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Pain, Pain Go Away

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At this very moment my thoughts are hazy. Try as I might to fill my mind with positive thoughts, they return, again and again, to the pain coursing through my body. It is burning, searing and throbbing its’ way over my entire body. Like an invisible thief, it comes, demanding my attention — much like an insistent child seeking to be recognized by its’ mother. I am the mother and fibromyalgia is the child, in this case, unwanted and unloved.

Fibromyalgia is an unannounced visitor — one who refuses to leave. Much like childbirth, the pain of fibromyalgia is often indescribable. It is difficult to communicate pain that overwhelms your mind and body to such an extent that you’d do anything, give anything, for a mere five-minute reprieve. Yet, all the prayers, hopes and pleas go unanswered.

For the uninitiated, the American Fibromyalgia Syndrome Association states that fibromyalgia “produces widespread pain, disturbed sleep, and exhaustion from head to toe. [] Fibromyalgia means pain in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons—the soft fibrous tissues of the body. Although the muscles hurt everywhere, they are not the only cause of the pain. Instead, the diffuse, body-wide symptoms are greatly magnified by malfunctions in the way the nervous system processes pain.”

Symptoms vary from one person to another, and in many cases, it can take years for patients to receive a correct diagnosis. Although I can discuss my symptoms ad nauseam, the pain is the most prominent and has had a far greater impact on my life than any other.

When I began my journey with fibro (the shortened version of fibromyalgia), I worked, traveled, gathered with friends, entertained and generally lived my life as normally as possible. I am an attorney, and at the time, I was an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Texas. In that capacity, I defended the state and its’ employees against primarily, claims of civil rights violations. Mine was a busy and active practice, and I loved my job.

Even then, however, pain was a given. I largely controlled it with pain medications and yoga–day in and day out. Everything that I did in my role as a litigation attorney, I managed to do under the weight of fibromyalgia pain. I believed that as long as I was performing my job at my usual high standard, I could continue to do the job that I loved.

As time passed, my pain level grew to the point that I had to take more and more pain medication just to survive from day-to-day. The medications were the only thing that allowed me to do my job. With them, I traveled extensively, met with clients, interviewed witnesses, took depositions, appeared at hearings, and most importantly, managed my case load.

Unfortunately, there came a time when the pain became too great, and the work, that I loved, suffered. The pain consumed my thoughts. I’d lie on my office floor praying for it to end. I’d say to myself, “Take it five minutes at a time,” but before long, I was thinking in one minute increments. Still, the pain overwhelmed me.

I remember the last case that I tried before I resigned. It was a jury trial in a Dallas federal court. Although the specifics of the case are a blur, I clearly remember the pain. In the midst of questioning witnesses or even conferring with the judge, I was gripped with pain. Repeatedly, I lost my train of thought, and frantically worked to get it back. During court recesses, I would lie down on a bench in the back of the courtroom, hoping to allay the pain. Stubbornly, it remained.

I loved being a trial attorney and for 14 years, I was successful at it. I rarely lost a case and I adored my clients. The pain changed all that. My work suffered, and although few people noticed any difference, but i did. Soon, I was forced to admit the cold hard truth. I could not deny it any longer. I was unable to adequately do my job and this was unacceptable to me. After conferring with my doctors, I took a leave of absence. The plan was that we’d use the time to regain control over the pain. I never returned, and haven’t practiced since.

And, so it goes, the pain remains. The intensity ebbs and flows, but it is never far away. Sometimes, it is a faint whisper that lulls me into thinking that I am once again in control. All too often, however, it is a roaring tsunami, pulling me under, and overtaking everything in its’ path. It is during those times that all I can do is hold on, resting in the knowledge that like everything else, this too shall pass.

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