoms, I believed, pointed to lupus. My mother had a sister who died back in the the fifties from lupus complications. These aches and pains of mine have been going on for years. Perhaps I have had it in my system, but had never been diagnosed, I thought. I discussed this possibility with my doctor, so she ordered another blood test. A lupus marker did appear, but it was just a marker. My general practitioner then referred me to a rheumatologist, a doctor who has broader knowledge of joint and muscle pain that can affect the immune system.

The rheumatologist did not believe I had enough of the symptoms for a lupus diagnosis. After poking me for about five minutes, he determined I had fibromyalgia, a disorder according to the Mayo Clinic that is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Well, that did sound like what was going on with me. He handed me a prescription for Cymbalta and said to see him in three weeks. What he did not do was give me information on this drug’s purpose and side-effects. I had to look that up for myself. What I found was that Cymbalta can be used to treat joint pain, depression, and anxiety in adults. It is a highly addictive antidepressant that ended up wreaking havoc on my system. I missed days of work in January and February. I spent hours on the couch with no desire to go or do anything. My body still ached, so after careful consideration (and before my body became addicted to the drug) I took myself off it at the beginning of March. I immediately felt better!

As spring weather approached, the dark cloud of pain began to lift. We spent a week at the beach where I felt no aches. Unfortunately, after we returned I had a major flare-up that sent me to the emergency room two different times during one week. Once again, no one seemed to know why I was feeling so awful.

It was then I decided to take control over my own health. I changed my diet, upped my yoga practice, scheduled massages, and began to meditate. I am the one who lives in this body. I know when a flare-up is happening. I know when to rest. I’m still not sure if I have fibromyalgia, lupus, or some other disorder, but at this point it doesn’t really matter to me. What I do know is I am the only one who really feels what is going on in my body.  I may not be able to stop the flare-ups, but I can honor them with rest. Now that I am retired I don’t have to call in sick on my bad days. I can just head to the couch, watch Netflix, nap or read, and hope to feel better soon.

So what are the lessons I have learned since last September? Doctors do have years of education and tremendous knowledge, but they aren’t perfect. They aren’t God. They do not know everything. Medication is not the only path to good health.The human body is still a mystery, so I am learning to manage my own pain, my own condition, my own well-being. I still respect my general practitioner, and I will continue to consult her on matters concerning my health. What I am doing now, though, is really listening to my body and beginning to hear what it says to me. Today it is whispering, “Take it easy today, Christie. The pain may slow you down; therefore, I am prescribing a couple episodes of Gilmore Girls to help ease the discomfort.” Sounds like good advice to me. A visit to Stars Hollow does have magical healing power.