My Story: Fibromyalgia Took My Life to the Dogs

My Story: Fibromyalgia Took My Life to the Dogs

Editor’s Note: Anna Flynn is a retired teacher who lives in Houston, Texas. She was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 1988 but first had symptoms when she was in high school. She has decided to share her story in advance of Fibromyalgia Awareness Day on May 12.

Anna Flynn

Anna Flynn

I’ve done everything all the tests, all the doctors, all the different medicines.  I tried alternative treatments like naturopathic medicine and acupuncture (that was the worst!). I have had lots of muscle pain in low back and sacrum. Imagine having needles sticking out of your back, thumbs, toes and nose. The pain just became worse. Of course it did because there are f@#&ing needles searing thru your muscle fibers where fibromyalgia originates.

When I had back surgery last fall I had a major episode. My doctor wanted me off medicine that has worked for 25 years (amitriptyline) and put me on norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor SNRI  (Cymbalta). I became very anxious immediately and couldn’t sleep. I didn’t sleep more than 2 hours a day, became very sad (I hated that). I felt like there was a black veil over my face and I couldn’t think about anything but my pain. I had recently retired from teaching and I felt strongly that I wanted to get this pain under control and get on with my life.

I needed help.

I contacted my Doctor again and she still did not want me to be on amitriptyline even though I brought research showing how it works in fibromyalgia cases.

She decided to change the Cymbalta prescription to Effexor another SNRI. It didn’t work. My moods got darker and still no sleep. I was feeling horrible, my doctor wasn’t listening. I was in a very bad spot. Even thought, the hell with it, maybe it’s easier not to go on.

But I had counseling thru my health insurance and my counselor really helped me. He provided good advice and helped me make a plan to convince my doctor to help me.

I’m lucky. My husband Mike was by my side through all of this. At the counselor’s suggestion, Mike and I wrote a 6 week daily diary which got the point across. It was actually Mike’s comments that helped the doctor understand the pain I was feeling. (Like she couldn’t believe me!)

So she took me off Effexor and put me back on amitriptyline. I immediately started sleeping again and after 2 weeks I was beginning to recover.

Something else happened that I’m convinced has helped me rally. Mike and I don’t have children. During the darkest time I sat crying with Mike saying we don’t have a family or kids and I don’t even have a job anymore. As a teacher I always had plenty of kids. I told Mike I wanted to get a puppy.

Bonnie and Aengus

Bonnie and Aengus

He said “No, let’s get two puppies.” So after a month of being back on my meds we started to look around and adopted 2 maltipoos. My life and pain are not focused on me anymore. I have 2 little puppies (Bonnie and Aengus) whose lives I’m responsible for.

No, they did not cure me. My fibromyalgia is still there but my meds are helping and I just started seeing a pain management doctor. I’ve always known that exercise helps and I get lots bending down to play with my puppies or pick them up or stop them from fighting.

Two suggestions:

  1. Stand up to your doctor. They will listen, but sometimes you have to make them listen. My argument with my doctor about what prescription was best was difficult. One of her patients had had a bad experience with it, which understandably colored her judgment. It was when she read my diary that she realized that I was right. By the way, I’m still seeing her because now I think she’s listening. If she hadn’t finally listened, I’d be seeing another doctor.
  2. Get a dog (or a pet). Puppies are great therapists. If you or a loved one is stuck in a bad place the way I was, consider an animal as a possible pain remedy.

It’s hard to believe how much better things are now.

When I say better, there’s one more thing. My husband Mike, who has been an unbelievable partner in my fight against fibromyalgia, is now fighting his own fight–against bladder cancer which was diagnosed earlier this year.

He’s doing ok. Keep a good thought for him.

The unconditional love of two puppies and a loving, concerned husband are my prescription in the fight against fibromyalgia.

In hindsight, it seems rather simple.

All I know is it is working!

Authored by: Anna Flynn

There are 4 comments for this article
  1. Kathy at 4:21 pm

    Thank you for the reassurance that ‘I’m not crazy’ I’ve been saying for years that when things were darkest (been diagnosed for 12+ yr now) that what got me through were my boys (4-footed ones); and when my hubby retired and we moved, and our ‘boys’ (almost 20 yr & 14 yr) passed away and we were devistated. I found a pekingese rescue and we visited and adopted, and some how – to this day we STILL don’t know how, we have been foster parents for more than 45 little furry souls in the last almost 5 years. VERY rewarding, and on my worst days, I know I HAVE TO get out of bed because my ‘kids’ need me… sometimes the best medicine is unconditional love !!

  2. Anna Flynn at 1:35 pm

    Cindy,
    I’m sorry you have not had support from so many people around you. Some people think because they can’t see the disease it doesn’t exist. Join a fibromyalgia support group (search Internet for local chapter) because you’ll meet people who understand what you’re experiencing. Keep believing in yourself. And keep looking for people and pets who’ll keep you positive. I couldn’t believe how much puppies have changed my attitude. They just love me when I walk in the door. They sit on my lap and look into my eyes like they are saying. “You’re the greatest thing on earth and I adore you”. That kind of attention is what you deserve. You are not alone, Cindy, and your pain is real. Think about getting a pet

  3. Cindy at 7:36 pm

    I, too, have been through it all in terms of medicines, doctors, tests, natural treatments, etc., etc., etc… Unfortunately my husband never believed me. In spite of the fact that my rheumatologist literally begged him to try to understand my issues with pain, fatigue, sleep deprivation, depression, and everything. He was angry with me for all I suffered. He divorced me, and tried his best to take my children from me, but was unsuccessful. I don’t feel any support from most of my family. That is the hardest part of dealing with fibromyalgia for me. So I feel happy for those who have a supportive partner. I think that makes all the difference in the world. And cute puppies help too!

  4. michelle Dahinden at 5:15 pm

    Breaks my heart to hear you have been through the same crap I have with doctors and tests and sleepless pain ridden nights. This pain is real…Same with the pet factor, that is a must for fibro suffers, they do help keep us calm, calm means less pain…They bring us happiness which sets off good chemicals in our brain, again good for pain relief….Like myself, you have a loving husband who knows the pain is real and not a figment of our imaginations, we are not hyoercondriacs by no means. Only those who live it can understand..The only way I can explain it so that it makes sense to others is the it is very much like having the flu without the virus and its a flu that never goes away..the body aches, the stiffness, that is just the start……Love your story..another way to fight back, telling your story will help others learn to cope and understand they are not alone and it is real……love you cousin….